Forefoot running has gained universal acclaim for being the safest, most efficient way to run!
Mountains of evidence shows that forefoot running prevents all the harmful forms of impacts and other physical stressors produced in heel strike running. This is why forefoot running will make the most positive difference, not just with injury prevention, but your performance, too!
More reasons to run forefoot comes from the observation that ALL sprinters and short distance runners (200m-1500m) as well as most of the best long distance runners (5,000 – marathon) are NOT heel strike runners. They are forefoot runners! Even better, most world record holders in running across all distances are mostly forefoot runners.
With all this in mind, if you are a heel strike runner grappling with injuries or if you are looking to improve your running performance or if you want to start running but are afraid that running is harmful, forefoot running is THE lightening rod that will significantly advance your performance while keeping you injury-free!
We Are Hardwired to Run Forefoot!
Learning forefoot running is much easier than you think because its literally hardwired in us, meaning that our ancestors, who evolved as endurance runners, needed to avoid injury when running barefoot after pray. They needed to run in a way that kept them injury-free, otherwise they would have starved and died out!
The long-list of impact forces produced only in heel strike running doesn’t provide any evolutionary advantage for running long distances or short sprints barefoot. It was the forefoot strike that humans evolved to enable them to be resistant to injury!
Step 1. What Proper Forefoot Strike Look!
The very first place to start when learning forefoot running is to understand what a proper forefoot strike looks like because forefoot running is NOT toe running. You do not land high up on your toes in forefoot running. Forefoot running actually involves a flatter foot placement, striking the ground lower on the forefoot, just ahead of the arch or on the balls of the foot, then the heel drops down to the ground. Here’s a video I did showing exactly how the foot should land and interact on the ground in forefoot running:
Step 2. Use Barefoot Running to Help You Run Forefoot
The effects of barefoot running, especially on harder surfaces, are immediate in helping you land with optimal forefoot strike precision as well as optimal knee and leg swing mechanics. This is because one of the well-known effects of running barefoot is it improves the brain areas that control movement and activates the sensory receptors in the bottom of the bare foot which have strong links to the withdrawal reflexive system. The net effect of this is stimulating more robust reflexive-withdrawal engagements of the leg and faster improvements in correcting mechanical issues WHILE functionally strengthening the feet!
Because sensory feedback is optimized when you run barefoot, your brain becomes more focused on your landing pattern. This is why you are better able to learn forefoot striking when you run barefoot. Not to mention, the physical changes of the feet associated with barefoot running will prevent the foot from over-pronating, and so you will never need motion control stability running shoes ever again!
Alberto Salazar, Nikes top coach and one of THE best running coaches in history, believes even a little bit of barefoot running, 2-3 times a week at 1-2 miles, leads to BIG gains in foot strength and is needed to maintain optimal form for when you run in shoes. Basically, barefoot running helps you run better in shoes!
Last but NOT least, the best distance runners in the world are from East Africa and all (including Eluid Kipchoge, Tirunesh Dibaba and Haile Gebressalsie) ran barefoot during childhood through adolescents and continue to run barefoot as part of their training! This is why these runners look and are more efficient than runners who grew up wearing shoes!
STEP 3. Minimalist Shoes
When you’re not running barefoot, you can rely on shoes that make you feel like you’re barefoot in order to manage your forefoot strike and keep your feet functionally strong. These shoes are called minimalist shoes and are made exclusively to meet and improve the functional needs of the feet while the paper-thin outsole delivers similar sensory-levels or ground-feel to being barefoot.
To give you a better idea about the importance of minimalist footwear and the most recommended minimalist shoes, check out myreviews on Barefoot Shoes for Forefoot Running.
Also, here is all the research showing that cushioned running shoes are hindrance rather than helpful in injury prevention.
STEP 4. Optimizing Your Forefoot Running Form!
The forefoot strike is not the only mechanical action in play when it comes to avoiding injury and running most efficiently! Here are other mechanical outputs you need to implement when you’re forefoot running that are study-proven to optimize running economy and injury prevention:
Here are the things you don’t want to do when forefoot running:
- Don’t Lift Your Forefoot Up Before The Foot Strikes the Ground
- Don’t Run Too Upright
- Don’t Over-Extend Your Knees
- Don’t Learn on Grass
- Don’t Run Slow (part 1)
- Dont Run Slow (part 2)
If you want more advice on proper forefoot running technique, you can send me a video/photos of your gait for me to analyze.
STEP 5. No Stretching!
- Stretching Impairs Pace Strategy in Highly Trained Middle Distance Runners
- Pre-Run Stretching Increases Stress Susceptibility in Muscle Fibers
- Why Warming Up is Better
- Stretching Spoils Leg Spring in Runners
- Studies Suggests Runners Don’t Need to be that Flexible
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, you’ll love my YouTube Channel: here, where I discuss the health and performance benefits of barefoot running and I also have tons of video reviews of minimalist/barefoot-inspired running shoes suitable for forefoot running!
If you’d like, you can support Run Forefoot and help keep it going by making a donation in any amount of your choosing:
Or, you can also support Run Forefoot by shopping at the following top minimalist shoes brands, and be sure to bookmark the links:
Xero Shoes: https://xeroshoes.com/go/Run_Forefoot
Soft Star Shoes: https://shrsl.com/3mp1b
Wilding Shoes: https://bit.ly/3lIygQP
Earth Runners: https://earthrunners.com/?rfsn=6763579.f7f9c9
Perkins et al. The risks and benefits of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes: a systematic review. Sports Health, 2014; 6(6):475.480.
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.