Can I Wear Orthotics for Forefoot Running?

Orthotics for runners are typically designed with a heel strike landing in mind. Most orthotics are designed to restrict rearfoot movements during the early mid-stance and the mid-stance phase in heel strike running.

But can a forefoot runner wear the same orthotics designed for heel strikers? Are there orthotics for forefoot running? The answer is no, and no.

Problem with orthotics for forefoot running
Different rearfoot movements in forefoot running may cause orthotic intervention to be a contraindication.

Can I Wear Orthotics for Forefoot Running?

The answer is no, because forefoot runners have different rearfoot mechanics at touchdown and in early mid-stance than heel strike runners. In general, orthotics are not designed to control rearfoot movement at touchdown. Why?

Because in heel strike running, the heel contacts the ground first, and is assumed to be more stable compared to mid-stance where most rearfoot movements occur.

Forefoot runners on the other hand, contact the ground with greater inversion resulting in greater eversion excursion and eversion velocities -these are normal components of forefoot strike mechanics.

The main concern is orthotics would restrict the natural rearfoot movements associated with a forefoot strike.

Even more telling, a study by Stackhouse et al., (2004) cautioned that in forefoot running, the heel contacts the ground during mid-stance, but not in early mid-stance when orthotics are purported to provide rearfoot control.

Therefore, in forefoot running, orthotics could be harmful because they may restrict the natural rearfoot movements important for influencing pronation of the subtalar joint, internal tibial rotation, knee motion, and knee flexion.

Since humans evolved to run with a forefoot strike, the body has built-in mechanisms to alleviate leg pain, one of these mechanisms being specific rearfoot movements. We already have our own anatomically controlling tactics, we managed just fine to run without orthotics for millions of years.

Another reason forefoot runners should avoid orthotics is because no studies have assessed the effect of orthotics on knee kinematics in forefoot running. Therefore, it is highly possible that orthotics powerfully influence knee kinematics in a negative way when a forefoot strike is utilized.

This is very clear evidence that orthotics manipulate foot mechanics that undermines a forefoot runner’s ability to run properly and safely. Besides, how much control can a thin piece of foam or rubber unleash?

More From Run Forefoot:


McClay, I and Manal, K. Lower extremity kinematic comparisons between forefoot and rearfoot strikers. In: conference proceedings: 19th annual meeting of the ASD, Stanford, CA, pp. 211-12.

Stakehouse, CL., Davis, IM and Hamill, J. Orthotic intervention in forefoot and rearfoot strike running patterns. Clin Biomech, 2004; 19:64-70.

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!

1 Comment

  1. Am I the only one that is so freaking frustrated with the “science” of running mechanic. I read many “studies” and talk to many “professionals”, I used this term loosely, they contradict each other and each side thinks the other side is a bunch of nutbars. As a flatfooted forefoot runner with injury, I want to put these “professional” in a courtroom with each other.

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