Why its Important to Run Forefoot When Fatigued

Running makes your body stronger, but it can be harmful when you are running on empty and fatigued because your running form may suffer. When you are slugging it half way through a marathon, the last thing you feel like doing is straightening your posture and running tall, but as long as you run forefoot, you can avoid most overuse injuries related to heel strike running.

Why Run Forefoot When Fatigued

Why its Important to Run Forefoot When Fatigued

Run forefoot when fatigued is important because it prevents shock transmission and the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.  In many cases, when a runner becomes fatigued, they tend to not only slow down, but favor a heel strike landing. As hard as it may seem, a forefoot runner must not let their form breakdown and must make the concerted effort in keeping a higher cadence and the feet off the ground.

  • Under fatigued conditions, if a runner deviates from their forefoot running technique, stride rate decreases which increases peak shank deceleration.
  • Fatigued muscles also have a lower shock-absorbing capacity, even more reason to avoid heel strike when running because heel striking initiates shock waves that can damage the musculoskeletal system.

Why Heel Strike Running is Bad When TiredSwitching to a heel strike landing when fatigue results in high impact forces that may damage articular cartilage.

Overall, fatigue amplifies heel strike transients which overloads the musculoskeletal system and increases the risk of injury.

Leaning Forward in Forefoot Running
As shown above, always ‘push’ forward with your torso, or center of mass, to keep up a faster pace and prevent braking.

The only solution to prevent heel strike-initiated shock waves is to not heel strike in the first place.

To keep up an accurate forefoot strike landing, bend the knees and push forward with your center of mass (as shown above).

Maintaining a forefoot strike landing is one of the few strategies the body has to protect itself from overloading during running under any conditions.

More on Why Avoid Heel Strike:


Clarke, T.E., Cooper, B.L., Hamill, C.L., & Clark, D.E. (1985). The effect of varied stride rate upon shank deceleration in running. J Sports Sci, 3, 41-49.

Radin, E.L., Parker, H.G., Pugh, G.V., Steinberg, R.S., Paul, I.L., & Rose, R.M. (1973). Response of joints to impact loading. J Biomech, 6, 51-57.

Verbitsky, O., Mizrahi, J., Voloshin, A., Treiger, J and Isakov, E. (1998). Shock transmission and fatigue in human running. J Appli Biomech, 14, 300-311.

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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