To determine the effect of the awake prone position (APP) on gas exchange and the work of breathing in spontaneously breathing patients with COVID-19-associated acute hypoxemic respiratory failure (AHRF) supported by high-flow nasal oxygen. DESIGN: Prospective randomized physiologic crossover multicenter trial. SETTINGS: Four ICUs in Marseille, France. PATIENTS: Seventeen patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia and Pao2/Fio2 less than or equal to 300 mm Hg while treated with high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy. INTERVENTIONS: Periods of APP and semirecumbent position (SRP) were randomly applied for 2 hours and separated by a 2-hour washout period. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Arterial blood gases, end-tidal CO2. and esophageal pressure were recorded prior to and at the end of each period. Inspiratory muscle effort was assessed by measuring the esophageal pressure swing (∆PES) and the simplified esophageal pressure-time product (sPTPES). The other endpoints included physiologic dead space to tidal volume ratio (VD/VT) and the transpulmonary pressure swing. The APP increased the Pao2/Fio2 from 84 Torr (61-137 Torr) to 208 Torr (114-226 Torr) (p = 0.0007) and decreased both the VD/VT and the respiratory rate from 0.54 (0.47-0.57) to 0.49 (0.45-0.53) (p = 0.012) and from 26 breaths/min (21-30 breaths/min) to 21 breaths/min (19-22 breaths/min), respectively (p = 0.002). These variables remained unchanged during the SRP. The ∆PES and sPTPES per breath were unaffected by the position. However, the APP reduced the sPTPES per minute from 225 cm H2O.s.m-1 (176-332 cm H2O.s.m-1) to 174 cm H2O.s.m-1 (161-254 cm H2O.s.m-1) (p = 0.049). CONCLUSIONS: In spontaneously breathing patients with COVID-19-associated AHRF supported by high-flow nasal oxygen, the APP improves oxygenation and reduces the physiologic dead space, respiratory rate, and work of breathing per minute.