Heel Pain Due to Running in the Wrong Shoe

Heel pain due to running is actually due to running in the wrong shoe. A new study confirms that the higher the heel elevation of a running shoe, the higher you’ll land on your heel, and the result is a less flat foot strike causing the massive force at heel strike to overwhelm the heel pad.

Heel Pain Due to Running

Heel Pain Due to Running in the Wrong Shoes

A study by Jimenez-Munoz et al (2015), investigated the effects of running barefoot vs running in shoes on foot strike. The researchers found that a higher heel strike angle was more frequent in running shoes, especially those with a higher heel height, whereas barefoot running resulted in a significantly flatter foot strike, suggesting that impact forces would be less intensified on the heel during barefoot running because a flatter foot strike at touchdown increases the surface area for force dissipation.

Their results are in line with past reports which found that 70-85% of runners who wore cushioned heeled running shoes heel strike (Hasegawa et al. 2007), and sustain numerous injuries. Their results are also consistent with other reports which have found a forefoot strike is commonly adopted when a shod runner runs barefoot (Hamill et al. 2011), suggesting that the heel pad is sensitive and a non-heel strike landing is a safer means of protecting the heel pad for degrading on hard surfaces.

Running and Heel Pain
Without running shoes, the body has a natural tendency to land away from the heel and more towards the forefoot during running.

The benefits of barefoot running doesn’t stop there. Barefoot running also protects the hips, improves ankle kinematics, and of course, increases foot and arch strength.

If you don’t want to go barefoot when you run, you’ll love these barefoot-inspired running shoes.

More From Run Forefoot:

Proper Arm Swing in Forefoot Running

7 Reasons Runners Should Go Minimal

19+ Benefits of Forefoot Running

How the Braking Phase in Heel Running Does Damage

5+ Ways to Fuel Before a Run


Hamill, J., Russell, E. M., Gruber, A. H., & Miller, R. (2011). Impact characteristics in shod and barefoot running. Footwear Science, 3, 33 – 40.

Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T., & Kraemer, W. J. (2007). Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21, 888 –893

Jimenez-Munoz et al. Influence of shod/unshod condition and running speed on foot-strike patterns, inversion/eversion, and vertical foot rotation in endurance runners.J Sports Sci, 2015;33(19):2035-2042.

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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