As I’ve been reading more and more research about the benefits of barefoot running (namely reduced amount of stress on the legs) the topic of heel striking and forefoot running always seems to come up. The key difference being that with running barefoot a person is less likely to land on their heel first and then roll on to the rest. With traditional shoes its the opposite where the heel hits first pretty much all the time.. The heel directly striking the ground first is what causes the additional stress on the legs and body.
It seems to make sense to me, but when I tried forefoot running in my Nike Free 5.0’s I still found it difficult to adjust my running style to be more barefoot (probably due to so many years running in traditional athletic shoes). Back when I first started testing out the Nike Free 5.0 shoes I put together this video comparing running barefoot, my traditional running shoes, and the Nike Free 5.0 v4 while running on the treadmill.
Unfortunately my camera was not good enough to capture my running in super slow motion, but from the video it’s pretty clear that traditional shoes make it easier to land on your heels first when compared to barefoot running or the Nike Free’s. However, it’s clear that my technique is probably lacking as when I run barefoot (in socks) that I can still see my heel striking a little earlier than my forefoot.
With that in mind I wanted to see exactly what forefoot vs. heel strike looked like. I came across a slow motion video put together by Daniel Lieberman of the Harvard Skeletal Biology Lab that examined the differences between shod (shoe) and shod-less (shoeless) running.
First up is running in traditional athletic shoes:
In this video you can see quite clearly the heel striking the ground first and then rest of the foot rolling forward.
Next up is running without shoes:
Here you can see the runner clearly lands in the forefoot area first and then the heel follows afterwards. It’s clear that his barefoot running technique is much better than mine (and he wasn’t even running in socks).
So now that I can see that my technique needs to be improved I went back to searching for some videos that could help me with improving my forefoot running technique. Newton Running’s (as in Newton Running Shoes) founder, Danny Abshire, put together a good video that highlights the differences between heel strike and forefoot running, but more importantly gives some good tips on how to run with a midfoot strike (the key is leaning slightly forward while running).