runner midfoot strike in slow motion running mechanics
Example of a midfoot strike

What's the difference between a heel strike, midfoot strike, and forefoot strike?

Heel strike

The heel makes contact first with the ground. The foot is pointed upwards (known as dorsiflexion) at initial impact. 

Midfoot strike

The ball of your foot makes first contact with the ground. The ball is the area between your toes and the arch of your foot. The foot is very close to parallel with the ground at impact.

Forefoot strike

Landing on the ball and toes of the foot. The foot is pointed downwards (known as plantarflexion) at impact. 

Is a midfoot strike better for running?

Yes, a midfoot strike allows your body to better absorb the impact forces while running. Heel striking results in a more abrupt ground impact as the calf and achilles are not able to absorb forces at ground contact. As a result, these impact forces pass through the joints in your ankles, legs, hips and lower back.

In the chart below, we see how much force is applied during ground contact when running. 

Impact peak: the largest force applied during initial ground contact

Active peak: the largest force applied over the entire ground contact

Loading rate: how quickly force is applied.

Now let's compare a heel strike vs midfoot strike:

As you can see, heel striking has a dramatically higher loading rate, and there is no impact peaks with a midfoot strike. In short, the force transfer is more abrupt when heel striking. Think about dropping an egg on the floor vs dropping it on a pillow. The pillow allows the egg to slow down more gradually vs the ground which is abrupt. 

A majority of the general running population are heel strikers but if you look at elite runners, the numbers are reversed. Elite runners typically have a midfoot or very slight heel strike. 

Where should your foot strike when running?

Just as important as how you strike the ground, is where you strike the ground. 

Your foot should strike  just in front of your torso/hips. We can use a still from video above to demonstrate the proper position of the foot relative to the body at ground contact. 

runner midfoot strike at ground contact running mechanics

Your knee should always be above or in front of the ankle at impact. Another way to think of this is your shin should be vertical or leaning forward at impact.

If your foot lands too far in front of your body, this is known as overstriding. Overstriding is equivalent to applying the brakes with every step and dramatically increases the shock passed to your body at impact. It is strongly correlated with running injury. 

runner overstriding heel striking running mechanics

When heel striking, it is easy to reach forward with each step when looking to increase speed or when fatigued, leading to overstriding. Developing a midfoot strike can help you avoid overstriding situations.

How do you develop a midfoot strike while running?

Drills: everyone's favorite!

A and B skips, high knee, and butt kicks are all great ways for you to improve control over your coordination. Drills can feel tedious and boring but they help you develop proper mechanics which means better running form. 

Running is hard. It's harder with poor form. 

Run barefoot

There are more nerves on the bottom of your foot than anywhere outside of your hands and lips. Any footwear is going to limit the amount of feedback available to these nerves. 

Running barefoot allows the nerves on your feet to provide unfiltered feedback to your central nervous system and adjust your mechanics subconsciously. Your footstrike with most likely change instinctively within the first few steps of your first barefoot run. 

Running barefoot will also allow strengthen your feet, allowing them to flex and load in ways that shoes do not allow. That being said, it's extremely important that you build distance running barefoot over time to avoid injury. 

PR1 Footstrike Trainer

What is a footstrike trainer? In short, it's an insole that cue's you to shift weight off your heels. It's simple and very effective at helping you develop and maintain consistent form.

This graph shows how consistent a runner's footstrike is with the PR1  vs running without it. When running with the PR1, the athlete maintains consistent form over the course of their run. Without the PR1, the athlete's form becomes increasingly erratic over time.   

We have a 60 day money-back guarantee on the PR1s. Shop now to start running better! 

Want a midfoot strike?

Our PR1 Footstrike Trainer is the only tool that helps you develop a consistent midfoot strike.