The Midfoot Strike: The Ultimate Guide to Better Running Form

In this article, we'll cover what makes a midfoot strike, why footstrike matters, when to use a midfoot strike, and how to switch to a midfoot strike.

runner midfoot strike in slow motion running mechanics 


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

Midfoot strike 

illustration of a midfoot strike closeup on foot ankle and shin

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


Heel strike

illustration of a heel strike closeup on foot ankle and shin

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


Forefoot strike

illustration of a forefoot strike closeup on foot ankle and shin

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


Why does footstrike matter?

How your foot makes contact with the ground determines the speed, duration, and amount of force transmitted through your body when your foot is in contact with the ground. These forces are called ground reaction forces (GRF).

How does a midfoot strike compare to a heel strike?

The charts below shows how ground reaction forces differ with a heel strike vs a midfoot strike.

The horizontal axis measures time. Specifically the stance phase of the gait, which is the time when a single foot is in contact with the ground, covering initial contact through toe-off. 

The vertical axis measures the vertical component of the ground reaction forces. This is measured in multiples of the runner's bodyweight, so a 2 on the axis means the runner's foot is applying 2x their body weight.

On average, a runner will apply in excess of 2.5x their bodyweight with each step. That means a runner of 160lbs will produce over 400lbs of force, and a 200lb runner will product 500lbs!

Midfoot strike ground reaction forces

Note that the blue line is smooth. Force is being applied gradually until it reaches the peak.

midfooot strike ground reaction forces


Heel strike ground reaction forces

The black line is much steeper initially with a separate peak which indicates that force is being applied much faster.

heel strike ground reaction forces 

What can we learn from these ground reaction force charts?

By overlaying the two graphs, we can more clearly see the differences in ground reaction forces.

heel strike vs midfoot strike ground reaction forces

1. Speed of force transfer

The heel strike has a separate spike at the beginning of ground contact. This is referred to as the impact peak. The steepness (or slope) of the line indicates how quickly force is being applied. Steeper = faster. 

Force is transferred more abruptly when heel striking.

2. Total force transfer

The total force applied during the stance phase is equal to the area underneath the curve. The heel strike curve has more area underneath its curve thanks to the impact peak.  

More force is transferred in total when heel striking.


Why is force transferred more abruptly with a heel strike?

When landing with a midfoot strike, the ankle joint, achilles tendon, and calf muscle work together as a shock absorber to slow the speed at which force is applied to the ground.  

When heel striking, the heel comes to a much more abrupt stop at ground contact as it cannot leverage the ankle, achilles, and calf muscles to decelerate. 

Imagine dropping an egg on the floor (heel strike) vs dropping an egg on a pillow (midfoot strike). The pillow allows the egg to slow down more gradually. 

Additionally, a heel strike sees forces applied to a much smaller area, which further magnifies the force transfer. 


Where should your foot strike the ground 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 be above or in front of the ankle at impact. Another way to think of this is your shin should be vertical or leaning slightly 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


How do you develop a midfoot strike for running?


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. 

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. Your entire gait 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. 

PR1 Footstrike Trainer

What is a footstrike trainer? In short, it's an insole that cue's you to shift weight off your heels when you apply too much pressure, something your body does instinctively when barefoot. This simple cue helps you reinforce a consistent midfoot strike. 

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

graph footstrike with and without the PR1 footstrike trainer


Want to learn more about our patented PR1 Footstrike Trainer? 

We have a 60 day money back guarantee and lifetime warranty. Click the following link to check out the PR1 for yourself! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
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