Minimalist Shoes are not Heel Strike Running Shoes

Minimalist shoes are not heel strike running shoes because the absent heel protection increases force generation a heel strike.

 

A recent study found that heel strike running in minimalist shoes generated higher peak forces and heel pressures than heel strike running in the conventional running shoe, also known as heel strike running shoes.

heel  strike in minimalist shoes
Heel strike in minimalist shoes increases heel pressures, transient peak, and impact loading.

The researches hypothesized that heel strike running in minimalist shoes reduces impact by encouraging a forefoot landing. However, heel strike was maintained in the minimalist shoes when running.

What are the consequences of heel strike running in a minimalist shoe?

In the study, heel strike runners in minimalist shoes produced a higher impact transient force, greater impact loading, and struck the ground with a more dorsiflexed foot (greater toe-lift upon foot strike).

  • a dorsiflexed foot at foot strike is a hallmark feature of heel strike running.  The toes lift up (curl back) to allow initial heel contact with the ground. Pulling the toes back upon foot strike strains the connective tissues of the lower tibia and over time, results in shin splints.
  • heel strike produces an impact transient force which is absent in forefoot strike and this force is strongly linked to many running injuries, particularly tibia fractures.  And, as running speed increases, so does the impact transient.

The findings contradict the belief that the lack of cushioning and a low, or absent padded heel of a minimalist shoe automatically corrects for a heel strike landing to a forefoot strike landing to avoid painful landings.

Barefoot Running Helps Forefoot Strike

Barefoot running prompts a forefoot strike landing and is more useful for heel strike runners looking to switch to forefoot running.

Running barefoot for just 1 to 2 minutes each day is all you need to ensure you will be forefoot striking in your minimalist shoes.

The take home message is that relying on a shoe to modify your foot strike does not work in most cases.  Having the right conceptual framework on proper forefoot strike technique remains the right strategy to ditch your heel strike.

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Bretta Riches

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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