I like to point out that forefoot running naturally reduces stride length as compared with heel strike running. In most cases, heel strike running typically results in a longer stride and presumably over-striding, thereby causing greater braking than a forefoot strike landing, but that does not mean that you cannot have a longer stride in forefoot running. In fact, many new forefoot runners have a stride that is too short because their hip flexors are too tight, mainly from prolong sitting. Greater hip flexion is what you need for leg swing efficiency and less injury risk.
Many elite runners, such as Galen Rupp shown below, who utilize a forefoot strike landing usually have a longer stride than many new forefoot runners. You can widen your stride length when forefoot running without over-striding by bending your knees a little. Never straighten-out your knee upon touchdown as this will cause abrupt braking and eventually, injury.
Why Run Forefoot with More Hip Flexion
You need good hip flexion to have a more efficient stride, but greater hip flexion is also key in protecting the leg from injury. For instance, runners with poor hip flexion had a greater risk of ACL injury (Fong et al., 2011). A newer study found that greater hip flexion, in addition to avoiding heel strike when running, resulted in complete cessation of chronic extertional lower leg pain. One way greater hip flexion reduces force pressure on the leg is that during the late swing phase of running gait, greater hip flexion gives a runner more time to align the shin bone in a way that reduces over-striding.
So, how to give yourself more hip flexion? Well, I am not a fan of stretching before running, however deep squats gently loosens the hip flexors while strengthening the glutes. Here are some excellent squatting tips on how to do them safely. And remember, don’t be afraid of extending your stride and don’t worry about over-striding –you can’t over-stride if you bend your knees.
More From Run Forefoot:
Breen et al. GAIT RE-TRAINING TO ALLEVIATE THE SYMPTOMS OF ANTERIOR EXERTIONAL LOWER LEG PAIN: A CASE SERIES. Int j Sports Physio Ther, 2015; 10(1):85-94.
Fong, C.M., Blackburn, J.T., Norcross, M.F., Mcgrath, M. and Padua, D.A. (2011) Ankle-dorsiflexion range of motion and landing biomechanics. Journal of Athletic Training 46, 5-10.
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.