As the new year approaches each winter, people all over the country form new resolutions. For most individuals, losing weight, eating better and living healthier top their list of priorities. Choosing activities is often the next step, and many people take up running as a way to get fit. As people search for information about the best shoes, clothing and accessories for running, they often overlook important details about what they should and should not do when beginning a running routine. Also, most people do not consider the option of running barefoot.
There are entire fitness communities devoted to barefoot running and living. Barefoot running is based on the concept that humans ran well without shoes centuries ago. Since running barefoot was the natural form of movement, humans can still do this with some careful precautions and a proper development plan. Scientists who support barefoot running say that the emergence of running shoes several decades ago led to people having weaker feet since the feet rely on support. These experts say that people are less likely to recover from injuries if their feet are weakened by athletic shoes.
The barefoot running debate has sparked controversy, and some recent medical journal publications have provided clearer guidance. Biomechanics studies show that human legs absorb force from walking or running, and the amount of force absorbed depends on the position of a person’s foot as it hits the ground. If the foot strike pattern is flatter, this means less force on the leg and fewer injuries.
However, many findings were based on the assumption that barefoot runners use the correct striking pattern, which involves the front portion of the foot rather than the heel. Researchers noted that most people who run with shoes strike with their heels instead. When transitioning to barefoot running, it is important to develop a correct foot strike pattern.
A common myth is that people who strike with their heels will instinctively become forefoot strikers when they start going barefoot or using special minimalist shoes. However, this is not universally true. An adaptation period is necessary for proper development of a forefoot striking technique. Research shows that not all runners develop a new step pattern easily, and some still remain heel strikers even after intervention and an educated adaptation attempt.
Running is not as simple as just sprinting barefoot or lacing up a pair of special shoes. While not all people benefit from barefoot running because of their inability to change patterns, some people benefit greatly from it when they make the switch. Every runner should be aware of his or her foot strike pattern. Visiting a physiotherapist is worth the time and money to ensure that a proper foot strike pattern is employed. Also, a professional can help during the transition period for people who switch from regular shoes to minimalist shoes or running barefoot. Please contact us to learn more about foot strike patterns, running options and how to choose the ideal method for your individual needs. An integrated systems model or ISM will help determine the right choice for you.