Sunday, March 18, 2007

Foot Strike in Running

Notice the left foot on the runners in these pictures. What you’re seeing is the difference between a running style that is guaranteed to keep you slow and one that has the potential for fast running.
Landing on your heels (red shoes) is, essentially, hitting the brakes with every stride. You have to overcome that deceleration by hitting the gas pedal hard at every toe off. And the time it takes to get from heel to toe is just lost time—time spent going no where.
Landing with a flat foot (orange shoes) greatly shortens ground contact time and moves you forward more quickly. This is the way fast runners run. In fact, the research (below) also supports this method and shows that the longer your foot is on the ground, the slower you are running. Makes sense.
To see a video clip of an elite triathlete running with a flat foot strike, go here and then click on “video clip.” Watch for my article in the June issue of Inside Triathlon magazine in which I discuss in greater detail the advantages of flat-foot running.

Ardigo LP, LaFortuna C, Minetti AE, Mognoni P, Saibene F. 1995. Metabolic and mechanical aspects of foot landing type, forefoot and rearfoot strike, in human running. Acta Physiol Scand 155(1): 17-22.

Paavolainen L, Hakkinen K, Hamalainen I, Nummela A, Rusko H. 1999. Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. J Appl Physiol 86(5): 1527-1533.

Paavolainen L, Nummela A, Rusko H, Hakkinen K. 1999. Neuromuscular characteristics and fatigue during 10-km running. Int J Sports Med 20(8): 516-521.


At March 19, 2007 11:55 AM , Blogger sydney_b said...

Is there ever a time when the flat-foot landing doesn't make sense? For example, is it still the best technique for an ultra-marathoner?

At March 19, 2007 2:39 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Sydney--The only time might be when running down a steep hill when it is nearly impossible to get the foot into that position. Otherwise, if you are a runner who wants to conserve energy flat to forefoot running is most effective.--Joe

At March 22, 2007 12:23 PM , Blogger joeco said...

Hi Joe- I enjoy your blogs. In regards to flat-foot landing, are you promoting "flat" foot strike, or a mid- to forefoot strike? I looked at the last article you cited ( L. Paavolainen et al.) and I interpreted their results to favor a mid- to forefoot strike. The HC group's increase in preactivity of the gastroc. in TC phase could indicate a muscle stretch from the forefoot strike (heel not on the ground). The decrease in the gastroc, and VL in the propulsion phase may indicate a more efficient toe-off (ie stretch-reflex from forefoot landing). I agree that a heel-strike is not efficient, but I prefer a midfoot to forefoot strike to maximize the stretch reflex. Is this what you meant by flat foot, or do you feel a flat foot rather than toe strike is more efficient.
thanks, joe co

At March 23, 2007 1:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems consistent with "Pose" running technique. Would a Pose running clinic be a worthwhile investment?

At March 27, 2007 6:44 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Joeco-Yes, I'm equating 'flat foot' landing with mid-foot.

Anon-Most runners could benefit from attending a Pose clinic. I agree with much of what Dr. Romanov says on the subject.

At March 29, 2007 11:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with the notion of flat foot strike and always used to utilize that technique, I've also dealt with 2 tib stress fractures and what was once near constant pain during heavy periods of training. Only after 6 months of physical therapy with a specific emphasis on building a heel strike running stride have I been able to overcome that shin pain. Was the injury purely related to a flat foot strike? I don't know, but I do know that the pain has vanished since switching to a heel strike -- and my pace hasn't slowed.

At April 8, 2007 11:06 AM , Blogger Coach Tammy said...

I learned to run this way from the Chi Running... although I may have adapted some of the idea therein.

The papers you site were required reading for my last qtr of BioMechanics. Good stuff.

At May 6, 2007 12:40 PM , Anonymous Jørn jantzen said...

Hi Joe, have you seen Dr. Romanovs shoe recommendations? It seems he is recommending a kind of old fashioned flat sole shoes with less heel proteciton and shock absorbance. Do you agree with him? Do you think the typical normal running shoe prevent us from performing a good technique?

kind regards
Jørn Jantzen

At May 6, 2007 8:23 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Jørn-I like the athletes I coach to use the least shoe they can. For some this may mean a light weight training shoe. For others it may be a highly supportive shoe. I like to see them use low heeled shoes with little difference between the forefoot and read foot stacks.

At May 15, 2007 4:34 AM , Blogger BudFury said...

Hi - I am experiencing pain in my left big toe, above the toe and above the foot pad in the 1 metarsal joint, when practicing forefoot striking. What can I do to avoid pain when practicing with my Evolution Running DVD techniques?

At May 15, 2007 9:26 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

BudFury--I promote a running style based on a flatfoot or midsole strike, not a forefoot strike. I'm not able to say what your injury may be. But one possibility is stress fracture. I'd suggest seeing your doctor.

At June 2, 2007 8:43 AM , Blogger melpomene said...

i've never had a problem with landing on my heels. but i am having trouble concerning whether to run flat foot or on my toes. whenever i run i always find myself landing on the tips of my toes with my heels never actually touching the ground. is this bad/wrong?

At June 3, 2007 6:25 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Flatfoot or midsole footstrike places far less stress on the legs and feet than does landing on the forefoot in distance running.

At June 13, 2007 6:07 PM , Anonymous Dano said...


So, can you please describe drills that one can use to become a flat foot striker vs. a heel striker? I'm a traditional heel striker, and when I try to consciously strike with the forefoot, it really feels as if I'm pounding harder than before????

At June 14, 2007 4:57 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

dano--The strides workout (20 sec reps with 80 sec walk recoveries) is the best way to improve any run skill. 6-12 of these in a workout done at least once a week will produce results over time. Be cautious of trying to do all runningwith this new skill as you have lost strength in your lower leg and feet. They are likely to become injured if overworked with a new technique. Allow several weeks for a gradual change. Feels like more pounding? I have to believe that you aren't doing it right. Probably locking knee and/or not really flat foot landing. Have someone video your run to check progress. Compare this with the vid of Ryan Bolton on my website described in the blog post. Good luck!

At July 10, 2007 7:23 AM , Anonymous AK said...

Hi Joe, I used to land on the ball of my feet and 2 years ago I had a personal trainer coach me on running for my 1st half marathon and he taught me to go heel toe and to breath only through my nose. I am now training for my 1st marathon and I love running,but now I feel incredibly disheartened to find out I have put 2 years into an incorrect method. Is there a book or some program I can look into to undo the info I have learned.

At July 10, 2007 8:27 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

AK--There's a video I helped create called Evolution Running. You can find it here... Good luck with the marathon.

At September 10, 2007 9:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

why don't you indorse chi running? it promotes mid foot strike. pose is definitely fore foot strike, not a mid foot strike. unless you are running under 1mi, the pose causes alot of injuries.

chi running is the best! especially for triathletes and ultra distance runners.

At September 10, 2007 7:05 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

"Anon"--In 1997 Dr. Romanov described and demonstrated his running methodology to me. He followed up with supporting material to make sure I at least understood what he was saying. No one from Chi has ever done that. All I have ever gotten from Chi is anonymous postings on this blog. You'd be surprised at how little I know about Chi. The world of sport is simply too big to know everything about everything. I know next to nothing about Chi. While I don't agree with Dr. R on everything when it comes to run technique (footstrike being one of these points, as you suggest), it's quite possible I won't agree with you on everything either. (I actually expect we will agree on most everything as I do with Pose since good techniques have a lot in common.) But at least he took the time to make sure I understood his point of view. I assume you know that I have not done anything to promote the Pose method since about 2000 and that I have my own run-technique video on the market -- "Evoloution Running." Feel free to contact me by email if you want to explain your methodology. Otherwise I will remain in the dark about Chi.
BTW, be wary of believing you have the final and only answer on running technique. You may well have what is currently accepted as the best methodology given what we know, but being riveted to one way of doing anything and 100% positive you are right and everyone else is wrong is a sure way to one day be considered passe'. There is and always will be something "new" and "better." There's a saying one of my clients taught me to use when debating a point with someone--"He/she may be right." And you may well be right about Chi as compared with Pose. I'm all ears.

At September 11, 2007 4:23 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Mermer asked, "I've got your "evolution running" DVD. It's very convincing and well explained.

However, the DVD clearly promotes the forefoot strike over the midfoot and the heel strike. So, I'm confused to see that you are promoting the midfoot strike here."

Joe: Good observation. I helped to create that a couple of years ago. Since then I've changed my mind on how the foot should strike. I believe distance runners should use a mid-foot strike and I teach that to my athletes. I believe this is along the same lines as Chi running.

At September 11, 2007 5:27 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

I lost a couple of postings through my email but managed to recover them. The following continues a thread from yesterday from Anonymous: "BTW i never believe that i have the final answer on "anything".
isn't it a coach's job to be informed and educated? I have only heard of couple of running methods, Pose, Chi and Bobby McGee, myself. not too many to research. one can get the Chi dvd and book at the Libary or hope that will enlight you some.

i come from a tennis background, from juniors to pro level. talk about different ways to hit a foward hand or back hand, one thing all good coach's teach is contact the ball in front of you and move forward, other that it's anyone's call on grip or swing or foot stance.

running is simplier, lean forward and foot strike mid foot and cadence. other than that, it's what feels comfortable and faster. if you go faster and effort is easier, that's a good thing. i hope.

karlyn pipes-neilsen has a great freestyle dvd. she teaches wide entry and early pull, or australian style. check it out on for a clip or her website

i'll preface context, these are "only" suggestions and ideas, choose what works best for you."

Joe: I don't what I did that got you started but I appear to have made it worse by my last posting. I apologize for that. And you are right, I should know more about Chi since I know quite a bit about Nicholas Romanov's and Bobby McGee's ideas. How about this...Tell me where you live (in US, I hope) and I'll fly out to meet you at your home and you can teach me all about it.

At February 28, 2008 11:30 AM , Anonymous Kelly said...


I have recently started running and have noticed that I am striking on the ball of my foot. I have always been told to strike heel/toe. When I try to run that way I feel slow and clunky. If I don't focus on my stride during the entire run I go right back to running on the front of my foot.

I am concerned and confused because I have always been told that it is "wrong" to use the top of my foot but that is what feels natural to me. I don't want to continue doing it however if it means I am going to hurt myself. Do you have any advice?

At February 28, 2008 8:03 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Kelly--Not exactly sure what you mean by the top of your foot. But I'd suggest working on a flat/mid-foot strike.

At April 10, 2008 4:05 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

Joe - I have extremely flat feet, creating excessive overpronation. This gives me a lot problems with patellar tendonitis and general knee problems. Would you still recommend a mid-foot strike or would the forefoot strike be better given my mechanics?

At April 10, 2008 9:13 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Jonathan--I think you'd be better off with a mid-foot strike regardless of foot type as a forefoot strike puts a lot of needless stress on the calf, achilles and plantar fascia.

At June 22, 2008 5:26 AM , Blogger Thomas said...

The link to TrainingBible in the body of your post appears to have become stale. I think the video remains available at

At June 22, 2008 6:20 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Thanks for catching that and telling me, Thomas. I'll have it fixed.

At September 11, 2008 11:39 AM , Blogger Melissa said...

I am currently using your training bible for my workout plan and I recently purchased a pair of Newton shoes after hearing all the hype about forefoot running. I was told I am a midstriker but that my stride is too wide so I actually hit back further on my midsole than I should. I've determined that I cannot forefoot strike no matter how hard I try but since you advocate midfoot anyway, where can I learn more about the drills to become a better midstriker? My goal is to reduce the pain in my hips, knees and back from running and to start placing overall in triathlons instead of just Top 3 in my age-group (my slow 49 min 10K is not going to cut it!)

At September 11, 2008 12:58 PM , Blogger Sarah Elaine said...

Just happened upon your blog while looking for running article. Very informative and enjoyable. I'll be back again soon.

At September 12, 2008 6:02 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Melissa,

Do a search on 'Evolution Running,' 'Chi Running' or 'Pose Technique.' You'll find books and videos that may help you. Good luck!

At October 25, 2008 8:38 PM , Blogger Dave said...


I've been a runner for 30 years; and have frequently had sore quads from over-striding.

I recently ran across your blog - the guy who complains about ONE year doing it the wrong way - hey, try 30!

Anyway... at age 45, I'm in the process of making the switch.

I can certainly attest that its superior. I used to run 9:20 min/mi pace at a HR of 132. Now, with the same mileage/speedwork combo, I'm running 8:57 min/mi pace at a HR of 132.

I'd encourage others to follow your lead - although I got a bit overexuberant and injured the connective tissue on the top and outside of my foot from a more abrupt switch than I should have made. This will pass, though, only wish I'd learned this somewhere between starting and now.

At October 31, 2008 7:56 AM , Blogger Doug said...

Hi Joe,

I'm wondering if you have ever come across information that showed a correlation between heel/flat strike and chronic compartment syndrome? In other words, are there any indications that one technique might be better at mitigating CSS?


At October 31, 2008 9:54 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Doug, No, I'm sorry but I have never seen anything on this.

At November 3, 2008 10:25 PM , Blogger Dave said...

Just a follow up... I ran the Chicago Lakefront 50K this past weekend, and set a PR running "Joe's way". I've been a runner for 30 years, and 40,000 miles under my belt. I ran "wrong" as a heel striker for the last 25 - anyway. Switching to the Joe Friel way - I topped my PR from 11 years ago....

At November 7, 2008 6:14 PM , Blogger Juan said...

Mr Friel, I'm in the process of training for a 1/2 marathon and have been a midfoot-forefoot runner since high school. I'm having posterior tibial tendon pain now. Any thoughts on whether this might be attributed to technique?

At November 7, 2008 8:41 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Juan--My experience has been that posterior tib inflammation is usually associated with excessive pronation. There could be lots of reasons for this. I would not suspect run technique, however. You may need to see a sports podiatrist or physical therapist for an evaluation of your problem.

At November 16, 2008 1:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe- I wanted to understand where you differ with Pose Method. These are my sticking points with Pose through my experience in using it (about 2 years).
-The Pose Method does not want the runner to toe/push off (no flexion of the ankle) and wants the runner to rely on using gravity through body lean to propel. For me, my 1 mile interval times are slower with Pose and when I try to run quarter mile intervals, I can not get the pace any faster then the 1 mile pace, it seems the technique is the limiting factor.
-Secondly, Pose wants the runner to land directly underneath the center of gravity, but from what I can see from watching good runners is that they are landing slightly out in front. Even the videos on Pose show landing ahead of center of gravity. Where do you recommend the landing point to be?
-Thirdly, down hill running is very difficult to perform with Pose, especially when grades are stepper then 10%.
-Lastly, the Pose method does not seem to allow for directional changes. I realize this is not critical to long distance running, since I come from sports like basketball and football, this lack of control does not feel comfortable. I would not try Pose running while playing basketball, so the technique does not translate to other sports.

Can you explain where your views differ with Pose? Any other comments based on the above would be fully appreciated.

Thanks, Mitchell

At November 17, 2008 7:57 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Mitchell--Thanks for your comment. I like to see the foot be as close as possible to being under the COG. Basically, what this means is that the knee must be bent at impact. If it is locked out straight or nearly so, the runner is braking. That's what you are trying to avoid. On a downhill run the vertical line through the runner's body which produces a slight forward lean is relative to the pull of gravity, not to the incline of the road.

At November 17, 2008 9:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response Joe. I assume you would rather talk specifically about your method of running and not comment on others. Can you help with the following.

-In your running method, do you want to see runners toe-off strongly from the ankle and fully extended trailing leg?
-If this is the case, how do you prevent over reaching for the next stride to allow the trailing leg to catch up? (with the goal of mid-foot strike)

Thanks again.

At November 17, 2008 9:32 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Mitchell--It's good to see you're so interested in this topic. Runners tend not to give enough credit to technique for their performances.

The faster you run the more fully you will straighten the leg and the more forcefully you will push off.

The fastest runners are the sprinters. The slowest are the ultra-distance runners. Observe what they do and you'll see the two extremes.

The faster one runs the higher the trailing foot will come up and therefore the more bend there will be in the knee. This knee bend is critical for fast running because it shortens the pendulum (the leg) allowing it to swing through the arc very quickly as the lead leg/foot is making contact at or near the point under the COG. If the recovery leg is not bent to an appropriate amount one has no choice but to slow down and prolong the footstrike by doing something like landing on the heel with toe raised with a straight leg.

At January 6, 2009 5:21 AM , Blogger marc said...

Hello Joel ,
I just did end november a 70.3 (5.32h), actually I found reading your blog that i am defenetly a heal runner, in your opinion how long does it take to change this to a flat foot runner...

At January 6, 2009 6:01 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Hi Marc--It could take several weeks to several months depending on how often you run and a few other variables.

At January 29, 2009 10:11 PM , Anonymous Karim said...

Hey Joe... thanks for the info it's really useful. The wife is training for her first marathon and knows nothing about running (but a load more than me).
I'm just looking into midfoot strike for her as a friend recommended it highly and any tips would be more than welcome. Hence I stumbled on this page which had some great stuff.

Really useful - particularly the trainingbible video of good running style... I just wish there was a slowmo button.

One small (and anal) comment... on the Training Bible coaching logo at the top of the screen, you've got a runner landing heel strike ;)

Thanks again

Karim (and wife when she sees it)

At March 2, 2009 8:05 PM , Anonymous mariyam said...

i think ur right about the whole no heels thing but
isnt it better if u land on ur the front part of ur foot (toes and front sole)?

At March 6, 2009 4:35 AM , Anonymous Will said...

Hi Joe,

I'm currently rehabilitating long term Achilles tendonitis in both legs. I've recently begun doing some short+easy runs and have been told that I'm a midfoot striker.

Is this the best running style to reduce the likelyhood of the tendonitis coming back or would you recommend heel striking to lower the impact through the Achilles?

Thanks for your help.

At March 6, 2009 12:33 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Will-Thanks for your note. Whenever you run on your heels to take the load off of your calf muscles which are attached to the heel through the achilles tendons. So that also lessens the load on the achilles. But that is also one of the reason you tend to run slower when running on the heel. Nothing is perfect, is it?

At June 24, 2009 5:05 PM , OpenID lpl2070 said...

Hi Joe,

I recently noticed a change in my running style and an odd wearing on my shoe. It appears I am pushing off of my outside of my right foot near my last two toes, this has caused some pain in my tibia and being no stranger to stress fractures I have jumped into deep water jogging. Any suggestions

At June 24, 2009 6:52 PM , Anonymous Dave said...

I have gathered the opinions of some of the world's best triathletes and some independent physio therapists and composed it all into an unbiased article.
If anyone is interested to read this go to:


At June 24, 2009 7:05 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Ipl2070--Sounds like a Morton's Toe. May want to see a podiatrist.

At August 30, 2009 6:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is amazing! I watched the video clip last night and went for a 9 km (5.6 miles) run this morning attempting to use the video clip technique. Even though I slipped back into my old heel strike mode now and again, I ran 13% faster than I usually do without feeling more tired. If you are a "heel striker" you have to try this out.

At September 23, 2009 7:37 AM , Anonymous Dave K said...

Hi Joe

Reading through this list of posts, which have covered a long span of time, I am somewhat confused on the foot strike issue.

Having purchased and tried the Evolution DVD, I have found it very difficult to land on the ball of the foot. I've tried Newton running shoes to help. I develop pain on the outside of both feet, among other things. I am never comfortable and can never run very far that way.

In your posts on 9/11/2007 and 2/28/2008 - you mention a midfoot/flatfoot landing. Midfoot landings must be the most ambiguous description out there. Is this a landing where you land on the outside of your foot - in the area between the very front of the heel and the base of the 5th metatarsal?

Thanks Joe.

At September 23, 2009 7:51 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Dave K--Thanks for your post. I use the term 'midsole' to mean the entire bottom of the foot makes contact at the same time. In other words, not landing on the heel or the ball of foot first.

At January 5, 2010 9:20 PM , Blogger Dave said...

I follow this thread with great interest over the last 2 years, and even posted a while back.

I've come to the conclusion that we are all an experiment of one.

I've run for many years, covering over 40,000 miles. In late 2008, I encountered a new injury, the most challenging of my running days. I have insertional achilles tendinitis. This is where the achilles inserts with the calcaneus (heel bone). For me, though, I had surgery on both achilles tendons to lengthen them when I was 6 years old. At that age, I couldn't even put my heels on the ground when I walked. I also have overly protuded heel bones. At age 6, 7, and 8 - I had to do regular exercises walking on my heels (without my toes touching the ground). At age 15, I started running, and never had any achilles issues at that point - yet had been a heel striker my entire life, as far as I know. Fast forward to 2008 (at age 45). With orthotics and a consciousness about "getting faster" due to "less braking" and more efficient via Joe's comments, I slid into more of a midfoot strike. Since then, I've had 14 months of chronic injuries. Note that with heel striking, I'm somewhat slow, but never had any knee problems. With midfoot, I'm a wreck. I can't run - I've spent thousands of dollars on treatments, causes, etc....

Turns out that situation (combined with my protuded heel bones) is the source of my problems. In reality, I need to be a heel striker. If I walk on tiptoes, I exacerbate the situation. For running, as I moved from more of a heel striker to midfoot (as mileage increased) I tightened the calf muscles and hence strained the tendons. I can still walk seemingly forever with no adverse effects - and run at a very slow pace with heel striking. This all took me a while to figure out.

We're all different.

At March 25, 2010 8:20 AM , Anonymous Sean said...

Hello all,

Joe thank you for participating in this blog, and sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. It is truly appreciated.

With that said, there is way to much complaining on this site about injuries, soreness, etc. I have never heard so much whining about problems in my life, along with false accusations, unsubstantiated information, and n=1 proof that things work or don't work.

Regardless of fore,mid,or heel striking, one thing has to be clear on efficient running: Land under center of gravity. Let me repeat, land under center of gravity. That means when you experience peak load, it occurs directly, or even behind the hips. In the correct stride where the load is experienced under SOG, the foot/arch transfers the load to the calf, then to the ham/quad, glute, then core. If you try fore/mid/heel foot strike and you land out in front, you are exposing your foot, ankle, shin, Achilles and patella tendon to almost the entire load of the body and essentially breaking the kinetic chain to the rest of the leg and body. For a 200 lb runner, thats 600 lbs that your lower leg and knee have to experience.

Personally, I am a fore/midfoot striker, but I do tons of drills to ensure that I am striking underneath my SOG, along with plenty of barefoot running to ensure that the muscles in the foot and lower leg are strong enough to take on the high cadence running. If you youtube any top runner in the world, sprinter or endurance, you will see that they are never out in front when experiencing the load (do not confuse this with where the ground contact is made, max load is the important part) ( or (

So make sure this is accomplished before you point the finger at your problems.

Hopefully this helps.

At April 20, 2010 1:55 PM , Anonymous Darren said...

Thanks for posting those videos. They are very interesting and informative to see in slow motion. Over 6 months of training to run mid/fore foot strikes and still I see quick wear patterns on the heels of new shoes and no improvements in speed. Not sure if it is my technique or my thick heeled New Balance (which I need for my 4E-wide foot) shoes . These videos give another perspective I will be interested in assessing.

Sean or Joe (if you agree), any suggestions on drills to help with landing under center of gravity?

At April 20, 2010 3:05 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Darren-A slight heel strike is ok. Many fast runners do that. It's when the toes are 2-3+ inches off the road when the heel strikes that is a problem. That suggests not having foot under C.O.G.


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