Where to Look While Running

If you are learning forefoot running and struggle with it, it may be something as simple as changing your eye gaze.

Although the research is lacking, where you look while running may have a big impact on your performance and possibly, even your biomechanics. Because your eye gaze position influences posture, holding your eyes gaze in the wrong position may provoke an upper body posture that is inefficient for running.

Where to Look While Running

Where to Look While Running

I talk a lot about looking down when forefoot running, primarily because most of the best distance runners in the world tend to stare at the ground when they run.

These runners are from Ethiopia and throughout an entire race, they look at the ground and rarely stare straight ahead.  They do, however, occasionally look up to see what’s in front of them, but within seconds, their eye gaze is positioned back on the ground, remaining there for quite some time

I certainly think that eye gaze position effects posture and balance when running, and may certainly impact performance outcome.

My Problems Disappeared When I Stopped Staring Straight Ahead

Looking down at the ground when forefoot running instead of looking straight ahead really improved my forefoot running technique.

I think positioning my eye gaze just a few feet in front of my foot strike position helps keep me balanced, sturdy, and prepares me for any tripping hazards coming up.

I have also noticed that looking down when running enabled me to run faster with a higher back-kick like Dibaba.

I feel that my whole body leans better with less resistance in my motions if I run while continuously looking down.

Continuously Looking Down May Help Maintain Forward Lean

Looking down may draw the body forward, adding a subtle lean to your gait. Leaning from the ankles is recommended by the Pose Method of Running, but many forefoot running learners either end up leaning at the waist, or over-leaning in general.

Interestingly, many Ethiopian runners who look down when they run, have a subtle lean in their gait instead of a firm, upright body position like many non-African runners who stare straight ahead and never look down.

How to know exactly where to look at the ground when running?

In a relaxed manner, drop your eyes and scan the ground to where the body moves more fluidly and gracefully. You should feel everything come together with respect to your biomechanics.

Running on Uneven Terrain, Forces You to Look Down

Obviously, staring at the ground when running is not a bad thing because most Ethiopian distance runners do it and suffer fewer injuries and thus participate in more races, and they consistently win.

So, how to know exactly where to look on the ground when running?

The best way to make ‘looking down at the ground’ when running forefoot work for you, is to run on an uneven terrain with lots of surface irregularities. You will find that almost instantaneously and reflexively, your eyes will drop to the ground for safety measures i.e., to protect you from tripping. Hence the term ‘reflexive’.

This strategy forces the body to look down naturally due to the reflexive nature and the correct eye position on the ground will become habituated.

In time, you will find that looking straight ahead when running gives a continuing uncertainty about your foot placement, causing you to over-control movements with tension to compensate for the loss of stability.

Seeing Where You Are Stepping May Increase Ankle & Foot Strike Stability

Many injuries in running are often attributed to poor stability. In my opinion, stability in forefoot running may begin with the where you look. By not continuously looking straight ahead and rather down at the ground, markedly improved my forefoot running technique by delivering better balance control and movement efficiency.

More from Run Forefoot:

Run forefoot, because you are faster than you think!

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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