5 Secrets of Barefoot Running

Running Barefoot by karmadude, on Flickr

Running Barefoot by karmadude, on Flickr

Let’s face it, talking about barefoot running is still great hype. After all, you’re here reading my article.

Barefoot running has gotten huge over the last few years. Tens of thousands of people claim that since it’s the most natural way to run, it’s the best. So, you know it must be true.

But does it hold up to all the scrutiny?

 

After all, not everyone has picked up barefoot running yet. In fact, the vast majority of people are still wearing traditional running shoes. What is wrong with them?

Well from both personal experience, and that of friends, I want to share a few things you might find are already part of the discussion, but should be reviewed anyway.

Barefoot Running Reduces Injuries

Most people who run in traditional running shoes are taught to lead with the heel. In other words, they land very heavily on their heels while they run. Hence why most running shoes focus cushioning on the heel of the shoe.

The thing is- it doesn’t make sense for our bodies to run like that. That’s why so many distance runners experience shin splints and foot pain. Even if you are wearing running shoes, hitting heel-first is unnatural and your body isn’t meant to take that kind of force.

If you run barefoot, it feels extremely uncomfortable to hit with your heel first. Not only do you feel the shock of force going up your leg, but you also hit the ground much harder.

Meanwhile, landing on the ball of your foot allows you to land softer. This prevents injuries such as shin splints, and your feet will thank you as well.

That said- you still have to watch where you’re going. Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes means that you can step off an unexpected curb, or into a pothole and not get hurt.

Improved Stability

Engineering is Elementary: Designing Knee Braces by kjarrett, on Flickr

Engineering is Elementary: Designing Knee Braces by kjarrett, on Flickr

In addition to the large muscles in your legs, you have many smaller muscles called stabilizers. Strong stabilizer muscles are what allow gymnasts to flip all over the place and land on a mat without turning an ankle. It’s also what allows runners to log thousands of miles without turning an ankle or hurting their knees.

The thing is- running shoes don’t help you strengthen those stabilizers. Since the shoe typically comes up your ankle, it helps provide the support that your stabilizers normally provide. This causes these muscles to go unused, which eventually weakens them.

Meanwhile, minimalist running shoes have no support for the ankle. This helps you improve stability muscles.

Besides- if you ever go trail running in minimalist shoes, you’ll quickly see how much more easily you feel like you can maneuver around trees, rocks, roots, etc.

Improve Propulsion

Have you ever watched sprinters at a track race?

They don’t strike with their heel first. In fact, they hardly let their heels touch the ground at all. They’ve been trained to run on the balls of their feet because that’s what gives them the most propulsion and speed.

Running barefoot gives the same benefit. Nobody propels themselves forward with their heel, right? It’s always with the ball of the foot.

So by landing on the ball of the foot, you’re already prepared to push yourself off again quickly. In other words, you’re improving both your propulsion and your efficiency by landing on the front of your foot.

Want Strong Legs and Feet?

How much of a workout do your feet get when you run in traditional shoes?

Not much of one, I can tell you that.

Your foot muscles are doing work, but not very much. At least, not when you compare it to the amount of strength needed for barefoot running.

The first time that people try running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, they’re usually surprised at how their feet and lower legs feel afterwards. Their feet may feel sore, and their calves are usually on fire. That’s because this method of running uses a lot more muscles, including those that are ignored by traditional running forms.

So what do you think is better- running with a crutch (aka regular running shoe) that doesn’t strengthen your feet and legs? Or running in a way that builds stronger muscles?

Like Money?

Let’s face it- these days, most of us will have arthritis when we get older. It could be because of the food we eat, or toxins in the air, or whatever you want to blame it on.

The thing is- do you want to accelerate that process?

Minimalist running helps protect your joints and cartilage because you lessen the impact when you land. Over years, even decades of running- this adds up to a LOT less force going up your legs.

Less force most likely means less arthritis, fewer doctor visits and lower doses of medication, if any.

Sounds like a win-win for me.

Conclusion

Admittedly- barefoot and minimalist running may not be quite as amazing as some people (including myself in this article) have claimed. As a matter of fact, it’s not amazing at all considering that is how we have run for 99.9% of human existence.

My job here is done. Discuss.

Oh No! Barefoot Running Stumbles

mens-health-barefoot

Several years in, and the hype and discussion about barefoot, or natural, running, is still going on. I enjoy reading the many articles out there, including this one.

The 2011 L.A. Marathon was going well for Joseph Gabriel. After 26 miles enduring a cold rain and gusty winds, he was still on pace to break four hours—his goal after four months of training. But as he turned onto Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, with the finish line in sight 300 yards away, he felt a sudden tug above his left ankle.

And then it gets into the good stuff…

The problem? “People took our paper, which was about a very small, limited topic, as telling them how to run,” Lieberman says. “Running is a complex skill that you can’t learn how to do just by taking off your shoes.”

Read the whole article at Men’s Health.

Benefits of Barefoot Running

While there’s a rising number of barefoot running worshipers, limited studies have been conducted about it. Advocates are claiming that  barefoot running lessens injuries and strengthen feet.  Do they have evidence to backup their claim?

The first study, for example, despite being quite well-designed, was funded by Nike, which might cast some doubt in the impartiality of the results. And the second two studies look at fairly mundane tasks, not long or fast running.

It is likely that running barefoot, or in any minimal shoe, will increase the strength of your intrinsic foot muscles. But it’s uncertain as to whether this increase in strength will translate to any performance or injury-avoidance gains.

Are the intrinsic foot muscles in a normal runner strong enough to maintain balance and arch integrity while training? Does strengthening these muscles with barefoot or minimalist training reduce injury risk? If so, what amount of training is needed, and how much is too much? These are all big questions that remain unanswered.

In the meantime, however, if you want to try out barefoot running or want to start using a minimalist shoe, I recommend two protocols:

Read the full article at Runners Connect.  

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user mikebaird. 

 

Earth Runners : Conductive Minimalist Footwear

Are you a minimalist runner?  You should give Earth Runners  sandals a try! Earth Runners  sandals are designed to absorb more subtle electrical energies from the Earth.  Let’s see if you’ll get that “electrifying” sensation wearing this sandals.

The self-molding sandals give you that satisfying “ground feel”, while offering both protection and comfort in an exceptionally functional sandal. Earth Runners come in two unique models – the Quantum and the Ultralight; both are designed to accommodate wearers comfortably in a wide range of urban and outdoor environments. They’ve tested the sandals across hundreds of miles of terrain over the past year and now are excited to share them with the world! 


They’re passionate about promoting a more grounded way of living that’s available when we tap into and connect with the vast resource of abundant electrical energy of the Earth itself. They pledge that for every ten sandals sold, they will donate a pair toSeva Sandals  – an organization dedicated to providing sandals at no cost to children in India.

 

Read the full article at Midwest Multisport Life.

 

Photo copyright by EarthRunners.com

Learning the Fundamentals : Braking and Forms

How do you run?  I mean it, how do you run? Running is very simple but there are factors we have to consider for a successful and effective run.  Braking and posture are the fundamentals every runner should master.

A sport that is so blissfully simple deserves an equally simple mechanical concept. And it really is that simple, but allow me to elaborate further on efficient running:

  1. Leaning forward with a neutral-aligned trunk – head to tailbone – such that the foot lands precisely beneath it.
  2. Flexing and extending the extremities in synergistic neuromuscular movement patterns – where the end result is more powerful and efficient than the sum of its moving parts.

In essence, running is a controlled fall – forward momentum of the trunk propelled along with flexing and extending of the limbs.

But what happens if you quit “falling?”

 

Learn more about proper braking and correct running forms at  iRunFar. 

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user fatfeet_running.

Promoting Run Commute : A Practical Option Going to the WorkPlace

Biking to work is really brilliant. Imagine all the benefits biking has to offer. It’s actually more than hitting 2 birds with one stone but rather 3 birds! It’s environment, pocket, and health friendly. See?! But I have a better advice.  For more intense physical activity, you should run to work! Yeah, I’m not crazy.

But how do we do it?

want run commuting to be a movement.  I want it to gain momentum and, drawing from Runner’s World poll question, become a “realistic option” for getting to and from work.  Where do we start?

1. Run commute as often as you can.

When we’re run commuting, we are visible to other commuters out on the streets, whether they are drivers stuck in traffic, cyclists, walkers, or public transit riders.  By being seen regularly (especially while wearing a backpack), people begin to accept the notion that run commuting is realistic.  People can do it.  And that’s key - creating a new thought in another’s mind that says ‘run commuting is possible and people do it.’  Hell, it wasn’t too long ago when marathons were seen as something only elite runners could complete.  Now everyone is knocking them out.

 

Find out more on how to start run commuting at The Run Commuter.

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user abtin.eshraghi.

 

The First Ever Underwater Marathon for a Cause

Underwater marathon? Seriously?! Yes, you are not dreaming- the first ever underwater marathon.   The said underwater marathon will be held at Tröegs’s Brewery in Hershey, Pa by September 9, 2012. This  marathon aims to support  Eagle Fund in collecting funds for wounded Special Forces soldier.

“When I thought it was over and didn’t really know what to do, my family at Athletes’ Performance gave me hope to continue to do what I’ve been called to do,” said one Eagle Fund enrollee.

Athletes’ Performance, the industry leader in integrated performance training for the world’s elite athletes, works hand-in-hand with the Andrews Institute, the leaders in orthopaedics and sports medicine, to create an individualized and comprehensive Intensive Restoration Therapy program for each Eagle Fund recipient. The integrated training system incorporates performance training, nutrition, and physical therapy.

 

Interested in joining? Read more at Athletes Performance. 

 

Photo copyright by HydroWorx.

Running Beat-the-Heat Technique in Summer

I’ve seen a lot of runners pour water over themselves while pacing in a marathon. Is it advantageous? A research in California State University led by Colleen Munoz put 10 well trained cross country runners to the test.  It turned out that pouring cold water over oneself doesn’t necessarily boost speed.  Dr. Daniel Judelson, a senior author of the study suggested that pouring cold water over yourself will make exercising on warmer temperature more tolerable. Isn’t that obvious?

But only when cold water was poured over their heads did the volunteers report feeling blessedly cooler than in the other exercise session. They also said that the workout felt noticeably easier, and their skin temperatures were lower than in other sessions.

They did not, however, actually perform better during the five-kilometer time trial, no matter what cooling strategy they employed. Their times were generally equivalent, whether they drank cold water, were doused with it, or neither.

 

Read the full article at The New York Times.

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user phildimarino. 

 

 

Is ditching your sneakers prevent running injuries?

Barefoot running devotees claim that humans are born to run barefoot as it is a natural way to prevent injuries.  But, experts believe that it is our running style that is responsible for injuries. Which is it? Don’t ask me, I’m just here to point you to some discussion.

Running barefoot encourages the runner to cushion the impact of landing by adjusting their running style to land with their toes down. The shock of landing is transmitted largely to the muscles at the back of the leg. As a result, barefoot and minimally shod running appears to reduce the risk of injury because they generate much lower collision forces.

But don’t throw your running shoes away just yet. Barefoot runners must learn to change the way they run: landing more on the mid-foot or forefoot, rather than on the heel. Then the elastic structures within the foot will do the job they were designed to do. And the Achilles tendon and calf muscles will contract eccentrically to cushion this extra load.

Read the full post at THE CONVERSATION

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user Rene Van Belzen

Keys to Successful Vacation Training

Summer is here and  summer equals vacation.  Training while on a vacation getaway seems like daunting but this article proves us wrong. Or at least, it proves the author wrong. You can pass me a cold drink.

To me a holiday is simply not a reason to sit in one spot and never move again. As a very active individual I thoroughly enjoy being able to exercise. So I find being on holidays a fantastic way to remain fit and active and give my body, mentally and physically a chance to repair itself.

Naturally holidays for everyone take a variety of forms from the super extreme sporting holidays to the lesser heart pumping retreats such as your ocean getaways filled with sunbathing and plenty of afternoon naps. However, whatever form your holiday may take there are plenty of options right at your fingertips that will ensure you remain active and don’t lose fitness or form whilst on your break.

 

Read the full article at Running Technique Tips. 

Photo copyright by Lisa Biffin.

Traditional Barefoot Running Vs. Minimalist Barefoot Running

It looks like we’re finally past the point of looking at barefoot runners as crazy. Even local newspapers have sent in their intrepid reporters to dig deep and bring the scoop to readers. Now, the debate is whether or not you run barefoot with shoes on. I think it is  a showdown between “barefoot running” and “barefoot running in shoes” so, read on to see if there is an answer.

Although minimalist running shoes have gained a toehold in the marketplace and shoeless joggers aren’t as likely to draw stares, many runners have kept to traditional athletic shoes. And experts remain divided on the wisdom of running without them.

“While anecdotal evidence and testimonials proliferate on the Internet and in the media about the possible health benefits of barefoot running, research has not yet adequately shed light on the immediate and long-term effects,” the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine wrote in a position statement. “Currently, there is a lack of well-designed studies regarding the benefits and/or risks of barefoot running.”

Read the full post at NORTHWEST HERALD

Photo copyright by Flickr user Ivan F. Irigoyen

Is Barefoot Running a Paleo-Fad?

What’s great about this post is that the author dares to question barefoot running as a “paleo-fad”. I never thought of it that way, but now that she mentioned it, is there any truth. I don’t know, but I think I’ll have a steak for dinner tonight.

This week I’m reading Lone Survivors, a new book in which British anthropologist Christopher Stringer reports that someHomo sapiens wore shoes as early as 40,000 years ago.

This paleo-fact caught my eye because my husband, who is keenly interested in matters of fitness, has been talking to me lately about barefoot running. The idea — as it’s been popularized — is that the natural, best way for us to run today is the same way humans have been running for hundreds of thousands of years: with our bare feet striking the earth.

I tend toward skepticism when health advice is based on what our ancestors did, without regard to variation in past behavior. So I’m wondering, if shoes are as old in some early-human populations as Stringer claims, is the barefoot-running phenomenon just another paleo-fad?

Read the full article at NPR.

 

Photo copyright by flickr user JohnKochmanski.