Quite possibly the best thing I have ever done for my running was transition to forefoot striking, or forefoot running. In its simplest terms, forefoot running is how you would run if you ran barefoot; only I wear shoes. The concept is very simple, by running on your forefoot your gait transitions to a much more natural style and your legs function as shock absorbers – the way they were supposed to.
If you’re considering making this switch from heel striking to forefoot running, and it is a major transition for most runners, I consider myself a very good beta test because I ran on my heels for over a decade. After 8 months on my forefoot I can tell you with 100% certainty it has made all the difference in the world as far as speed, recovery, and soreness go. Here are a few things I have learned, some the hard way. I am happy to have questions on this, I want you all to run for as long as your legs will allow.
My Top Five Forefoot Running Tips
1. Start Slow: About the second week of my transition I felt so good I hammered out a five mile run. I couldn’t walk for about a week. Forefoot running wakes up some dormant muscle fibers in your calves and mine didn’t seem to know what they were doing. For the first month I would recommend no more than two to three miles a week on your forefoot and the rest as usual.
2. Get the right shoes. I wear Newtons. They are designed with forefoot running in mind and have a very low heel profile and the padding in the front. There are others out there that I know folks love, but the point is it’s more difficult to run on your forefoot if your heel keeps getting in the way.
3. Start by jogging in place. Keep your feet under your hips and jog in place for a few seconds while landing on your forefoot, when you start running just lean forward and go. Try to keep your feet under your center of gravity when you land.
4. Learn from your shoes. Your shoes should wear out where your landing the most. If you see wear on the heels, you’re not running on your forefoot. I have included pics of mine to show you exactly what I mean. My wear patterns tell me that I am landing properly. What’s that… No more issues with over / under pronation?
5. Research. Proper forefoot running techniques should be pretty simple, as another blogger said once in a guest post “You were made to run.” Well, it’s not really that easy. You are undoing years of bad form. Again, because I wear Newton’s I will direct you to their website, but I am sure there are other sources of information out there.
Forefoot Running VS Heel Striking
Perhaps the best bit of evidence I have found for forefoot running, scientifically speaking, would be the Lieberman article. In a nutshell they found that heel striking delivers impact forces up to 7 times greater than forefoot running. (Lieberman, 2010) From what I can gather the study pointed to two main reasons for this. First, the forefoot is substantially wider than the heel, spreading the impact force out. Second, by running on your forefoot you get the added shock absorption of your ankle. In a heel strike your ankle is retracted and won’t function to absorb energy.
The other major difference, that I can assume accounts for my speed increases, is the fact that when you land on your heel there is a breaking effect. When you land on your heel your shoes act like brake pads producing inefficiency in your stride. The shoes I have pictured above have almost three times as many miles on them as my previous pair that I ran in prior to making my transition to forefoot running. Those previous shoes would have long since had the heels sheared off, these only showing minimal wear. The parallel to efficient running is obvious.
Forefoot Running Shoes – The Video