Running Shoes Dictates Foot Strike Pattern

Further proof that running shoes alter running foot strike pattern. Experts speculate that heeled running shoes i.e. the traditional running shoe, forces a runner to heel strike and the big assumption is that if we grew up running barefoot we would be forefoot strike runners.

A study by Warne et al., (2014) recently revived this speculation when they found that 80% of the heel striking-subjects opted for a forefoot strike when they transitioned from the traditional running shoe to the Vibram Five Fingers, shown below.

Proper Foot Strike For Running


Running Shoes Dictates Foot Strike Pattern

Runners are better able to adopt a forefoot strike in a pure minimalist shoe than in the traditional running shoe. Why?

Foot Strike During RunningThe explanation was obvious in that a reduction in sensory feedback of the plantar surface is due to the shoe elevation as well as the cushioning in the traditional running shoe, shown above.

Sensory feedback is something runners take for granted.

  • a reduction in sensory feedback at the feet prevents a runner from making the right changes to attenuate impact

A more detailed explanation on the underlying mechanism of how the traditional running shoe facilitates heel strike is that heel elevation reduces plantarflexion as well as the vertical shank angle essential to achieve a forefoot strike.

The architectural parameters of a heeled running shoe just makes it harder to strike the ground with the forefoot first. Even the smallest heel elevation is enough to have an observable effect on foot strike pattern, manifesting chronic changes to running technique overtime.

We were born with our feet flat on the ground, we evolved with our feet flat on the ground, the traditional running shoe is an inaccurate representation of how our feet evolved to interact with the earth.

When the majority of your foot is elevated off the ground, it is difficult to monitor movement, and foot strike is greatly underestimated when running.

The fact that injury rates remain high in joggers reflects the consensus and urgency to eliminate the heeled running shoe. Understanding that changing your preference in shoes to a barefoot-inspired shoe governs biomechanics and is crucial for your future health as a runner.

More on Forefoot Running Shoes:

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it’s a great place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and footwear.


De Wit et al. Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. J Biomech , 2000; 33(3):269–78.

Lieberman et al. Foot strike and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 2010; 463 (7280): 531–35.

Robbins et al. Protective sensation of the plantar aspect of the foot. Foot Ankle 1993; 14(6):347–52.

Warne et al. A 4-week instructed minimalist running transition and gait retraining changes plantar pressure and force. Scan J Med Sports, 2014; 24:964–73.

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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