Running Barefoot, Forefoot Striking & Training Tips
Forefoot Striking & Impact Forces
For millions of years, it is likely that runners landed with no
single, specific foot strike, and rather landed with a variety of foot
strikes including forefoot, midfoot and heel strikes, but we suspect
that the most common form of foot strike was a forefoot strike.
Midfoot strikes were probably also more common than they are today. These
kinds of strikes (i.e. landing first on the lateral ball of the foot) lead to
lower impact forces which may lead to lower rates of injury. We
hypothesize and there is anecdotal evidence that forefoot or midfoot
striking can help avoid and/or mitigate repetitive stress injuries,
especially stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and runner's knee.
We emphasize, however, that this hypothesis on injury has yet to be tested
and that there have been no direct studies on the efficacy of forefoot
strike running or barefoot running on injury.
Forefoot Striking Barefoot:
Produces Minimal Impact Force with No Impact Transient
Heel Strike in Shoes:
Produces Significant Impact Transient
Other Advantages of Forefoot Striking Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear
It strengthens the muscles in your foot, especially in the arch. A healthy foot is a strong foot, one that pronates less
and is less liable to develop a collapsed arch.
It may cost less energy to forefoot strike because you use the natural springs in your foot and calf muscles more to store and release
energy. Running barefoot or in minimal footwear (usually lighter than
traditional running shoes) means that there is less mass to accelerate
at the end of the runner's leg with each stride. Running barefoot has
been shown to use about 5% less energy than shod running (Divert et al., 2005;
Squadrone and Gallozzi, 2009).
Barefoot running feels great! Your feet have lots
of sensory nerves. And because there is minimal impact forces on
landing it can be very comfortable provided you develop calluses on
your feet (see below).
Disadvantages of Forefoot Striking Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear
Thick-soled shoes are much more forgiving when running over glass,
sharp objects, ice and so on.
If you have been a heel striker, it takes some time and much work to
train your body to forefoot or midfoot strike, especially because you
need stronger feet and calf muscles. Runners may be at
greater risk of developing Achilles tendonitis when they switch from
heel striking to forefoot or midfoot striking (see training tips below).
First and foremost, the information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only,
and is not a substitute for advice from a physician, trainer or coach. We strongly encourage you to consult a physician before implementing any exercise program. We accept no
liability for the information provided below. Please see
Whatever you do, don't overdo it! If you have
been a heel striker most of your life, it will take lots of work to
switch to forefoot striking. If you develop lasting pain, stop and consult a
Minimal Shoes. A great way to learn to forefoot strike is
to try it first barefoot on a hard but smooth surface like a tennis
court, a track or even a smoothly paved road. Your body will quickly tell you what to do! But until you develop
good form and build up calluses on your feet, you’ll want to wear minimal
footwear to forefoot strike. There are many minimal shoes with several features that allow you to forefoot
No built up heel. If the heel is too large,
then you’ll have to overpoint your toes, which might cause pain
and damage to the foot.
A flexible sole and no arch support. A
stiff sole and arch support will prevent the natural flattening
of the arch, preventing the muscles and ligaments of the foot
from functioning as they were meant to. If you can’t easily twist and bend the sole of the shoe, then it is probably too stiff. At first this will work out
and tire the muscles of your foot, but eventually with
progressive training the muslces will strengthen.
Tips on Proper Forefoot or Midfoot Strike Form
There is no single “perfect running form.” Everyone’s body is different and no single technique could be best for everyone. Here
are some general tips:
A good landing should feel gentle, relaxed and compliant. You
typically land on the ball of your foot towards the lateral side. After the front of your foot lands,
let the heel down gradually, bringing the
foot and lower leg to a gentle landing as you dorsiflex your ankle
under the control of your calf muscles. It's like when you land from a
jump, flexing the hip, knee and ankle. Again, the landing should feel
soft, springy, and comfortable. It's probably good to land with the
foot nearly horizontal so you don't have to work the calves too much.
Do not over stride (land with your foot too far in front of your hips). Over striding
while forefoot or midfoot striking requires you to point your toe more
than necessary, adding stress to the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and the arch of the foot.
It often feels as if your feet are striking the ground beneath your
hips. It is similar to the way one’s feet land when skipping rope or
when running in place (as runners sometimes do when waiting to cross a
A good way to tell if you are landing properly is to run totally barefoot on a hard, smooth surface (e.g. pavement) that
is free of debris. Sensory feedback will quickly tell you if you are landing too hard. If you run barefoot on too soft a surface
like a beach, you might not learn proper form.
Experienced Barefoot Runner Forefoot Striking
Kenyan Adolescent Who Has Never Worn Shoes
Tips on Transitioning to Forefoot or Midfoot Striking
Forefoot striking barefoot or in minimal footwear requires you to
use muscles in your feet (mostly in the arch) that are
probably very weak. Running this way also requires much
more strength in your calf muscles than heel
these muscles must contract eccentrically (while lengthening) to ease the heel onto the ground following
the landing. Novice forefoot and midfoot strikers typically experience tired feet, and very stiff, sore calf muscles. In addition, the Achilles
tendon often gets very stiff. This is normal and eventually goes away, but you can do several things to make the transition
Build up slowly! If you vigorously work out any weak muscles in your body, they will be sore and
stiff. Your foot and calf muscles will be no exception. So please, don’t overdo it because you
will probably injure yourself if you do too much too soon.
Start by walking around barefoot frequently.
First week: no more than a
quarter mile to one mile every other day.
Increase your distance by no more than
10% per week. This is not a hard and fast rule,
but a general guide. If your muscles remain sore, do not increase
your training. Take an extra day off or maintain your distance for
Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal,
but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury.
Be patient and build gradually. It takes months to make the
If you are currently running a lot, you don’t need to drastically reduce your mileage. Instead, supplement
forefoot or midfoot striking with running the way that you normally ran before beginning the transition. Over the course of several months,
gradually increase the proportion of forefoot or midfoot striking and reduce the proportion of running in your old style.
Use the same 10% per week guideline in increasing the amount of running
you do forefoot striking.
It is essential to stretch your calves and hamstrings
carefully and regularly as you make the transition. Massage your calf muscles
and arches frequently to break down scar tissue. This will
help your muscles to heal and get stronger.
Listen to your feet. Stopif your arches are hurting, if the top of your foot is hurting,
or if anything else hurts! Sometimes
arch and foot pain occurs from landing with your feet too far forward relative to
your hips and having to point your toes too much. It can also occur
from landing with too rigid a foot and not letting your heel drop
Many people who run very slowly find that forefoot striking
actually makes them run a little faster.
Land gently on your forefoot and gradually let the heel come down
Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon
Don’t do anything that causes pain
Listen to your body and run totally barefoot to learn good form
Buy minimal shoes that lack high heels and stiff soles