If you prefer to listen to music while running, but worry that music may impair your mechanics, you may not need to worry.
Listening to music while forefoot running or while learning forefoot running may reduce over-controlling or forcing movements by exacerbating the natural, reflexive motions.
Usually when a runner, without music, focuses too much on mechanics, movements that are otherwise natural, will be over-controlled and choppy.
I love music, I love running, and for me they go great together. However, many coaches recommend that heel strikers transitioning to forefoot running need to avoid listening to music to prevent a heavy foot strike and for the obvious, you need to pay attention to how you move when learning a new style of running.
It makes sense that music blasting in your ears would prevent you from hearing the heaviness in your foot strike, but I don’t agree with that because you can feel if you have a heavy strike, you don’t need to hear it. And, certain outsole materials causes your foot strike to sound louder than it actually is.
For example, I have a very light foot strike and run in the Puma-H Streets, one of my favorite forefoot running shoes; however, the material of the sole of the shoes make a subtle ‘slapping’ sound at touchdown. This is not my foot strike, it’s just the material of the shoe interacting with ground.
Running Without Music
Running for the first time without music may offer a new, heightened awareness of body movement which may not actually be good, especially during a time when you are completely modifying your biomechanics. Why?
If you habitually run to music, without music your brain may flood with new information simultaneously which will be overwhelming and may result in different movement patterns.
- These new sensations may come with injurious implications as running without music, something your body is not used to, may add to the problem when learning a new style of running, another thing your body is not used to.
Music Regulates Movement in Runners
The body loves rhythm, when we walk, we do so in a flowing, rhythmic fashion. The body responds to music when running in the same way.
Studies on the effects of music on body movement in the context of sport have found that when used synchronously, the rhythmic nature of some music regulates body movement, giving a runner that added flow.
Music Quiets The Mind
Music may also prevent your brain from over-thinking your mechanics, and thus prevent the ‘paralysis by over-analysis’ pitfall. True, when modifying your mechanics you must pay close attention to the task at hand, but the brain can only process one thing at a time, like a serial processor.
The more you clutter your brain with too many thoughts at once on mechanics while running, the faster you will tire.
When I began my heel strike to forefoot strike transition, I experimented with running without music and found myself over-analyzing every aspect of my mechanics.
Having too many technical thoughts swirling around in my head became a distraction. Running without music made learning forefoot running exhausting and frustrating, I lost my ”flow” when I ran.
- When learning forefoot running, limit yourself to one thought on your mechanics. This will make learning a new running technique less overwhelming and free’s up the mind so you can listen to music while you run!
- Running with music may conserve energy as it regulates movement pattern due to muscle relaxation in the absence of minor adjustments requiring anticipatory movements and corrections -this is important because other work has shown that humans may be hardwired to run with a forefoot strike landing pattern due to selective pressures and should come naturally to us.
If you are a music-runner, running without music when learning forefoot running may cause over-thinking and forced, unnatural movement patterns that would normally be automatized if you were listening to your music as music takes your mind off at hand. Similar to riding a bike, once we learn it, it becomes automatized, we don’t think about how to ride the bike every time we hop on.
- Running with an Injury Can Be Beneficial, if You Avoid Heel Striking
- Forefoot Runners Train Harder and Longer Than Heel Runners Because They Injure Less
- Being Heavier Does Not Make You Run Slower, if You Run with a Forefoot Strike
- Alberto Salazar Says Run Like a Sprinter to be a Great Distance Runner
- Forefoot Running Shoes
Simpson, SD and Karageorghis, CI. (2006). The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. J Sports Sci, 24(10):1095-102.
Terry, PC., Karageorghis, CI., Sash, AM and D’Auria, S. (2012). Effects of synchronous music on treadmill running among elite triathletes. J Sci Sports Med, 15(1):52-7.
Zatorre et al., (1996). Hearing in the mind’s ear: A PET investigation of musical imagery and perception. J Cong Neurosci, 8(1):29-46.
~Run forefoot, because you are faster than you think!
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.