How Toe-running Works

Advantages of Toe-running

We've already mentioned that toe-running builds strength in previously neglected muscles. Remember when you caught yourself toe-running to the finish line? Well, another lauded benefit of toe-running is increased speed. According to Lieberman, "everyone knows this: The faster you go, the more you get up on the front of your foot" [source: Lieberman].

Next, there is impact. According to Lieberman's research, heel striking creates a substantial impact transient -- the force from the collision with the ground that reverberates through the skeletal system and correlates to shin splints and tibial stress fractures. However, forefoot striking does not produce an impact transient. The impact forces of forefoot strikers are seven times less than those of barefoot heel strikers [source: Lieberman et al]. "The question that has not been addressed is, if you eliminate the impact transient completely, will that reduce running injuries?" Lieberman says [source: Lieberman].

This is where things get contentious. Lieberman suspects that forefoot and midfoot strikes can reduce injuries such as stress fractures and plantar fasciitis [source: Lieberman et al]. The Pose Method purports to reduce the impact on runners' knees by 50 percent [source: Pose Tech]. In his bestselling book "Born to Run," Christopher McDougall says the lessons he learned from the Tarahumara Indians -- a group of ultra-distance running phenoms who forefoot strike barefoot or in minimalist sandals -- helped him run without incurring any of the hamstring, arch or ankle injuries that once plagued his bulky body [source: McDougall]. Some experts claim shorter strides -- part and parcel of toe-running -- can help prevent injury [source: Burfoot].

However, many opponents believe that forefoot running comes equipped with its own set of hazards. Runner and podiatrist Kevin Kirby says he has seen afflictions of the Achilles tendon in forefoot runners [source: Burfoot]. Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running, says that pushing from the toes can lead to shin, calf and ankle injuries [source: Valentine]. Some speculate that shorter strides can cause injuries because they require more steps to cover the same distance [source: Tweney]. Even Lieberman says heel striking in running shoes might not necessarily contribute to running-related injuries more than forefoot striking [source: Lieberman et al].

Currently, no research on the effects of forefoot striking with regard to injury has been completed.

Related Articles


  • British Journal of Sports Medicine. "Incidence and Determinants of Lower Extremity Running Injuries in Long Distance Runners: A Systematic Review." Volume 41, Issue 8. May 1, 2007. (Sept. 4, 2010)
  • Burfoot, Amby. "The 10 Laws of Injury Prevention." Runner's World. Mar. 2010. (Sept. 4, 2010),7120,s6-241-285--13413-2-1X2X3X4X5-6,00.html
  • Burfoot, Amby. "The Barefoot Running Debate." Runner's World, Feb. 2010. (Sept. 1, 2010),7124,s6-238-267-13401-0,00.html
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