Many people are now beginning to understand and embrace the natural way to run. Running barefoot is the way people ran naturally before running shoes were developed, and many successful marathon runners from other countries have always run barefoot. Barefoot running is becoming very popular for a number of sound reasons.
Barefoot Running Technique
Going barefoot is a natural state of being. Babies learn how to walk best barefoot, and not wearing shoes helps their feet to develop in a more natural way. Pediatricians often instruct parents that babies only need shoes to protect their feet, and the same is true of adult runners.
When jogging became very popular in the 1970′s, running shoes were marketed as a way to increase running proficiency. Many experienced runners began to notice that wearing the shoes resulted in more injury to the ankles, knees and shins and began to forego wearing the heavy, padded running shoe and resort to a more natural barefoot running technique.
Studies performed in the 1980′s showed that even very pricy running shoes touting the benefits of pronation correction and cushioning resulted in more injury to the runner than less expensive shoes. In 2001, a study in Sports Science reported that a person who runs barefoot will have substantially lower levels of ankle and lower leg injuries.
How the foot hits the pavement when walking is referred to as the foot strike. The foot should land flat or come down on the back of the heel then roll through the sole of the foot and push off on the ball of the foot for the next step. That is the normal foot strike. When a person comes down on the back of the heel very heavily it can result in too much force upon striking the ground and slow the person down. If a person lands too hard on the middle of the foot or ball of the foot then stress is placed on the Achilles tendon, which is an injury that sprinters often suffer.
Tradition held that runners should come down on their heel first and then roll the foot to the toe. But proponents of barefoot running say that the proper barefoot running technique is for the middle of the foot to come down first, which cuts down on the collision force of coming down hard on the heel. Wearing a running shoe encourages the heel to hit the ground heavily and it slows the runner down. Alternatively, the barefoot running technique gives the runner more feel and control over where the foot hits the ground.
Sprinters usually land on the ball of their foot, but when running barefoot the impact is lessened so injury does not occur as often.
Minimalist Running Shoes
Runners wear shoes on their feet mainly to protect the foot and toes on hard and uneven surfaces. Also, shoes protect the foot from cuts and infections when stepping on rough surfaces. Many runners are resorting to a minimalist running shoe that provides protection, but does not change the natural way of running barefoot. One such shoe is the Vibram FiveFingers shoe. These shoes have no cushion in the heel and basically just provide a covering for the foot. They look different because each individual toe has its own slot in the shoe. This is supposed to strengthen the muscles in the foot. Read more…