Humans did, and can run comfortably without the use of modern running shoes. In our last newsletter we talked about how the surfaces we run on and the fact that we are shoed our whole lives impacts the biomechanics of our running. This article is going to dive into the limited science as to the why barefoot running is good for your life, legs, and training.
Foot strike is one of the biggest changes that occur with barefoot, or minimialist running. We strike with a different part of our foot with the use of running shoes that have a large cushioned heel and 10mm heel to toe drop compared to a minimalist shoe with zero cushioning and no heel to toe drop. When we run in our cushioned high heel running shoes we tend to do a lot more heel striking. This tends to cause a sudden large impact/force that travels up the lower extremity at about 200 miles per hour. We cope with these forces because of the big heel put in our traditional running shoes.
You cannot do that same type of heel striking with your minimalist shoe simply because it would just be too painful without that cushioned heel. The minimalist shoe or barefoot running uses Newton’s 2ndlaw (Force=Mass*Acceleration (F=M*A)) to its advantage. Minimalist shoes force you to strike more on your forefoot or midfoot, using the back of your leg in a spring like effect. Think about the back of your leg and your foot as a spring and shock of your car. Because acceleration has time as its variable, barefoot running increases the time that shock can be absorbed, therefore decreasing the acceleration resulting in less peak force through your lower extremity. If you don’t believe me please stand up and take your shoes off. Now I want you to jump up about 1 foot and land on your toes. Note the shock absorbtion. Next get on your tippy toes and with your heels about 2-3 inches off the ground just drop your heel onto the floor. Not as comfortable is it? This shows you that you can absorb shock/force more effectively and efficiently with your midfoot than with your heel.
It has been shown in the limited science that you are decreasing the peak forces through the foot and lower extremity when you forefoot and mid-foot strike in comparison to heel striking (see images above). Because we take about 1000 steps per mile this increase in force with heel striking can add up, possibly increasing your likelihood for repetitive stress injuries. Some injuries include, but are not limited to, stress fractures, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis. That being said, it is not a good idea to just throw away your running shoes and start barefoot running. That is a good way to get you injured. Your body needs to adjust to this new form of running. Please read below how to break yourself into your new running style. Please, if you have any questions or concerns, consult with a physician who specializes in gait and biomechanics. I am always available to offer any guidance or answer any questions that you may have. My office number 203-208-0972 and my email is email@example.com.
Tips to Run Barefoot
You need to pace yourself and build up slowly
No more than .25-.5 of a mile the first week
Do not increase more than 10% each week
Listen to your body… If you are sore or are in pain take more time off and decrease miles
It can take months to transition to barefoot running
Remember you were shoed your entire life
Stretch and stretch your calves and hamstrings