Is it Faster to Run on Your Forefoot? YES!

In taking a hard look at the research on foot strike pattern and running economy, running on your forefoot makes you faster with greater, sustainable efficiency than heel strike running. This is because landing with a forefoot strike increases leg spring compression, which supplied more economic momentum with greater ease.

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You’ll get better gas mileage if you land towards the front part of your foot (i.e. the balls of your foot) when running because it was found to make the leg more spring-enabled. Equally important is the little to no impact at the heel, and big impact reductions across multiple sites not just across the leg, but the entire body, thereby giving you more protective means to avoid injuries than heel strike running. 

In forefoot running, leg spring compression was more optimized with speed, meaning the faster you run, the more your legs function as energy-saving springs.

  • Similar to hopping, rebounding from a drop results in greater leg spring compression in forefoot running, meanwhile, as running velocity increases, so does leg spring compression as compared with heel strike running.
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When you’re forefoot running, don’t be a afraid to run faster because it makes your legs better at acting as springs to make your stride more energy efficient and responsive, while enabling you to actually run lighter, and safer!

Consistent with the current research (references below article), reports in the journal, Human Movement Science, revealed greater leg spring compression increased elastic energy storage in the lower leg during the loading phase of stance (This is another energetic phenomena that makes forefoot running more efficient than heel strike running).

More confirming data in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology discovered the biomechanical advantages of greater leg spring compression included preventing the collapse of the lower leg, meanwhile energy return during the propulsive phase of forefoot running was more optimized.

How Exactly Does Forefoot Running Improve Spring Compression in the Leg?

Researchers have laid out a number of mechanisms in forefoot running that optimizes leg spring compression. One such mechanism is reduced stride length.

  • Naturally, a shorter stride is automatically facilitated by forefoot striking whereby a shorter stride corresponds to greater leg spring compression and better running economy (McMahon and Cheng, 1990; Farley and Gonzalez, 1996; Derrick et al., 2000).

Even more optimistic, running barefoot (which naturally engages a forefoot strike landing) on natural, softer surfaces, such as grass was also found to optimize leg spring compression, thereby resulting in better running economy (Kerdock et al. 2015).

So, when it comes to saving energy in forefoot running, you need to actually run faster, which is why the most economical runners, like Eluid Kipchoge, the marathoner who broke the 2 hour barrier, uses a forefoot strike, along with the vast majority of record holders across ALL distances.  They dont use a heel strike because of all these reasons!


Butler et al. Lower extremity stiffness: implications for performance and injury. Clin Biomech, 2003; 18:511-17.

Farley, C.T., Blickhan, R., Saito, J., Taylor, C.R., 1991. Hopping frequency in humans: a test of how springs set stride frequency in bouncing gaits. J. Appl. Physiol. 71, 2127–2132.

Granata, K.P., Padua, D.A., Wilson, S.E., 2001. Gender differences in active musculoskeletal stiffness. Part II. Quantification of leg stiffness during functional hopping tasks. J. Electromyogr. Kinesiol. 12, 127–135.

Latash, M.L., Zatsiorsky, V.M., 1993. Joint stiffness: Myth or reality? Hum. Movement Sci. 12, 653–692.

McMahon, T.A., Cheng, G.C., 1990. The mechanics of running: how does stiffness couple with speed? J. Biomech. 23 (Suppl 1), 65–78.

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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!