Running barefoot has, of course, been around since the beginning of humankind. Running-specific shoes, 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.
Studies conducted recently investigated whether barefoot runners were less likely to have injuries and could run faster. However 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).
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 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 a lighter weight, more flexible style with a lower heel height. These options do increase the risk for lower limb injuries; shin, calf, knee pains if your ability to adapt to the load change is too quick or the shoe lacks stability to control foot motion.
Barefoot shoes do allow the foot to develop naturally absorbing ground reaction forces and helps to encourage natural movement of the body. Shoes do provide an artificial support to perform movement safely theoretically defying our body the opportunity to gain strength on its own therefore embracing the notion that the beefier or more supportive the shoe, the more a runner’s natural stride is inhibited.
As with all footwear there is a wide range of barefoot shoes available and ultimately they do require a transition training program to develop skills. If you have an interest in transitioning to a barefoot or minimalist running shoe feel free to contact the clinic to discuss how best to start this process and ensure you are making the right footwear choice prior to commencing barefoot training.