How Forefoot Running May Prevent Impact-Related Injuries

How Forefoot Running May Prevent Impact-Related Injuries


When it comes to preventing impact-related
injuries, like long bone injuries in running, it’s important to stress that a lot of research
shows that forefoot running has an impressive record of producing better results than heel
strike running. This is because forefoot running produces
only a very narrow set of impact forces that are more easily tolerated by the musculoskeletal
system, and this is because when you run with a forefoot strike the forefoot-to-heel movement
path of the foot in forefoot running, not only enables the landing foot to swiftly glide
onto the ground with very minimal jarring force, very minimal jerk force and a next-to-none
hard-hitting collision force, landing with a forefoot strike during running also naturally
brings into line safer mechanics, such as reduced stride length and increased step-rate
or cadence (which is the number of steps per min) altogether, these are mechanical outputs
study-proven to be impact-protective and linked to better outcomes in preventing impact-related
injuries. Conformation of the safeguarding effects of
forefoot running on the body as compared with heel strike running, comes from a 2019 report
in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, which found that switching from heel strike
running to forefoot strike running may have the most positive influence on reducing injurious
impact loads as compared with increasing run cadence while running with a heel strike,
because even though increasing run cadence has been shown to reduce impact, the researchers
discovered that increased cadence while heel strike running, still produced more damaging
impact variables than forefoot strike running, suggesting that the real potential for a heel
strike runner to have a better shot at avoiding an impact-related injury is to switch to forefoot
strike running, rather than increasing cadence while remaining a heel strike runner. The study, which is linked below in the description
box, compared the intensity of certain impact force variables and the short and long-term
biomechanical effects between increased run cadence while heel strike running and the
adoption of a forefoot strike running style in heel strike runners. Specifically, the study involved 39 healthy
recreational runners who were habitual heel strike runners and ran with a low cadence. The runners were randomized into 2 groups. The first group was the ‘cadence-retraining
group’. In this group, the heel strike runners weren’t
asked to change their foot strike. They were told to retain their heel strike
running style, but were asked to run with a 7.5% increase in their cadence. The second group was the ‘forefoot running
group’. This group was asked to switch their heel
strike to a forefoot strike landing pattern during running. All runners performed 4 weeks of strength
training followed by 8 sessions of gait-retraining using auditory feedback. I want to also mention and emphasize that
the forefoot running group was provided with zero-drop, completely flat and thin minimalist
running shoes, the Inov-8 BareXF 210 (of which my review on those minimalist shoes is linked
below in the description box); the forefoot running group was asked to wear these shoes
as part of the intervention, because the lack of under-heel cushioning, or the complete
flatness of the shoe’s design, enables this type of shoe, a flat minimalist shoe, to help
promote a forefoot strike landing with greater ease during running as landing heel-first,
or heel striking without under-heel padding is discomforting during running, and because
of this, you have a natural, reflexive tendency to avoid that discomfort by landing farther
away from the heel, making initial ground-contact on the forefoot, or on the balls of the foot
as doing so instantly feels more natural because it feels more cormtable, since the forefoot
acts as a better shock-pad than the heel in the absence of under-foot cushioning during
running, partly because there’s more surface area on the forefoot for effective impact
dispersal, so at no point does a peak pressure form because there’s no pressure forces
becoming overdense and localized to one small area of the foot in forefoot running as compared
with heel strike running, whereby at heel strike, because surface area is very small
at the initial ground-contact point on the heel, causes peak force pressure to shoot
up and remain hyper-localized to that one small area of the foot, the heel, which in
turn, can easily produce greater peak force pressure levels in excess to the area, creating
an injurious hotspot on the heel, and is one reason heel pain and heel injury are common
in heel strike runners, despite running in shoes with thick padded heels. In getting back to the study, the cadence-retraining
heel strike running group increased their preferred run cadence by 7.5% with the use
of auditory feedback via a metronome. Like the forefoot running group, the cadence-retraining
heel strike running group was provided with footwear, but conventional neutral cushioned
running footwear (the Inov-8 Road Claw 275). They were assigned this type of shoe because
these runners were not instructed to change their heel strike landing during running,
therefore under-heel protection was essential because making initial ground-contact on the
heel during running has been repeatedly proven to generate significantly more impact than
landing forefoot-first while running. Also keep in mind that run cadence can be
increased without changing foot strike pattern, which is what was observed in the current
study. The researchers then compared the effects
of these gait-retraining parameters on the production of the impact forces and vertical
loads closely tied to causing most common running-related injuries.Their analysis showed
a very strong relationship between forefoot striking during running and a significant
reduction in vertical average load rates and vertical instantaneous load rates, and there’s
a long-standing position among many experts that these 2 impact variables by many estimates,
probably underlie most running-related injuries. More specifically, their data showed that
the forefoot running group demonstrated a near 50% reduction in overall distressing
impact loads and most exciting, the forefoot running group also showed a 41.7% reduction
in the vertical average load rate and the vertical instantaneous load rate, respectively,
at the 1-month follow-up, suggesting that forefoot running may sustain well at being
a better long-term solution at giving you more protective means to avoid high impacts
as well as giving you a better shot at potentially avoiding impact-related injury. So, how come when the heel strike runners
switched to forefoot running, they showed these stark reductions in harmful impact-loads
with forefoot running in barefoot-like running shoes? The researchers detailed that most directly
responsible for the reductions in these impact force variables in forefoot running in minimalist
shoes was partly due to the activation of the calf musculature which increased the deceleration
time of the vertical velocity after ground-contact. Put another way, the calves acted as a natural
shock absorber and ankle stabilizer after the forefoot made initial ground-contact of
which after initial ground-contact is made on the forefoot shown in picture 1, the heel
drops down to the ground, as shown in pictures 2-3, which resulted in an uptick in muscular
activation in the calves because the calves, in this capacity, play a key role in not only
effectuating shock absorption, but in creating a stronger, more stable foot-ground connection. Fundamentally, one of the core reasons landing
with a forefoot strike works so well to help against dangerous rises in impact during running
is because of the forefoot-to-heel movement path of the foot (shown here from 1-3) in-conjunction
with the help of the calves locking in stronger ankle stability as well as helping diffuse
impact more fully, thereby preventing the spread of heavy impact loads on the leg, and
this landing configuration in its entirety, along with the securing-engaging and impact
absorbing activity of the calves, enables the landing foot to swiftly glide onto the
ground and interact with ground with minimal jarring force and impact amplification.This
is how pounding of the feet is reduced as well as damaging rises in impact loads in
forefoot running. What is more, as I mentioned earlier, forefoot
running naturally brings on board additional mechanical outputs (such as a higher cadence
and reduced stride length) these mechanical outputs are shown to be low-impact which was
also observed in the study in that the forefoot running group showed a higher cadence and
a shortened stride which is in accordance to other assessments also showing increased
run cadence naturally brings into line a shorter stride which has been factually proven to
significantly reduce the flow of high impact loading. That’s a very key point to remember is that
when you run with a forefoot strike, it can close off a lot of high-impact pathways by
naturally prompting a higher cadence and shorter stride. This is because, as the researchers went on
to describe, that when you make initial ground-contact on the front part of your foot during running,
it naturally makes the foot more well-positioned to land closer to your center mass at touchdown,
thus keeping stride length within a shorter, safer range and also has the direct effect
of naturally increasing cadence, which taken together, are chief components in preventing
higher rates of loading on the leg, mainly because a higher cadence and shortened stride
length via forefoot striking during running does not produce an abrupt, yet heavy spike
in impact at touchdown, rather there’s a complete elimination of an impact spike peak
at touchdown as indicted by a smoothed curve as shown in graph B, which overall, shows
the impact generation at touchdown in forefoot running. So in forefoot running, you don’t get that
initial rapid spike in impact that’s produced when you make initial ground-contact on the
back of the foot, or on the heel during running which is shown in graph A, because the action
of landing heel-first during running may open up your stride a little too much in front
of your center mass, pushing your foot to land outside the tolerable range of low impact
and so at touchdown at heel strike, a strong spike in impact is immediately produced on
an account of the heavy collision force or brake force that’s distinctly and uniquely
produced when you heel strike with an overextended stride while running and may ultimately make
you more resistant to efforts in improving injury prevention outcomes. Now did the cadence-retraining heel strike
running group experience the same big reductions in impact-loading as the forefoot running
group? Unlike the forefoot running group which had
positive outcomes in impact reductions, the cadence-retraining heel strike running group
demonstrated very minor reductions in impact load rates with only a 14.7% reduction in
vertical average loading rate and only a 9% reduction in that vertical instantaneous loading
rate that also did not reach significance in the short-term, suggesting that based on
these findings, when it comes to running with less overall impact, you’re just better
off converting your heel strike to a forefoot strike while running in minimalist shoes,
rather than increasing your cadence, in efforts to lighten the landing load, while remaining
a heel strike runner through the use of cushioned heeled running shoes. Overall, these findings fit into a continuum
of complementary findings, compellingly showing that foot strike pattern directly affects
other mechanical parameters, specifically, such as cadence and stride length, which in
turn, most directly affects impact production and ultimately reminds about how important
foot strike pattern may be in injury prevention in runners. Awareness of these findings also makes it
clear that forefoot runners may be far less likely to over-stride and pound the feet into
the ground and therefore, may be more likely to leave impact-related injuries behind as
compared with heel strike runners. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video. If you did, feel free to hit the link button
as well as the subscribe button, if you haven’t already, to stay updated on the latest research
on forefoot vs heel strike running and barefoot vs shod (or shoe) running. Thank you so much for listening and watching. Have fun out there on the roads and trial. Bye for now.

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5 Comments

  1. Hello, Bretta! I am going to go one step further and make sure I make ground contact the way the film shows. Thanks again! Great to see you again !!!

  2. Great video and explanation of the benefits of forefoot running….less impact and less injury. Particularly over time.The graphics and slow motion shots of Cam Levin's foot strike were very telling.Quite an impressive fro too:)

  3. hello sister,i am getting insertion Achilles pain,is fore foot running better for avoiding Achilles pain ? please replay? from india

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