Forefoot Running: Everything You Need To Know

Forefoot Running: Everything You Need To Know

Do you know how your foot strike the ground when you running? Many runners aren’t conscious of this, especially beginner runners. There are three main types of foot strike: heel, mid and forefoot running. What this means is some people strike first with the heel of their foot and the foot rolls from back to front, with the entire foot making contact with the ground.

Some people are midfoot strikers. Just like it sounds, you hit the ground with the middle of your foot. Just as in heel striking, your foot then continues for the rest of the movement with the foot rolling off the toes as your foot flexes.

In forefoot running, you first hit the ground with the front of your foot. People often make the mistake of thinking that no other part touches the ground in forefoot running. A simple peek at the bottom of some shoes will tell you that isn’t necessarily the case.  Once you get fatigued it is likely more of the back of the foot will make contact with the ground.

Sprinting, Forefoot & Explosive Speed

If you focus on an elite sprinter you will certainly notice they appear to run up on their toes. Actually, they are likely impacting on the balls of their feet. In fact, the amount of time any portion of the foot touches the ground is minimal in a full-tilt sprint.

To achieve fast leg turnover, the printer limits both time and area of contact. This is not necessarily done in a conscious effort, however, which is partly why some people seem to run so quickly with so very little effort.

This type of forefoot strike, sprinting form is typically seen in athletes who are running the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes.

Sprinters Who Switch to Distance

Sometimes, runners who had previously been sprinters switch to distance running for recreational purposes, as they age. In some of these runners, you see a fairly natural progression as they stay forefoot strikers. This is neither good nor bad. It just is.

Some downfalls that truly can exist is that a forefoot strike can put a strain on the Achilles. If you’re running the 200-meter dash, not a problem. The most efficient mid-distance runners often also use a forefoot strike, such as elites running the 800 and 1600. However, if you are trying to run in the same way for 7-8 miles, that strain can be taxing on the body.

The interesting thing, though, is that people who specialize in the analysis of running biomechanics found something interesting when conducting research on some of the fastest humans running everything from the 100-meter dash to the 10K: there were fast people with all different foot strikes and body forms.

What can be concluded from that? Some people are just fast, even if they don’t run pretty.

Is Forefoot Running Better?

Researchers have found that while many of your shorter distance runners use a forefoot strike, many long distance runners use the exact opposite: the heel strike.  In fact, studies conclude that over 90% of all marathoners heel strike.

Check out the image of American marathoning great Meb Keflezighi. While in recent years he has switched to more of a midfoot strike, in many of his top race efforts he is clearly using a heel strike!

Switching Strike With Fatigue

A study conducted using runners at the Manchester City Marathon concluded that some runners switch their strike as they progress through a race. A college biology professor noticed that while 88% of marathoners were heel striking at the 10K mark, that number jumped up to 96% at mile 19.

From this, specialists conclude that as the body fatigues he or she is more likely

Does Forefoot Running Make You Faster?

Although it is a complicated concept, simply changing your foot strike is unlikely to make you faster. The reason is that trying to change that one component will impact the rest of your stride. If you are accustomed to moving along a certain way and have done so all of your life, trying to hit the ground differently without making other changes could actually cause injury.

Most forefoot strikers do so naturally and have always done so and trying to force your body to do something different can be counterproductive.

How Does Barefoot Running Figure In?

Have you ever run toward the water at the beach without shoes on? Did you notice something? You probably noticed that you were forefoot running. At the very least, you were probably striking midfoot. Why is that? Because for most of us, striking toward the front of the foot is simply the most natural thing.

Because of this, many runners find fault in heavy, clunky running shoes that overcorrect problems. In other words, they feel you should allow your feet to do what they do naturally: strike as your body is intended to.

Interested? Be careful! Don’t just jump in with both feet!

How Do I Switch To Barefoot Running?

True minimalists say that transition is not important and that people should just jump into the deep end, take off the shoes and run as your body is intended to; however, the research does not seem to support that.

If you are interested in trying barefoot running, be careful. It is advised that you should consider a minimalist shoe as a first step. Also, you should not try to run your usual distances in a minimalist shoe right off the bat.

When looking for minimalist shoes, they will be low to the ground with little support. As you transition consider using your minimalist shoes for short runs and speed work and stick to the shoes you were previously using for longer runs.

If you are running on a beach, and are actually barefoot, remember not to try to run too far right off the bat. This change in footstrike will be hard on your Achilles! Some experts think that as you are transitioning, you can help aid that process by running some strides on the grass barefoot after every run, even longer runs in shoes that offer more support.

Barefoot Form Drills

Have you done drills to work on your form? Completing barefoot form drills can be helpful as you transition, also. When you do drills you are training your body to run with proper form and to utilize the right technique. Consider warming up barefoot, on the grass, in order to get acclimated to these movements.

Some words of caution if you plan to run barefoot. Running on asphalt can be hot and hurt your feet. Many barefoot runners prefer dirt, grass, or sand for true barefoot running. Also, you can damage your feet by stepping on glass, rocks, or other things on your path. There are many minimalist shoes out there that could do the trick when you do run on pavement.

However, don’t assume that either forefoot striking or barefoot running will make you faster. That simply isn’t typically the case.

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