Barefoot running has been a hot topic for a few years now, and the trend is steadily gaining momentum. Research has shown both benefits and risks to this style of natural (or minimal) running, and there’s still a lot to be decided. If you’ve been thinking about trying to run barefoot it takes some getting used to. Here’s what you should know before hitting the road.
Don’t think you can just take your shoes off and head out for a quick 2 mile jaunt. You use different muscles when you run barefoot, and your feet aren’t used to the rocks, sticks, and other hard debris on the road. You want to make sure you start out slowly. Run indoors, build your foot strength, then build your way up to running in the grass or using a barefoot shoe.
Potential Benefits of Barefoot Running
– Increased strength in muscles, tendons, and ligaments will lead to a more natural gait
– Barefoot running allows you to spread your toes while your foot becomes a stronger and steadier base, thus improving your balance
– When the heel of the shoe is absent it allows your Achilles tendon and calf muscles to stretch, potentially leading to less chances for injury
Potential Risks of Barefoot Running
– No foot protection means you have to be cautious of rocks, broken glass and other debris in the road, as well as cold or freezing temperatures
– You may experience pain or blistering initially, especially if you don’t start out slowly because your muscles and skin aren’t used to the change in padding and foot strike
Benefits vs Risk
So, should you give barefoot running a try, or stick with your padded running shoes? Well, the answer isn’t so black and white. Harvard recently did an extensive study that showed barefoot runners are typically less prone to foot and ankle injuries, but the real reason for less injury may be how we run, as opposed to what we’re running in. Runners in shoes tend to strike the ground with their heels, sending a spike through the ankles, knees, and up through the spine. Heel strikers are nearly two times more likely to injure themselves over people who strike with the middle or front of their foot.
Barefoot runners tend to land on the middle or front of their foot, utilizing the body’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which create natural shock absorbers, eliminating that spike of force.
So, it’s all about form?
Injury prevention strongly relies on proper form, whether you’re in shoes or not. In fact, incorrect running form can lead to all sorts of issues like knee pain and low back pain. A video gait analysis is an ideal way to critique your run patterns and correct any issues. We offer a series of options for runners who would like to have their form and gait checked out. Our Precision Running Workshops are held every few months and every attendee has their run patterns videotaped, plus these workshops are free! In addition, our RunFit 5k training programs have weekly educational topics worked in, including lessons on form and run patterns. If you’d like a more in-depth look, we offer a running gait analysis which is a one-on-one consultation with one of our physical therapists that specializes in sport rehab. They’ll conduct a video gait analysis and look at your run patterns closely to determine potential weaknesses. We also have custom orthotics and foot and ankle specialists in each location.
With better form you can run faster, more efficiently, and with less chance for injury. When it comes to running, Northern has you covered.