Chaging from heel strike to forefoot landing

I have been working on shifting from heel strike to forefoot for the last 4 weeks and find it a hard work. I do it under supervision of coach from The Running School, currently do a walk/ run programme running around 3.5-4 miles tops although we go by time rather than mileage. If you managed to transfer to forefoot running successfully I would be grateful for all advice or thoughts on this subject.



  • Hi,

    I made the transition from heel striking last year, I'd only been running a couple of months when I did it though so I didn't have years of heel striking behind me. I did it very gradually, the first 5 minutes of every run, then the next week the first 8 minutes, the week after that the first 12 minutes and so on. It felt very odd at first and my calves didn't like it one bit. I reckon it took around 6-8 months for me to feel totally comfortable with it but once it does you'll never look back.

    Flatter shoes help (I run in Saucony Kinvaras). Stick with it, you'll be glad you did.

    Good luck!

  • I run in Newtons now. I find them great and very comfortable. I had a bit of a problem as right heel was higher off the ground when landing than the left and I had some imbalance issues, it's work in progress for me, I have a marathon booked for end of Berlin and worry whether will be ready in time.
  • I have done it. Basically wot RI2 says.

    I did a lot of calf raises, flatter shoes, patience.

    I started by running lots of hilly runs and doing all the climbs on my toes. Even now I still switch to heel-strike on steep decent as it is far more efficient and less destructive for that sort of thing.

  • I'm just about to start the transition, have finished my spring races and next one isn't until October so should have time. The advice I've been given is start slow and short distances.

    On shoes, I've tried the Kinvaras and I've also tried the brooks green something or other - brooks immediately felt better for me. I over pronate.

    I wish you the best of luck. I will be feeling your pain!
  • Good luck Simon.

  • 3.5 - 4 miles might be a little bit on the long side at first.

    I'm coming at this from the viewpoint of someone who changed from conventional shoes to minimal shoes and barefoot, so it may be a little different if you still have some padding underfoot.

    When I made the transition, I cut down from my normal distance of around 5 -7 miles to about 3 miles, but this wasn't a big enough reduction. I wrecked my calf muscles, tried to run on regardless, and then developed shin splints as a knock-on effect. 

    I subsequently read that you should start by running a mile or less, then build up very gradually. It's almost like being a brand new runner again - you have to start from scratch and re-learn the skill in a new way. Once I'd recovered from my injuries I did just that - and I've never looked back.

    Good luck with making the transition - it's not easy but it will be worth it in the end!

  • AnneV, I'm not just starting out, we've been working on increasing time, I started out with 1 minute walk/1 minute run. The total distance covered is this but I'm not running all of it, I walk in between. I think the advice is totally wrong to say run first one mile, it's a long way, start at 1 minute and you will need a walking break afterwards, I guarantee. In learning to change technique you need real slow aproach. I posted this thread after yesterday's run which finished in a strong heel pain. It was explained to me that this is where Achilles attaches to the heel bone. I had sore heel all day and had to walk slowly. This morning the pain was no longer there, I went for a run, 3 reps of 10 minutes with 2 minute walk in between and nothing hurts. It was really great. I just hope Thursday's run will be equally great and I will learn this soon.
  • Sorry to hear about the sore heel, acdcgirl - and good to know it's feeling better today. You've done the right thing in listening to your body and taking things slowly.

    As runners, we all love to challenge ourselves and sometimes we push through pain when we shouldn't - I still do it, even though I've learned the hard way!! The key should always be 'if it hurts, stop'. Don't be a hero - it's better to walk home and rest rather than risk a serious injury that will put you off the road for longer.

    Good luck for Thursday's session. image

  • Hi all,

    I'm also trying to switch from heels to forefoot running, currently doing the C25K programme. 

    I am also experiencing heel/arch pain, Ibuprofen is helping  but still hurts for a couple of days after a run. 

    I was wondering if its because im still running in my old neutral mizuno trainers and as they have a thicker sole im tending to run more on the toes??

    I have ordered some brooks green silence which should be here next week. 

    But for now do you guys think I should rest or carry on running, dont know what to do for the best. 

  • A week a go I got a pair of running sandals and have been wearing these. They will not be everybodies cup of tea. However you just cannot heel strike in them! Your body just doesn't do it. I ran a half marathon in them over the weekend and my calves are screaming at the moment. But I plan to wear them for a 50k in2 weeks. I know this probably wont help much but I do think its down to the footwear.

    Right helpful tips (I hope) Up your cadence to 180 steps a minute or more. Make sure your feet land under you and not out in front of you.Be light and quick on your feet. Try to keep your posture upright looking slightly into the distance and the biggest thing people forget to do is relax, relax then relax some more was good advice I was given image

  • Vickar,

    Thanks for the advice mate, but as a beginner doing week 5 of the C25K program and not much stamina at the mo, dont think i can up my cadence yet Lol.


  • You can up your cadence and go slowly. Its quite good running form to get 180 steps a minute. I do 180 steps a minute and run 10.30 minute miles. Or 180 steps a minute and run 9 minute miles. It can be done in good time so don't think you cant image But I kinda know what you are saying

  • Kevin

    I agree with the vicar. A low cadence means a long stride with the landing foot going out in front for a mighty heel strike, sort of like the six million dollar man when he went into slow motion.

    I got achey and strained after a mile or two when I started running off the treadmill. I followed some advice and investd in a metronome and worked my cadence up through 80 bpm (160 by the vicar's reckoning, I just count on one foot) to 87.

    To do this I had to shorten my stride by a remarkable amount.

    I was worried that taking little tiny steps and having a beeping metronome going might make me look silly. Then I realised that I was an out of condition man entering my late forties going out in public in faded tracksuit trousers and a ragged cotton T shirt. Possibly a batman cape might have made me look sillier.

    If I'd though about it, I supposeI could have put a metronome beat on my mp3 player and drawn less attention to myself.

    I found that a higher cadence took less effort.

    Arch and heel pain is normal after your first few runs. Especially on roads. As far as I understand it, you are using you arches in a way that they haven't been used in a long time. Padding doesn't really help because at some point it will be fully compressed and you will still have a full load trying to spread your arch out.

    You should adapt to it. I found that the problem went away in the first three or four weeks, maybe less. Shortening my stride and keeping my speed down so that I didn't need to breathe through my mouth helped.


  • The arch pain you mention is most likley the muscles in your foot strengthening which in the long run will give you a higher arch, which is good for spreading the load and absorbing some of the imact.

    I have heard tell of some people dropping one or more shoe size as a result of this. So unless it getts to the point of stopping you from running or persists for a long time after (anything up to 2 days is likley to be Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness aka "the DOMS" and nothing to worry about) then I wouldn't worry too much. I imagine that there will be several new aches and pains to get accustomed to with the C25K program, the trick is learning which ones are good and which ones are not.

    Enjoy image

  • Focus on pulling your foot under your hip and allowing the other to drop straight down. if you do this correctly, you will land on your forefoot. But, if you focus on just landing on your forefoot you can just as easily overstride this way as when you heel strike and end up with a different set of injuries.

    Another important point is to relax your ankles and let your heel kiss the ground after.

  • Thanks guys for your input, i will download a metronome app and give it a go and try to focus on pulling my lags up better.

  • carterusmcarterusm ✭✭✭

    I too am in the process of changing from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike. I have recently had a gait analysis done and was found to have a 'normal' left foot strike and a slightly overpronating right foot. I was advised to have some Brooks Ravenna shoes which are for mild or latestage overpronators.

    In the last few weeks I have slowly introduced some mid-foot striking at the beginning of my runs and I'm up to about 2 miles now. In the last few runs, however, it feels like I am overpronating quite a bit more than when I had the gait analysis done. I haven't had any twinges/pains since I changed but I am not sure if changing to a mid-foot strike automatically makes me overpronate. Has anyone else experienced this and if so what did you do, if anything ? As I'm not having any pain since the change do I just carry on as I am or should I get myself another gait analaysis ?

  • Carterusm

    Just carry on what you are doing,if it aint broke!!

  • carterusmcarterusm ✭✭✭

    Indeed. Sometimes you can think too deeply into this running malarky !

  • I read 'Chi Running' and followed the advice in there; transitioning to a forefoot strike wasn't a problem for me; I don't know why, but it just felt quite natural.  

    I've read a few people here suffering with their calfs; one of the things that 'Chi Running' said was that we shouldn't use our calf muscles to propell us forward.  They're a small muscle - in comparison with our bodies - and aren't designed to move our weight.


  • Calf muscle helps absorb a lot of the impact in forefoot running, hence many people new to it experiencing stiffness/ discomfort until they have built up calves sufficiently to deal with this.

    Once foot is planted quads and glutes do most of the propelling with just an extra flourish from the calf to finnish, adding that extra spring in your step.


  • Roger the Dodger,

    Interesting point about the shoe size. I've figured I'm a size 9 for years. Measured myself for a pair of Xeroshoes and came out as 262 mm. size 8!


  • cj dwrote (see)

    Roger the Dodger,

    Interesting point about the shoe size. I've figured I'm a size 9 for years. Measured myself for a pair of Xeroshoes and came out as 262 mm. size 8!


    Yes because you dont have to allow for padding with sandalsimage

  • Just in case anybody is still following this thread,

    My feet have been feeling better with each run and last fridays run was for 20 min solid forefoot style and no aches & pains the following dayimage

    Only a tight left leg calf muscle, which is nearly healed today and should be ok for tomorrows run (hopefully).

  • On shoe size be careful.  Different makes use different sizes 9.5 in one shoe may not be the same as 9.5 in another.  Even the same manufacturer will change sizing from year to year.   this year's model of Newtons shoes is narrower than the previous year's. So you have to by half a size larger for the same fit.

  • I come up a bit smaller in my xeroshoes. But good thing with sandals you wear them how you feel comfortable, so I could have them a bit bigger or trim them down image

  • XX1XX1 ✭✭✭
    TheVicar wrote (see)

    I come up a bit smaller in my xeroshoes. But good thing with sandals you wear them how you feel comfortable, so I could have them a bit bigger or trim them down image

    I'd suggest going for a couple of sizes too large...  Then put them on and trim around your feet to size image

  • I just want to describe a transition to forefoot that I began about two years ago (I don't remember the date precisely). I define completion as running a trail marathon forefoot with no particular ill effects due to forefooting.

    The transition started with very sore calves even after a k or two. I gradually increased the amount. I also run with a much wider variety of shoes now, and never use the same pair consecutively: about 10 pairs, everything from Altra Zerodrop and Merrell low drops, through Hoka lowdrop/high cushion, to conventional Asics and Salomon road and trail shoes. I can forefoot in all of them but prefer a low or zero drop so the heel doesn't get in the way. I still like to have a bit of cushioning so I sometimes use a double insole because low drop often means low inbuilt cushioning. The only remaining residual problems are a tendency to scuff the forefoot on landing, and difficulty forefooting on steep downhills.

    The main effects are 1) I like the way the running looks and feels - I used to look like a shuffler 2) my cadence has gone up to usually 190+ as stride has shortened to avoid heelstriking 3) I have an extra option for how the foot lands when picking a tricky route betwen rocks and roots on technical trails.

    The marathon in question when I finally felt I could test running totally forefoot for the whole event was when I was pacemaker for a friend. I took about 45 minutes longer than I normally would for this marathon (it was my sixth go) so that relaxed pace could also have contributed to the lack of an ill effects. In fact, the next day if I had lost my memory I wouldn't have known I ran a mara the day before. (In total I have run twenty-odd marathons and do about 300 km per month currently.) On the track here you can see the cadence approaching 200 usually.

    I don't really know why I decided to change - I just wondered if it was possible. Having done it, I prefer the style of running aesthetically and think of it more like an extra arrow in the quiver rather than a religious conversion. One physiological conclusion could be that it is possible for muscles (eg calves) to adapt to eccentric contraction but that is something I haven't looked into confirming independently yet.

  • XX1XX1 ✭✭✭

    SC -- Wow!  A cadence of 200 is pretty high...  Do you have any advice or suggestions on how cadence can be increased?  Apart from, obviously, run faster...  I can't seem to get mine much over 170, and that's on a good day.

  • Cadence 180-200? It just came that way as a result of shortening the stride to avoid stretching out for a heel landing. I read a tip somewhere that to go faster, visualise stretching out the leg behind you rather than reaching forward for the next step.

    I'm not fast, but I admit that's a quick turnover compered with most. (My marathon as a 56 yo is about 3:35 to 40, 10 km about 43, 5 km about 21). I'm probably running a bit like Chi running except that I just cannot wholefoot-strike without curling my toes up, and that feels unnatural. Instead, I forefoot and make sure I also do a light heel contact to avoid looking like I'm prancing round on tiptoes. I try to remember not to do too much vertical oscillation. Some people say it looks graceful compared with how I used to run as a "shuffler". One commented that I was bouncing too much but I believe the legs might just look like that whereas the head is pretty stable.

    Another tip for keeping up the cadence generally and for slack downhills is to have slightly soft knees. This puts slightly more load on the quads but stops the wasteful oscillation or reduces impact. It's something to experiment with, and I tend to remember it only on the downhills.

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