Tips for Shedding Your Shoes
Healthier Running by Going Barefoot
Barefoot running has slowly been gaining scientific support for the many benefits it has over running in shoes. Imagine running longer, farther, and with virtually no injury. Seems almost too good to be true. Most people think that barefoot running is both painful and dangerous. But just think, our feet are contoured and shaped the way they are for a reason right? I mean, there has to be a reason for the arch in the center and the five phalanges (toes) on the end. Science is beginning to show that there in fact is great reason for the biological shape of our feet. And this is the mentality behind running barefoot.
The Way Nature Intended
No type of footwear can compare to the natural arcs and biology weâ€™re born with. The benefits barefoot running provides over cushioned shoes comes from the ability to have increased stability, reduced pressure on impact, optimal balance, and greater propulsion when we are barefoot. Whereas running shoes mainly cause us to land on our heels, barefoot running actually has us landing on the balls of our feet instead. Researchers are finding that by landing on the balls of our feet, otherwise known as the forefoot, it generates smaller collision forces than by landing on the heels, or the rear-foot. The impact from running on the heels can be equivalent to two to three times the personâ€™s body weight. Impacts of this force can over time cause repetitive stress injuries to the runner.
Two injuries that seem to be the most correlated with wearing shoes are plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. Both are common in the running community and both seem to be related to reduced awareness of foot position and increased impact when wearing shoes. Over time shoes weaken foot muscles and reduce arch strength. The plantar fascia is then called upon to do more work causing injury over time. Lower leg strength is reduced with shoes as well. The ankles are not required to perform as much work as compared to when running barefoot. This may ultimately cause a higher rate of sprained ankles.
The best method for introducing your body to barefoot running should come gradually. Your foot may continue to want to land on the heel from the training it received from years of running in shoes. Transition your body slowly from shoe running so that your body can adjust itself to the changes of no longer being constricted. By easing into it, you will begin to strengthen the muscles in your calves, feet, and ankles. The tendons in your toes and midfoot will grow stronger and you gain a springy step.
Take it Slow
Start with walking just a few minutes at a time barefoot or in barefoot running shoes. Then work your way up to 10-15 minutes of walking at a time. Begin jogging after youâ€™ve done a few weeks of walking and feel comfortable with the feeling of being barefoot on different surfaces. Eventually work your way up to your normal routine. This transition period will avoid causing injury with the sudden change from shedding your shoes. Attempt to walk or run on grass when possible. Softer surfaces will make the transition more successful.
If you are still hesitant to accept the notion that barefoot running is a serious approach to the sport of running, just look at the number ultra runners who complete distances of over 50+ miles either barefoot, or with barefoot simulating shoes. Iâ€™m sure they can attest to the benefits of losing the shoes and going natural!