The recent upswing in popularity of minimalist shoe running (a la “Born to Run”) has been promoting a drastic change in running shoe choices and running form. Minimalist shoes can promote more of a forefoot strike with endurance running, which could be a good or bad thing. Here is how.
Running with a forefoot strike promotes landing on the outside of the front of the foot, similarly to how one walks down stairs. Forefoot-strike running utilizes and stresses muscles, tendons and ligaments in a way that results in less “ground and pound” and an increase in energy absorption through muscles in your feet, calves, thighs, and hips.
Benefits of this style can include an increase in running efficiency, resulting in longer, and faster running experience! However forefoot style running may predispose you to a new set of overuse injuries; particularly achilles tendinopathy due to the increased demand put on your calf muscles, which are meant for more short duration, high intensity, explosive sprints and jumps.
If you plan on modifying your running form, it is very important to transition gradually. While muscle soreness is normal, any sign of bone, joint, or soft tissue pain is indicative of injury and you should rest. If you have been running without injuries or issues, then you may be asking for trouble with a switch in running form, as the benefits of forefoot running are still theoretical (the old adage being: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). Be smart and safe, and consult your Physical Therapist or Physician before making any changes to your exercise routine or running form. Now get out there and enjoy the purest form of human exercise!