Tarahumara Shoes for Forefoot Running

I love minimalist running sandals because most were inspired the Tarahumara shoes, also known as the huaraches. These running sandals are more than ideal for forefoot running because they encourage a forefoot strike landing as this is the prominent foot strike pattern of the Tarahumara endurance runners, too.

Tarahumara Shoes for Forefoot Running
Tarahumara shoes, or huaraches, are thin leather sandals with a thin, ultra flexible, yet durable outsole worn by Tarahumara endurance runners who rarely suffer running injuries.

Tarahumara Shoes for Forefoot Running

Lieberman (2014) noticed the Tarahumara Indians who wore and ran in the huaraches were more likely to forefoot strike than those who wore and ran in the traditional running shoe.

The heel elevation of the traditional running shoe actually prevents a forefoot strike landing and encourages heel strike during running thereby increasing the external load applied to the musculoskeletal system.

Tarahumara Shoes vs Conventional Running ShoesThe heelless architecture of the Tarahuamara shoes eliminates high ankle dorsiflexion that facilitates heel strike during running.

Likewise, reduced ankle dorsiflexion reflects a forefoot strike landing as well as a smaller stride length which lowers the braking effect during running.

Lieberman also found that Tarahuamara shoes reduced over-striding meaning that at touchdown, the ankle was positioned below the knee and resulted in a more vertical lower leg. This also means that the Tarahuamara shoes prevented knee extension at touchdown which reduces knee-joint torque and therefore, is an imperative intervention strategy for runners knee.

How Tarahumara Shoes Prevents Runners Knee
Runners who run in Tarahumara shoes often have a shorter stride and do not over-stride meaning the ankle is under the knee at touchdown. Therefore, it is highly probable that the Tarahumara shoes are relevant to knee injury prevention in runners.

Tarahumara Shoes Strengthen Feet

Tarahuamara shoes are pure minimalist shoes that have a thin, flexible outsole and no corrective elements or arch support, allowing the foot-ankle complex to self-strengthen.

The ultra thin outsole provides enough protection from the rocky terrain without compromising proprioception and thus the forefoot running technique.

Therefore, Tarahumara shoes provide the means to avoid running injury by allowing for adequate forefoot running mechanics and optimal foot-ankle strength.

Nonetheless, the findings provides more comprehensive evolutionary thinking that reaffirms that a forefoot strike landing was the dominant foot strike utilized by our barefoot running ancestors over 4 million years ago and that barefoot inspired footwear is important to health for runners.

Here are other Tarahumara-inspired barefoot running sandals I think you’ll be interested in.

More From Run Forefoot:

Best Places to Get the Vibram FiveFingers

Best Shoes for Midfoot Runners

Lateral Knee Pain When Running

Barefoot Running Learning Tips and Resources

In the meantime, find me on Facebook where I cover topics just like this everyday!


Lieberman, DE. Strike type variation among Tarahumara Indians in minimal sandals versus conventional running shoes. J Sport Health Sci, 2014; 3:86-94.

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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