How to Maintain Forefoot Strike

When you get tired during running, your form may begin to suffer, which increases your risk of injury. Here are 4 tips for helping you maintain your forefoot strike when you are running out of gas: 1. run barefoot, or in barefoot-like shoes, 2. run on harder surfaces, 3. increase ankle plantar flexion 4. increase knee flexion.

How To Maintain Your Forefoot Strike

How to Maintain Your Forefoot Strike

1.  Barefoot Running

Barefoot running underlies a more stable, consistent forefoot strike landing as compared with shod running ( Douad et al. 2012; Lieberman et al. 2010; Robbins & Hanna 1987).

  • Barefoot running creates a constant flow of sensory input, allowing the brain to sustain foot strike monitoring for extended periods.

In contrast, unrelenting suppression of sensory input with shoe cushioning results in frequent foot strike errors during running. Bottom line, more runners feel in control of their forefoot strike when running barefoot.

Tips for Forefoot Running
If you don’t want to take the barefoot path, then you must wear thin, barefoot simulated footwear without compressible cushioning.

2. Forefoot Running on Hard Surfaces

Properly maintaining a forefoot strike seems to thrive on harder surfaces, such as pavement, whereas softer surfaces, such as grass may threaten your ability to land forefooted properly. Additionally, running barefoot or in barefoot like running shoes, improves the ability to notice foot strike patterns on harder surfaces.

Forefoot Running Tips

Because landing on the heel hurts on pavement, barefoot or pure minimalist shod runners develop a better ability to stay off their heel at touchdown. Other work has found that running, especially when barefoot, on pavement optimally refreshes the forefoot strike as compared with running on mats, or cushioned surfaces.

3. Ankle Plantar Flexion

Ankle plantar flexion means that the toes do not point up upon and at touchdown.

Running barefoot or in zero drop running shoes encourages ankle plantar flexion at touchdown, resulting in an accurate forefoot strike landing (Giandolini et al., 2013; Lohman et al., 2011).

Natural Running Tips
To maintain forefoot strike, passively keep the toes pointed straight, not up or down upon touchdown.

By fully relaxing your forefoot via ankle plantar flexion, augments a forefoot strike and prevents shin muscle-burnout as compared with ankle dorsiflexion.

4. Knee Flexion

It is easier to apply the forefoot strike when the knee is slightly bent (flexed) at touchdown because increased knee flexion increases cadence and reduces stride duration by preventing the swing leg from extending too far ahead of the center mass (Fleming et al. 2015).

Tips for Running on Forefoot
Adding a slight bend to your knee at initial contact will help you land on your forefoot.

A long line of evidence found that barefoot runners have greater knee flexion at touchdown, suggesting that greater knee flexion sharpens forefoot strike response time during running.

The Take Home Message

Employing these 4 strategies will shape and optimize the perfect forefoot strike landing to your advantage! And always remember that the ability to maintain forefoot strike without errors occurs best with less shoe materials.

Backcountry Exclusive Basin and Range

More From Run Forefoot:

Barefoot Running Benefits

Best Shoes for Forefoot Strike

What is Proprioception

Tips from Pose Running


De Wit, B., De Clercq, D., & Aerts, P. (2000). Biomechanical analysis of stance phase during barefoot and shod running. Journal of Biomechanics, 33, 269–278.

Fleming et al. Acute response to barefoot running in habitually shod males. Hum Move Sci, 2015;42:27-37.

Lieberman, D. E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W. A., Daoud, A., D’Andrea, S., Davis, I., et al (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463, 531–535.

Perl, D. P., Daoud, A. I., & Lieberman, D. E. (2012). Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44, 1335–1343.

Robbins, S. E., & Hanna, A. M. (1987). Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 19, 148–156.

 The North Face's 2015 Summit Series

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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