Forefoot vs heel

After spending nearly a year of changing to more midfoot/forefoot strike - which eliminated my perennial ITBS but admittedly repaced it with intermittent calf strain - I had attended a run with a running coach who told me to change back to heel strike arguing all elites run like that and if I don't I'm gonna get injured and remain rather slow. I fully accept there is no clear cut advantage of heel vs forefoot strike as long as other elements of proper form (e.g landing under centre of gravity, picking up heels etc) are maintained, but I must admit I was rather surprised by the authoritative discouragement of the forefoot style ( and that was before I even mentioned any calf problems). Would be interested to hear your thoughts and opinions?


  • Just shows not all coaches know what they are talking about.  

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    I came across the following link on a (non-running!) forum the other day, which I think neatly illustrates that (a) your coach is talking rubbish and (b) just do whatever works for you.  In summary they have close-up shots of the runners competing in the American 10k Olympic qualifier and you can see a wide variety of footstrike pattens in these elite runners.

  • i wonder if it differs from marathon runners to sprinters..........and i would want to see the info being collated by an independent source as i don't trust either side to be unbiased..........

    My natural instinct is to say  run the way that feels natural to youimage

  • That's a really interesting article.  I've been searching for exactly that information... and once asked the very question (what do the majority of professionals do) on these boards. And for exactly the same reason... trying to work out whether the anti-conventional-shoe lobby really did have a strong point.

    Since then, I've drawn my own conclusion that minmalist running works for some and not for others... and there's no magic answer.  I think this article is really good evidence to back that up.

  • thanks for your responses. Seren I think forefoot now feels more natural but it has been learnt over many months... Tried heelstriking again during the session with coach and I had to concentrate really hard to do that. It seems to take the pressure off my calves but I tried again on my today's run and I feel it jarrs somehow. 


  • I was watching a programme called '50 Shocking Facts about Diet and Exercise' the other day, and it stated that knee injuries are far more common now than at any point in the past, despite all the technology going into the modern running shoe.  Why?  Well, apparently it's down to the modern running shoe having a thicker heel, resulting in more people 'heelstriking', which according to the documentary, is bad for your knee.

    I just go for midfoot - so not front foot or heelstrike, but somewhere in between. image

  • Road runner...i think there are more injuries now because more people are running who aren't relaly suited to the past the slim racing snakes who were naturally good runners would be out running.......

    people like me would be laughed at for adays people of all shapes and sizes run....people who biomechanically aren't suited for the past we would not have run or would have been injured and told to we are all encouraged to thee will be more injuries

  • Thats really interesting! I find that running heel to toe is a difficult technique to hold the longer you run (for me anyway), and I end up getting shin splints as a result. Recently changed to running on the forefront of my foot and my speed has picked up immediately as well as the total elimination of shin splints. Sounds like it's best to just go with what feels natural..

  • Running heel to toe would just feel completely unnatural to me.  I agree with you: go with whatever feels natural. image

  • Goji,

    Paula Radcliffe runs with a forefoot strike - she says so in her book.  And she is the women's world record holder....


  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    She's also injured more often than not!

    Although since I changed from heel to forefoot striking my injuries have reduced.
  • thats the fact.we don't know how many of these elites are just running their natural way....... 

    and just because a worlkd record holder does it doesn't mean it would be great for everyone.......maybe we should all try nodding our heads....or sticking our chests out for the 400m or running with our arm at a funny angle for a marathon.........

    there are champions that will always run differently ....

    we are not elites and never will be

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    I don't think anyone can say defnitively why injuries have increased.  Also, you've got to be careful with headlines as the number of knee injuries will increase if an increasing number of people start running. Its only significant if the percentage of runners suffering knee injuries increases, and these knee injuries are directly attributable to running.  I'll admit to a personal interest in this as I'd classify myself as a runner and was out for about 9 months with a knee injury.  The knee injury was the result of a cycling accident, and was unrelated to running - but would I have been include in the program's stats?.

    I don't understand the "suited to running" argument, as its something many adult friends & colleagues have said to me since I started running.  However, when my young kids are at parties etc, I never see any of these children saying they are not suited to running whilst sprinting round the room.  In my opinion, this is probably due to our bodies adapting to modern life, which involves more sitting than standing/moving, but with a little work (core strength & stretches etc) that majority of adults could adapt back to their childhood ability to run pain free.   There are adults who can't run, e.g. one colleague has a damged knee from his rugby playing days, but I suspect they are a minority of the adults who say they can't run.

    I think its in the "Born to Run" book that did have one interesting statistic, where one study of runners in a particular marathon found that there was no correlation between injury rate and the amount of training miles run, but there was a correlation between the injury rate and the cost of the running shoes.  So you were more likely to get injured if you spent more on your shoes.  It would be interesting if this finding could be corroborated, and whether other factors could be eliminated (e.g. do people who spend more on shoes walk less, or are they more likely to train beyond their current ability etc).


  • To put knee injuries for runners in perspective, my mother in law hasn't so much as walked a mile, never mind run one in the last 50 years or so. She now has a dodgy knee. From reading wiki runners experience less knee problems than the sedentary.
  • i don't think its just runners who are having the fabled "runners knee"

    There's been an up-rise of knee operations in the past couple of years (NHS surveys) and probably the higher percentage of that is due to being over weight and putting unnecessary strain on the poor things!

    also take a look at the 'normal' foot wear today (not just running shoes), its awful! theres f**k all support for the arches and heels, but people buy them because they look good!!

    most of the injured runners ive seen have either: gone flat out too soon, are wearing poor footwear or just not abiding by the build up gradually rule!

    think about it, if you went out, being a non runner and attempted to do say 5 or so miles first time your poor legs would be battered, let alone the poor little kneesimage

  • In terms of heel vs forefoot strike what matters far more than what hits the ground first is where the rest of the body is when the foot hits the ground.

    If you heel strike and your foot hits the ground in front of your knee and hip then you apply a braking force with each step giving rise to an inefficient running style

    If however you heel strike (as many but not all elite runners do) but land such that your heel is behind or directly under your knee which is under or slightly forward of your hip then there is no braking force.

    Anybody who makes recommendations on where your foot should hit the ground without looking at the rest of their body is missing the complete picture of what happens.
  • that's what I thought - many thanks for all your opinions. I'm sure  I have a lot to work on in terms of technique (picki ng up heels mainly)  but I think I will skip trying to heel strike again..

  • Andrew, I am new to running and am getting knee pain on my right knee, where the inner cartildge is. I have had a small portion of it removed about 20 years ago, but it is now tender from running.

    I have no running style, but your comments about where the foot strikes the ground compared to the knee makes sense.

    I tend to start running with healstrike and then then as time progresses into my run land in the middle and more flat footed i would say. I am not expert and reading this thread to try to get some assistance.

  • I forefoot strike, but I don't find it puts any pressure on my calfs; I don't push off with my toe.  I keep my stride length short and cadence high.  Think road runner, a kinda circular motion with your feet - no pushing off with the toes - and this (I think) should take the pressure off the calfs.

    I try to use the natural springyness in the legs/tendons to move me forward.  Maybe have a look at the Chi running style of running; it explains that the calf muscles are small and not designed to propell us forward the way some of us run.

  • Many runners confuse running 'naturally' with running habitually, so they run without focus or awareness of the things they do wrong, which usually means working against gravity in some way (such as landing in front of your hips). Landing close to underneath the hips is what's important, which usually (but not always) means landing on the forefoot. You could actively land on your forefoot in front of your body but that would be ill advised.

    We don't propell our bodies forward with our muscles, so don't try and do it as it will only add vertical oscillation, load your calves unnecessarrily and it will keep your foot on the ground too long, which inturn encourages the swing leg to move out in front of the hips again.

Sign In or Register to comment.