An Introduction To Barefoot Running By Podiatrist Tim Deveson
Running barefoot has, of course, been around since the beginning of humankind. Barefoot shoes specifically for running or regular structured running shoes are a much more recent phenomenon, but one that quickly dominated the running landscape.
Today, the barefoot running concept has suddenly become popular again. Why is this? And, are the barefoot-running motion and minimalist shoes right for you? This article gives you the background and tips to help you decide.
What the Studies Say
Studies conducted recently investigated whether barefoot runners were less likely to have injuries and could run faster. Specifically, most studies showed that people “were able to land comfortably and safely when barefoot or in minimal footwear by landing with a flat foot (midfoot strike) or by landing on the ball of the foot before bringing down the heel (forefoot strike)”.
Running shoes, on the other hand, feature cushioning, elevated heels and extra weight. These factors cause most runners to heel strike (heel hitting first).
Choose Your Shoes for the Loading Patterns You Need
The key to barefoot or minimalist running is the ability to adapt to the change in loading patterns on the bottom of the foot, as well as on the rest of the body. Runners returning to running who have had success in structured running shoes in the past are highly recommended to continue using a structured running shoe, as they provide solid stability and cushioning in returning to exercise. Runners who have been using structured running shoes for a period of time could utilise a barefoot shoe as their secondary training or racing shoe. The minimalist style will generally be lighter weight and more flexible in style, with a lower heel height. These options do increase the risk for lower limb injuries such as shin, calf and knee pains, if your ability to adapt to the load change is too quick or the shoe lacks stability to control foot motion.
Natural vs. Supported Strides
Barefoot shoes do allow the step to develop naturally, by absorbing ground reaction forces, and helps to encourage natural movement of the body. Shoes do provide an artificial support to perform a movement safely. In theory, this denies our body the opportunity to gain strength on its own. This embraces the notion that the beefier or more supportive the shoe, the more a runner’s natural stride is inhibited.
Consult a Professional to Transition to Barefoot Running
As with all footwear there is a wide range of barefoot shoes available, and ultimately they do require a transition training programme to develop the skills to use them effectively. If you have an interest in transitioning to a barefoot or minimalist running shoe, feel free to contact us to discuss how best to start this process.
The top priority is to make sure you are making the right footwear choice, prior to commencing any barefoot training. Book an appointment with a Podiatrist or other healthcare specialist at Pinnacle Health Group, in multiple locations in Melbourne.