Fixing the foot strike

So, One of the things I began to work on when I switched to minimalist shoes, was my foot strike.  My goal was to move from being a heel striker, to a fore-foot striker as many of the websites I read, assured me that this would reduce injury and they can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.

Look at that heel hit the ground!

Look at that heel hit the ground!

Now, if you change HOW you run, you aren’t going to change the amount of force that your body receives – so the reality is that you just change the sorts of injuries that you are risking.  This is a topic that Craig Payne, a podiatrist from the land down under, wrote about on his site “Running Research Junkie“.  His writings are an interesting change from most running sites, as he relies on (gasp!) facts.  (as a side note, I can totally support his “Calf-Strain” on the forefoot running, as I went through several of those as I transitioned!)

So, knowing that it doesn’t reduce injury, just changes the potential injuries – why would I still want to keep the fore-foot strike?  Well, to be blunt, it hurts less.  With my heel strike, my knees bother me.  When I forefoot strike, they don’t.  Yes, my calves are more sore.  Yes, I sometimes have aggravated my plantar fasciitis with it (although, this may just be running in general.)  The fact is, even if it there is no scientific explanation for it – my knees hurt less when I fore-foot strike, and I’ll take it as I don’t like my knees bothering me.

I have also found, that I take smaller strides and have a more rapid cadence when I foot strike, so it helps me to prevent over-striding.  This isn’t to say that I couldn’t learn to take smaller steps heel striking, but this is the method I am trying out (again, primarily due to the knee thing.)

On recent runs (and more so in the photos)I have noticed that I am heel striking as I get tired.  This has been occuring in my Altras, as I have been running in them almost exclusively since I got them. Last night, I headed out in my Vibram Five Finger Bikilas.  Why?  I do NOT revert to heel striking in them, because it hurts to put my un-padded heel into concrete.  My thought process worked this way:

1) I would like to stop reverting to heel striking, as it hurts my knees. (they were a bit sore after the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, where I was doing some heel striking)
2) I don’t heel strike AT ALL in my Vibrams.
3) Maybe if I do some of my runs in the Vibrams instead of my Altras, I will be able to once again train myself to fore-foot strike and return to calf-pain instead of knee pain. (my theory is that if I don’t over-do it, I can actually avoid the calf pain too…  Stay tuned to find out how that works out for me..)

So last night I headed out in my Vibrams.. This of course raised the question of which pair to wear?


The blue ones are the shoes I was wearing when I stepped on the sharp pointy rock that really flared the Plantar Fasciitis… So I usually only wear then for walking around.. I think I may be holding a grudge against them.  I went with the red. 🙂

I thought that after my 5 mile run the day before, a nice easy 3 mile would be nice.  My legs were a bit tired – so slow and easy was the name of the game!

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight..  I forget how much I love running in the Vibram Five Fingers.  My feet feel light and free and I just go!  It just feels right in a way that no other shoe has yet.  I hit the first mile, and my Runtastic chimed up letting me know I was at an 8:31 mile.  umm.  Slow should be more like a 10 minute mile…

So I tried to Slow down.  I let my body determine the pace… 2 miles marker?  8:16.  Well crap.  So much for my slow recovery run…  I didn’t bother paying attention anymore… 3 mile marker was at sub 8.


The elevation was flat (my whole area is), so it is a good place to run for a “quick” (I know an 8:14 isn’t “quick” for lots of people.. but it is for me right now!) run… But it wasn’t what I planned!

I did feel some tightness in my right IT band.. Stretched it out very well after the run, and plan on doing some serious foam rolling tonight.  I would prefer to not make that my injury for this year – since I haven’t gotten past my injury from last year yet (the PF).

I did succeed at forefoot striking the whole way.  Not a surprise at all with the VFFs on.

I also didn’t notice how wonderfully coordinated I was until I was home.

Not in the picture: My red headphones I used!

Not in the picture: My red headphones I used!

Who knew I had a sense of fashion (or at least color coordination)? I’m glad I went with the VFFs that I did!


I run, because I am a runner. Having realized that I have always "been a runner" - even when I went years with out running, I am learning how it has integrated itself in all aspects of my life. When I started running in highschool, my perspective on life changed. Funny that I didn't realize how much it had affected it until just recently.

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Posted in Plantar Faciitis, running, running injury, vibram five fingers
4 comments on “Fixing the foot strike
  1. Halfathoner says:

    I am working on heel striking less by trying to quicken my cadence. I just can’t bring myself to try the Vibrams. Don’t you feel every rock and bump? Plus my hamstring is healing and I
    am afraid to change things up in case it would make it worse. How are Vibrams for hamstrings?

    • Robinson says:

      I’ve never had any issues with my hamstrings in, or out of the VIbrams (other than a complete lack of flexibility of course!)

      You do feel the rocks/bumps – but there is enough between you to stop you from FEELING them in a painful way. Though you do learn to keep an eye open for really pointy things… Those you can feel in a bad way.

      A good choice if you want the zero-rise, but still some padding is the Altra’s Zero Drop shoes.

  2. Mariajose says:

    Great job! Sub 8 is awesome! (I start jumping when I see my pace at 12 lol) And I love fore foot striking but I use my calves as an excuse and I guess I rather live with the knee pain lol sucks, though. I’m currently at midfoot but I’d love to go fore foot full out just for the muscle work it requires. Plus, it does make you quicker. My feet are too bad for VFF but I train on “hills” (treadmill incline) so that I don’t heel strike as much

  3. Augustine Blake says:

    You missed one key thing about the impact forces in the Harvard study. Yes the force was all the same but the initial force when heel striking was 2.4 times your body weight. While running with a fore foot strike that initial force was almost 0. Your body has time to react accordingly to what is coming with a forefoot strike and no to time to react with a heel strike.

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The Once and Future Runner
Once and Future Runner

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