“I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running” ~Bretta Riches
I created Run Forefoot to educate the importance of proper foot strike in running and to show that running is not injurious as perceived, if a less forceful foot strike is adopted. Here’s why and here’s my story:
I fell in love with running instantly, but was injured frequently. I figured my body needed time to adjust being a ‘newbie’ runner and all. However, as time went on, my injuries became chronic. I was sore and stiff all the time. But, giving up on running was not an option. I knew there was more in it for me, so I did what I do best = research.
Research that Changed the Running Community, Forever
I researched proper running mechanics incessantly and found a compelling study by Dr. Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.
The study mentioned that before modern weapons, our ancestors most likely ran barefoot to hunt food, a hunting method coined as persistent hunting.
Earlier work suggested our ancestors were excellent endurance runners, running 10 km to 14 km per day. Essentially, to run meant to eat, and survive. Running was a way of life. But, things are different today as many strongly believe running is highly injurious. Why?
Running-related injuries are consistently high, even though athletic footwear is deemed as safe, helping us run better to protect us from injury. But, again, runners continue to injure.
So, these are the fundamental questions about running: if our ancestors relied on running to survive, they must have ran in a way that would have #1 saved energy, and the big one, #2 prevented injury, right?
Big Data Shows us There’s a Right & Wrong Way to Run
Experts believe that for our ancestors to run long distances injury free, there’s a good chance they were forefoot strikers, not heel strikers. Why were they forefoot strikers? Aren’t most joggers heel strikers? It turns out that running forefoot while barefoot is less forceful and possibly less taxing on energy than heel striking.
So, does this mean humans are hardwired to run forefoot only? Maybe, especially since Ethiopian elite distance runners, who are currently the best in the world, ran barefoot for many years and are also forefoot strikers, not heel strikers.
Humans evolved as barefoot endurance runners. Everything came together for me in terms of proper running form as soon as I ran without shoes.
Heel Strikers Are Not Breaking World Records
I analyzed the foot strikes of elite Ethiopian runners, namely because they look smoother and more efficient than many American and Canadian elite runners. No offense.
The top distance runners in the world, Tirunesh Dibaba, Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Kenenisa Bekele, Paula Radcliffe, Enda Kipligat are ALL forefoot strikers, not heel strikers, whereas most recreational runners are heel strikers.
Could this mean the body prefers a heel strike landing at slower running speeds? Is forefoot striking more comfortable at the speeds of elite distance runners? Future studies are needed.
Heavily Cushioned Running Shoes Blamed for Altering Biomechanics
Runners who wear heavily cushioned running shoes present a different foot strike compared with barefoot runners. Most barefoot runners present a flatter foot strike, making initial contact with the ground on the balls of the foot, just under the toes.
Landing on the heel while running barefoot is painful since the heel pad is made of bone and minimal soft tissue. Studies also show the heel pad is sufficient in absorbing impact from walking, but may lack the durability to absorb the collision forces generated in heel running.
Moreover, 80% of recreational runners sustain at least one major running injury each year and numerous studies show running in a raised heel shoe facilitates a heel strike -most recreational runners are heel strikers.
Comparatively, East African runners may have better biomechanics having ran barefoot, allowing for earlier adaptations to a forefoot strike running style and may suffer less lower leg injuries than runners who habitually wear shoes. This may be a good reason that East African runners typically compete in more races, including marathons, per year than many elite American and Canadian runners.
However, that is not to say East African runners never get injured, they push beyond their limits too and may encounter over-use injuries; but the frequency, severity, and the nature of their injuries may be considerably LESS than the injuries of heel strikers.
The Harvard study along with fixated on Tirunesh Dibaba’s forefoot running style, changed my life as a runner and my running form! I switched to forefoot running, although, it took time to adjust, but in weeks, I was running pain and injury free. My joints feel more relaxed and springy than when I was heel striking. I now run longer and train harder without interruption from injuries.
Though I may not be an elite runner, or a coach, I am a runner who learned to run with the same forefoot running style as the elite runners, and I feel that I am able to reap the full health benefits of running.
I hope you enjoy my blog and find it inspiring and motivating to learn forefoot running. Please contact me if you have any questions, if you’d like to share your input, business inquires, or to chat about running in general.
Runforefoot.com is fully owned and operated by Bretta Riches.
Bretta Riches Abbreviated CV:
MSc Biomechanics graduate candidate 2014-
BSc (Hons) Neurobiology – Brock University 2012, St Catharines,ON.
RUNFOREFOOT.COM – Founder, December 2013 – Current
More From Run Forefoot:
- Best Barefoot Running Resources
- 30+ Best Minimalist Shoes for Forefoot Running
- What is a Forefoot Strike
- Heel Strike vs Forefoot Strike – How They Differ Mechanically
- How Certain Running Shoes Alter Running Gait
Run Right with a Forefoot Strike !
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.