Forefoot pain in forefoot runners - biomechanical that can help your forefoot pain

Are you a forefoot runner?

How do runners describe their running style?  Runners and their style of running are often categorized by the contact point of the foot where they land during the contact phase of gait. Forefoot runners, midfoot runners and rearfoot runners are classified by their individual loading zones.  Which loading zone are you?   To find out, you'll need a running partner to watch you run and film your gait on a phone or other device.  Once you know your loading zone, you can learn a lot about the potential for injuries specific to you zone.

Injuries common in forefoot runners

Forefoot runners

Each of the three categories, forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot may share common injuries like plantar fasciitis and Morton’s neuroma.  But forefoot runners are significantly more prone to forefoot injuries that include the following:

Many of the conditions described above are repetitive use injuries due to repeat loading of the forefoot.  Understanding the biomechanics of forefoot running enables the runner to make subtle biomechanical changes that can prevent forefoot injuries and treat some of the most basic injuries we see on a regular basis.

Biomechanical changes for forefoot running injuries

Let’s take a look at three simple ways that a forefoot runner can make significant changes in their biomechanics and treat many forefoot problems.

  1. Forefoot rocker (external) – a forefoot rocker is a modification to the sole of the shoe that off-loads the forefoot at the push-off phase of gait.  Forefoot rockers are available in both an Rx version and over-the-counter (OTC) versions.  Some shoes come with a forefoot rocker built into the sole of the shoe.  Examples include Hoka one-one and MBT.
  2. Forefoot rocker (internal) – some runners prefer the stability of a flat sole.  Another forefoot rocker option is to put the rocker (also called toe spring) in the shoe by using a Carbon Fiber Spring Plate.  The Spring Plate is very thin and very rigid with a built in forefoot rocker (toe spring).  When used with a laced shoe, the combination of the shoe and Spring Plate creates a rocker design that is very popular with runners who suffer from forefoot pain.
  3. Heel lift – scratching your head on this one?  For sake of example, let’s put a full length foot sensor in your running shoe.  The sensor will monitor pressure points as you run.  Using a heel lift in a forefoot runner will increase the amount of time the forefoot runner spends with weight on the heel.  Using a heel lift will increase the duration of time on the heel, thereby decreasing the loading time on the forefoot.  Decreased loading of the forefoot can prevent and even treat some forefoot injuries.

Scroll down for information on products that treat forefoot pain.


Jeffrey Oster, DPM

Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Adviser