The best running shoes for forefoot runners are those that exploit the elastic contributions of the Achilles tendon as well as the foot’s arch. These shoes are barefoot running shoes and because they perfectly compliment the elastic functionalities of the foot/ankle complex, they are more economical than the standard running shoe.
What Are The Best Running Shoes for Forefoot Runners?
Energy storage and return capabilities of the human foot is imperative to running performance. Researchers have acknowledged that optimal energy storage and return depends, not only on foot strike, but on footwear, too.
A forefoot running style provides a runner’s best shot at optimizing energy storage and return in the longitudinal arch and Achilles tendon. This is why it is important to wear a shoe that does not interfere with recoil of elastic strain energy mechanisms. Similarly, researchers believe that design characteristics of a running shoe should reflect that of the human foot to optimize total energy turnover.
In an interesting study, Morgan et al. examined the effects of footwear designed with elastic contributions similar to those found in the human foot on running economy compared to the standard running shoe.
- To mimic the recoil mechanisms of the arch, a prototype running shoe made of an elastomeric urethane outsole and carbon fiber composite material was molded to form a leaf-spring in the midsole.
- To mimic the recoil mechanism of the Achilles tendon, an elastic strap was constructed out of natural rubber and wrapped around the ankle, shown below:
- As you can see, the shoe is a far cry from a barefoot running shoe. Yet, despite the shoe’s resemblance to the standard running shoe, the elastic contributions of the elastic devices resulted in lower energy expenditure compared to the standard running shoe.
Because the researchers found a relationship between footwear intended to simulate arch/Achilles function and better running economy, proves that good running economy is principally driven by elastic contributions. Extending these findings to other studies, pure minimalist shoes were found to sustain recoil of elastic structures evoked by the lack of both under-heel cushioning and arch support.
Avoid Shoes That Don’t Reflect Natural Foot Functionality
Though, the standard running shoe is popular in joggers, these shoes don’t exploit energy return and storage mechanisms of the foot like pure minimalist shoes do.
The standard running shoe is an obstruction on the arch and Achilles because they facilitate heel strike, impairing the Achilles from elongating and storing elastic energy and they prevent the arch from naturally collapsing and storing energy during the mid-stance of running.
Ultimately, your performance level depends on how well your Achilles and arch functions as springs and the strength of the benefit regarding elastic contributions of the foot depends on what you wear on your feet. Runners would benefit from pure minimalist footwear because elastic structures of foot and lower leg are more strongly engaged making them ripe for better performance.
More on Running Shoes:
Ker,R. F.,Bennett, M. B., Bibby,S. R, Kester, R C., & Alexander, R. M. (1987). The spring in the arch of the human foot. Nature,325,147-149.
Morgan et al. Aerobic demand of running shoes designed to exploit energy storage and return. RQES, 1996; 67(1):102-105.
Shorten, M. R. (1993). The energetics of running and running shoes. Journal of Biomechanics, 26(Suppl. 1),41-51.
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.