How to Train Yourself to Not Heel Strike When Running

The best way to counter the problem of heel striking when running is to stop lifting the front of your foot (an action called ankle dorsiflexion) upon and at touchdown.  The more you lift the front of your foot upon landing, the greater the likelihood you’ll heel strike, shown below:

Ankle Dorsiflexion
The main cause of heel striking is the action of lifting the front of your foot (your forefoot) up upon and at landing. Doing so easily exposes the heel to the ground, making it easier to heel strike.

The main cause of excessive ankle dorsiflexon at landing in running are running shoes that have more padding under the heel than the front of the shoe, shown below:

Why Cushioned Running Shoes Are Bad for Your Heels
Most running shoes have more cushioning under the heel than the front of the shoe. This design directly encourages heel strike because the large heel-to-toe offset makes it easier for the forefoot to lift back upon landing as compared with a flatter shoe, like a minimalist shoe where the foot is level because the sole is flat, hence a more natural posture.

Both barefoot and minimalist runners don’t heel strike, they land with a forefoot strike because of less ankle dorsiflexion since there’s nothing artificially propping up the heel relative to the toes, shown below:

How to Land on Your Forefoot When Running?
To avoid heel striking, and instead, land on your forefoot, let your forefoot fall to the ground, don’t lift it back upon nor at landing. Relax the front of your foot and let it fall to the ground to achieve a better forefoot strike placement. This also reduces muscular work on the muscles that control the forefoot. Wearing a minimalist shoe also makes forefoot striking significantly easier by positioning the heel and forefoot at an equal distance from the ground, while the shoes barefoot-simulating design rebuilds a stronger foot!

The big reason barefoot and minimalist runners produce less net impacts is because the foot tends to default to a forefoot strike in the absence of thick under-heel cushioning. Also, you get a higher dose of ground-feedback when running barefoot and in minimalist shoes which has a real role to play in enhancing the reflexive reactions that keep your foot in close proximity to your center mass (torso), prevents over-striding, reduces over-pronation (severe footstep instability), while improving balance and ultimately prevents your mechanics from falling apart!

To get a better idea as to what a proper forefoot strike looks like, here is a Youtube video I did showing just that!

Here’s also all the evidence-backed reasons minimalist shoes do a better job at refining your running form vs thick cushioned running shoes.

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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