Why Runners Everywhere are Baring Their Soles
Running experts and researchers are beginning to recognize the benefits of running barely shod, or even with no shoes at all. Namely, when running barefoot, or in many minimalist shoes, runners will have a natural tendency to forefoot strike rather than heel striking, which is common with runners wearing modern conventional running shoes. This more natural way of running is theorized to significantly reduce the frequency of common repetitive use injuries often seen in runners, as recent studis have shown that runners running with a forefoot strike land each foot strike with significantly less impact force than those that heel strike.
The barefoot style of running was really brought into the public spotlight by best selling author Christopher McDougal in his book Born to Run. This book is the author’s tale of running with the isolated running tribe of Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who, incidentally, do not run unshod, but rather in minimal sandals. The book also briefly discusses evolution and the human history of running, the biomechanics of running, as well as little quips about popular ultra marathon runners.
Is barefoot running for me?
Minimalist running is appropriate for any runner that is willing to learn forefoot running. Running entirely without shoes, however, presents the possibility of cuts or scrapes on the feet. If running without shoes is continued, particularly in urban areas, the risk of infection is increased. For this reason it is not suggested that those with diabetes attempt to run entirely without shoes.
For the rest of us, if you are already a forefoot, or midfoot runner, the transition to minimalist “barefoot” shoes, will be relatively easy, and you will probably notice the benefits of feeling much lighter on your feet almost immediately, however, caution should still be used as minimalist shoes offer little stability and it may take time to build the foot and ankle strength necessary to prevent injury, especially when running on challenging or uneven terrain. If you wish to transition to completely barefoot running, the real challenge will lie in building calluses enough to allow for a comfortable barefoot run without bruising and blistering your soles.
If you are not already accustomed to forefoot running the transition will no doubt take some time as the body must learn to run in this more efficient manner. This will require time to for the muscles of the foot, ankle, and calf to strengthen without overdoing it. This process can take many months.
To find out more on barefoot running read these related articles.