Depending on the shoe, low impact in forefoot running allows more mileage from a shoe. However, high impact of heel strike running destroys the material of a shoe much quicker.
In forefoot running, the ground reaction force is 2.5 times less than the ground reaction force of heel strike running. Forefoot runners footwear take less of a beating.
And, even if the cushioning characteristics of a running shoe breaks down during forefoot running, impact is not greater since forefoot strike mechanics naturally minimizes loading conditions. This is why habitual barefoot runners, who are forefoot strikers, manage to run without injury.
Heel Striking Destroys Shoes, Exposing Body to Greater Shock
To compensate for the deterioration of the cushioned material under the heel, the musculoskeletal system absorbs more shock that is highly relevant for repetitive impacts and overuse injuries.
For a heel striker, 420-km means time for a new pair of shoes before the injuries set in. The less protection under the heel, the greater the peak force at heel contact which moves rapidly through the body. And, the more you weigh, the greater the peak force and loading on the shoe cushioning.
Pure minimalist and barefoot runners do not rely on external shock-support because of their forefoot strike which has safer mechanical characteristics with less sheer force that does not destroy the integrity of a shoe compared to heel striking.
Moreover, running barefoot or in barefoot-inspired footwear enables the body’s natural ability to adjust kinematics according to surface hardness. You learn very quickly to make your foot strike softer on your own without the help of shoe cushioning.
The Take Home Message
The fundamental point is heel strikers need shoes for protection, forefoot strikers don’t. Why put your health in the hands of athletic footwear when we have our own cushioning properties built-in us thanks to evolution.
More on why you shouldn’t be heel striking when running:
- The Problem with the Ground Reaction Force
- Why Heel Runners May Be Bunion Prone.
- 2 Factors That Slow Heel Runners Down
- Why Heel Strike Running is Bad for Your Legs
Cavanagh, PR and Lafortune, MA. (1980). Ground reaction forces in distance running. J Biomech,13(5):397-406.
Wang et al. (2010). Changes in heel cushioning characteristics of running shoes with running mileage. Footwear Sci,2(3):141-47.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.