Written By: Mike Winkfield, Fitness Director @ O2 Fitness Fuquay-Varina
First of all, let me just get it out there that everyone's body is different. While science suggests that heal striking is harder on your joints, there are factors that should be considered such as weight, speed and injuries.
If weight is an issue then there could a higher risk of injuries for heal striking among heavier people due to the shock that the body endures with every step at higher speeds. If speed is slow then it may not be a bad idea.
It will be harder to make the transition to forefoot striking when you are used to heal striking due to weak foot muscles. Also, try to run as quietly as possible, almost as if you were sneaking up on your competition.
Benefits of Forefoot Running
The benefits of forefoot running are that the body doesn't use as much energy, thus, enhancing your endurance for a longer run. It also helps promote less pronating in the foot and fallen aches.
Harvard studies indicate that when forefoot/midfoot striking you land with about 2.4 times your body weight. Forefoot striking is an athletic movement that will increase strength in the foot.
When strengthening the muscles in your feet, I would suggest starting out by jumping rope with about 150 skips. Afterwards, try a light run, running no more than a 1/2 mile at first, and then working your way up. It is common to experience foot pain after trying to change running styles because you are using muscles in your feet that you're not used to exercising with.
The Shoes You Wear Make a Difference
Shoes play a big part in running. You want a shoe with little arch support (if any) and lots of flexibility in the sole of the shoe.
The best shoe that I have found to run in is Vibram 5 finger shoes. In my opinion they are the best shoes on the market, but I'm 6'1 and 188lbs and they may not be appropriate for everyone. The next best shoe I would recommend is the New Balance "Minimus" in which is a Vibram made sole, but third on my list is a Newton or a Merrell running shoe.
Potential Disadvantages to Forefoot Striking
There are some disadvantages to forefoot striking is Achilles tendonitis, tight soleus and hamstrings. All of which can be reduced greatly with stretching and foam rolling those problem areas properly and as often as possible. Please enjoy and run like the wind blows.