Barefoot Running

Barefoot Athletes – Is Barefoot Running the New Trend?

With the onset of fitness gurus and individuals participating in extreme sports, there is yet another trend that seems to be becoming quite popular, and that is barefoot running.

Barefoot running has been around for a very long time, but in recent times it’s been getting a lot more attention. There had been, and still continues to be quite a controversy about the support and relative comfort for regular running shoes in comparison to running barefoot. Many people believe that running barefoot is healthier for the foot and enables the runner to run for greater distances over longer periods of time.

Traditional running shoes, it has been argued, do not properly support the foot for the impact that it endures throughout running. What shoe companies have done over the years to change their shoes has been just to add more rubber to the soles of the shoes giving the appearance of more support. In reality that additional rubber or other synthetic material has done very little to add additional support to the runners foot. In fact many individuals would argue that traditional running shoes are bad for running and are actually counterproductive in that they can reduce the distance that you are able to run and the overall comfort that you will have is a lot worse.

Barefoot runners believe that running barefoot is the best way to preserve our natural stride, and to help the runner endure longer events. They run differently than traditional runners, either running flat footed or by running toe to toe. A popular book by Christopher McDougall “Born to Run”, describes how it is a runners natural instinct to run like this and that the foot acts like a spring and that enables the runner to run for longer periods of time.

It is not advised to start barefoot running without first trying it out and building up a endurance for it. Especially if you are thinking of implementing any of the new running techniques i.e. toe to toe, your body won’t be accustomed to this new routine, and as a result you may sustain some injuries. If you would like to incorporate barefoot running into your regular routine it is recommended to start slowly and only run 10% of the time barefoot, and the rest of the time your regular way. Over time increase the percentage until you feel comfortable enough running your whole routine barefoot. Keep in mind that barefoot running is not for everyone and you will need to build up a new rhythm/technique for this way of running. There are many barefoot books available in addition to Christopher McDougall’s (mentioned above), and it is advised to read as much information via the web and through additional resources i.e. books, video, and other media on barefoot running topics.

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Posted by The Running Guy - March 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

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Why Barefoot Running Helps You Run Faster and Get Injured Less

Barefoot running has really begun to take off recently. The introduction of shoes such as Nike Frees and Vibram Five Fingers is evidence of this. But what is this whole barefoot thing all about and why should anyone pay attention to it?

Let’s start off by stating the obvious – humans didn’t evolve with shoes on their feet. If you look at any native, undeveloped population, they all get around quite happily with no shoes. You might wonder how or why, but there is growing evidence that wearing shoes actually INCREASES the risk of injury.

Let’s look at some trends here.

Developed, shoe-wearing populations:

  • High incidence of stress fractures
  • High incidence of muscle strains and overuse injuries
  • High incidence of chronic leg injuries
  • Generally poor running technique requiring orthotics and other foot support
  • Barefoot populations:

  • Low incidence of plantar fasciitis
  • Low incidence of twisted / sprained ankles
  • Low incidence of shin splints and chronic leg injuries
  • This sounds totally contradictory to what seems logical but there’s good reason behind it.

    Running Shoes Compensate for Poor Form

    Now this might also take a bit of thinking to get to grips with, but you know those expensive running shoes which say they provide the best cushioning for your foot? They’re teaching you to run badly! At the very least, they’re saying it’s ok to run badly because these shoes will cushion the impact.

    The bad news is, they can only cushion so much. If you’re landing on your heels when you run, you’re sending a large jarring force right up your legs through your knees to your hips. No shoes can completely compensate for this. Plus unless you replace your shoes regularly, any shoes that compensate will lose their cushioning quickly and your risk of injury will increase greatly.

    Barefoot running improves technique and reduces stress

    Think about it. With no big bulky shoes to cushion your heels when you land on them or correct your foot pronation, are you going to keep running like that? No way! You’ll learn how to run efficiently and painlessly because your body will force you to or you’ll fall in a heap!

    Barefoot running strengthens stabilizing muscles

    The other thing shoes are doing when running is reducing sensitivity of your feet to the ground. The muscles that stabilize your foot when barefoot (known as proprioceptive muscles) don’t get to work much as the shoe is trying to do it for you. This eventually weakens these stabilizing muscles as they’re not doing any work.

    Running barefoot obviously utilizes these stabilizing muscles enormously. This gradually strengthens them and reduces your chances of injury. However, the inherent weakness of these muscles in shoe-wearing populations is exactly why you shouldn’t just go out and run an hour in bare feet straight away. Like any muscles they need time and gradual overload to increase their strength.

    So What Are You Saying?

    Ok, so let me get to the point. Barefoot running is good for you! If you run and you find yourself getting sore or injured, you need to add barefoot running to your training schedule. After all, top barefoot runners have run 15 marathons in one year in bare feet. Could you do this, even with shoes?

    If you don’t run, going barefoot is still good. You don’t need to run, you can walk! It will still have the same benefits of strengthening little used muscles and improve technique, reducing injury. Plus it feels good!

    In summary, Barefoot Running:

  • Improves technique, allowing you to run faster much easier than you thought possible
  • Strengthens stabilizing muscles, reducing lower leg and ankle injuries
  • Reduces impact stress due to improved technique, reducing risk of knee, hip and upper leg injuries
  • Next up, you’re going to want to know how to go about joining the barefoot running movement and starting your barefoot career!

    If you want to find some great tips and resources on how to improve your running, including Barefoot Running tips, check out this Run Technique Tips Site

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    Posted by The Running Guy - February 5, 2010 at 4:03 pm

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