Biomechanical Differences Between Heel-Toe and Forefoot Running

Open Access
Matarazzo, Christopher Paul
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 05, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Neil Sharkey, Thesis Advisor
  • Forefoot Running
  • Ground Reaction Forces
  • Injuries
  • Range of Motion
  • Biomechanics
Forefoot running has been suggested to decrease chronic injury when compared to heel-toe, or rearfoot running. Large, repetitive ground reaction forces (GRF’s) during the impact phase of running, when passive mechanisms absorb energy, may result in injury. Forefoot running traditionally results in greater angles of plantar flexion and knee flexion during impact, possibly providing shock absorption during running. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in sagittal plane ankle joint angles and differences in GRF’s between rearfoot and forefoot running. It is hypothesized that forefoot running would result in an elimination of impact peak GRF, higher active peak GRF’s, increased peak plantarflexion and total ankle joint excursion when compared to rearfoot running. Sixteen healthy participants (8 males, 8 females), between ages 18-45, classified as rearfoot runners were recruited for this study. Participants were tested while running across a force plate using a rearfoot strike. GRF’s were calculated and joint angles were recorded using motion analysis. Following a simple verbal instruction, participants were retested using a newly acquired forefoot running technique. Statistical analysis was conducted using paired t-tests with p< 0.05. Significant increases in peak plantar flexion (+6.1°) and total joint excursion (+2.5°) and a decrease in peak dorsiflexion (-3.6°) were observed in forefoot running when compared with rearfoot running. Impact peak GRF was not eliminated in all participants but was significantly lessened (-0.70 x BW) with forefoot strikes. Active peak GRF’s were significantly greater (+0.18 x BW) with forefoot strikes. The decrease and elimination of impact peak GRF and increases in plantar flexion may result in less stress being placed on bone and ligaments during impact, possibly leading to a decrease in chronic injuries associated with long distance running.