According to a report published in the journal Nature, people who run barefoot demonstrate a very different ankle angle on impact, foot strike and loading rates, and may be less prone to injury!
The researchers analyzed runners who were barefoot and in running shoes using footplates and video cameras1a. They found that barefoot runners often land on the mid or fore-foot before bringing down the heel, while runners in shoes mostly rear foot strike, allowed by the elevated and cushioned heel of the modern running shoe. Their analysis found that even on hard surfaces, barefoot runners generate smaller collision forces than shoe wearing runners, decreasing the effective mass of the body that collides with the ground.
Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman has ditched his trainers and started running barefoot. His research shows that barefoot runners, who tend to land on their fore-foot, generate less impact shock than runners in sports shoes who land heel first. This makes barefoot running comfortable and could minimize running-related injuries.
Why is barefoot running growing in popularity?
Humans have been running barefoot, or only used minimal footwear for millions of years, with the highly cushioned running shoe only becoming prominent since the 1970s. But the call to return to nature is getting louder as the popularity of barefoot running continues to grow. It’s based on the theory that running shoes provide un-natural levels of cushioning and support, changing the way our feet strike the ground and increasing the risk of injury. Shoe companies have cottoned on to the trend, with a variety of minimalist shoes that fit each toe like a glove. Recent scientific research has shown that there may be a strong case to reduce the amount of training time you spend in traditional running shoes.
Following are some suggestions on how to introduce barefoot running into your exercise regime.
- Try minimalist shoes – You don’t have to be completely “bare” when you go barefoot running. Most footwear manufacturers offer minimalist shoes that are light, flat and flexible, and have a separate pocket for each of your toes. Rubber-soled socks are even available. They offer the benefits of barefoot running, but eliminate the risk of injury from glass, stones, or from hot or slippery surfaces. Like all foot wear, try them on first to see how they feel.
- Alternate, don’t eliminate – Take advantage of the best of both worlds, and alternate between running barefoot, and in traditional running shoes. Unless you are an elite runner, the cushioning and arch support provided by traditional running shoes may still provide benefits.
- Run quiet and light – Run softly with very little up and down movement, keeping your feet under your hips and shoulders. Take springy, slightly shorter strides to make sure you land on the ball of your foot before rolling onto your heel. Seek out help from a running coach if you need any guidance on technique.
via Body and Soul