Runners Are More Vulnerable to Injury In Heel Strike Running Shoes

Because heel strike running generates more impact than forefoot strike running, heel strike running shoes are manufactured to reduce mechanical impact, but another study has revealed that these running shoes make the body more vulnerable to running injuries.

Runners More Vulnerable to Injury In Heel Strike Running Shoes

Runners More Vulnerable to Injury In Heel Strike Running Shoes

Heel strike runners need all the protection they can get to protect their body from the heel strike transient. This force is so great that often heel strike running shoes (…which is most running shoes) have a ‘crash-pad’ built into the heel to help reduce this force. However, too many heel strike runners continue to get injured, suggesting that crash-pads are not enough to diminish the vertical ground reaction force or the vertical loading rate that is produced at heel strike. However, there are studies that found that increasing the crash-pad thickness was somewhat helpful in reducing impact, but it added more heel height to the shoe, which made the shoe more unstable for running –kind of like running in a high-heeled shoe (Clarke, Frederick, & Hamill, 1983b).

One of the most important findings comes from a study by Sterzing et al. 2015 who found that larger crash-pads did not weaken the heel strike transient force, and instead, these shoes caused the heel strike runners to land with more force, resulting in an increase in the average loading rate. Based on their data, the researchers noted that experts must refrain from claiming that greater under-heel cushioning reduces impact.

The researchers also found that a more effective strategy for reducing impact is not by using a thicker crash-pad, but by modifying foot strike. Therefore, big changes in the ground reaction force comes from big changes in foot strike patterns — heel striking results in a greater ground reaction force as compared to a forefoot strike landing which eliminates the heel strike transient.

Based on all the injured runners out there, it’s really obvious that it’s the shoes that are the main cause of injuries. Runners need to realize that too much underfoot cushioning in a running shoe attacks the body’s natural defense mechanisms, because when barefoot, the body reflexively knows how to adjust foot strike to make running less forceful.  Don’t believe me? Just read Born to Run and check out what others are saying about barefoot running vs running in shoes.

Because the runners in the study struck the ground harder on the heel in thicker heeled running shoes, suggests that running shoes arise as a risk factor for running injury. My goal is to reveal the non-risk factors of running injuries, which include running barefoot for 1 mile before you run in shoes, and when you run in shoes, you want to make sure your shoes are minimalist running shoes.

More From Run Forefoot:

Barefoot Running and Injuries

Tips on Learning Forefoot Running

Why Your Toes Are Sore

What is Peroneal Tendon Injury and How to Prevent it


Heidenfelder, J., Sterzing, T., & Milani, T.L. (2010). Crash-pad thickness systematically reduces impact shock in running shoes. Footwear Science, 2(2), 85  91.

Nigg, B.M., Cole, G.K., & Br € uggemann, G.P. (1995). Impact forces during heel-toe running. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 11, 407  432.

Sterzing et al. Running shoe crash-pad design alters shoe touchdown angles and ankle stability parameters during heel  toe running. Footwear Sci, 2015; 7(2);  81-93.

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!