Pronation – Forefoot Running vs Heel Strike Running

Pronation in forefoot running is different from heel strike running. Indeed, forefoot running may promote favorable pronation patterns compared with heel strike running.

What Pronation in Forefoot Running Looks Like:

Nonetheless, here is the typical pronation pattern in a forefoot strike:

Pronation in Forefoot Strike Running
SOURCE: Stacoff A, Kalen X and Stussi E. The effects of shoes on the torsion and rearfoot motion in running. Med Sci Sports Exer, 1991; 23(4):482-490.

1. Prior to touchdown, the forefoot begins to invert.

  • forefoot inversion upon and at touchdown may allow for greater control of the foot until the heel is lowered to the ground and may be a protective strategy to minimize heel impact.

2. Initial ground contact occurs on the lateral border of the forefoot (i.e. under the 5th metatarsal head) and is followed by rapid forefoot eversion.

  • rapid forefoot eversion may facilitate arch lowering, allowing the foot to become mobile and attenuate shock.

4. The forefoot and heel begin to move relative to each other.

5. The heel lowers to the ground, initiating stance.

6. During stance, the heel supinates when barefoot; in footwear, the rearfoot angle decreases.

  • Stacoff et al. (1991) found that during stance, footwear forces the rearfoot into extreme positions as compared with barefoot running, which according to the researchers, opens up the question of foot movement within the shoe and injury risk.

7. The foot is quickly removed as soon as the center of mass moves more anteriorly.

Pronation in Heel Strike Running

These pronation patterns are the natural result of forefoot running and are essentially the reverse to that of heel strike running. For instance, the heel spends more time everted in heel strike running, permitting extensive instability at initial contact; whereas forefoot inversion at touchdown accelerates stability of the foot at initial contact in forefoot strike running.

Unlike heel strike running, ground contact time is reduced in forefoot running, indicating less volumes of excessive pronation. Similarly, long ground contact time in heel strike running might be a red flag as more time is allowed for unusual pronation behavior to take place.

Moreover, the trajectory of the center of pressure on the foot during rollover might influence excessive toe-out in heel strike running which in turn imposes higher strain on the midfoot –the arch has greater tendency to collapse in this position as the body weight passes posterior to anterior over the foot (McClay and Manal 1998).

The Take Home Message

The consistent theme that is emerging is that pronation in forefoot strike running may prevent injury; it prevents injury, compared to heel strike running, by having different movement components of the foot, initiating a series of kinematic changes that prevent the legs from being overworked.

More From Run Forefoot:

Pronation –  It’s really important to talk about why runners overpronate because overpronation is actually very prevetable

Barefoot Running Technique – Find out why barefoot runners dont heel strike

Bad Running Shoes – Understand that heavy running shoes zap the steam out of your legs.

MinimalistRunning Shoes for Elderly Runners – Discover why elderly runners may benefit best from barefoot style running shoes

Reviews on Forefoot Shoes – Check out my reviews on barefoot running shoes that will surely boots your forefoot running form and performance.


McClay I and Mana K. A comparison of three-dimensional lower extremity kinematics during running between excessive pronators and normals. Clin Biomech, 1998; 13(3):195-203.

Stacoff A, Kalen X and Stussi E. The effects of shoes on the torsion and rearfoot motion in running. Med Sci Sports Exer, 1991; 23(4):482-490.

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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