Interested in Barefoot Running?

Interested in Barefoot Running

Born to RunToday I have a guest blog post for you.

It is with Jon-Erik Kawamoto.

In the guest blog post Jon-Erik talks about something that has been a buzz in the fitness industry of late, barefoot running.

Take it away Jon-Erik.

To Barefoot Run?

I’ve been asked lately what I thought about barefoot running and found myself unable to answer. While I have read that everyone should run barefoot because it reduces injury risk and forces a more natural running stride, I also read that barefoot running wasn’t for everyone.  Apparently, because of the barefoot running craze, physical therapists were still busy with running injuries…not from those wearing supportive shoes, but those who thought they could run mile after mile barefoot!

Barefoot running has received a lot of attention lately thanks to books like Christopher McDougall’s, Born to Run.
This entertaining book comes highly recommended to running enthusiasts, and is about the Tarahumara tribe based in northern Mexico.  This tribe is also known as Rarámuri, which means “runners on foot” or “those who run fast.”  The Rarámuri run in homemade sandals that only provide a thin barrier to the rocky, desert terrain – without injury. This is a very interesting fact considering they run extremely long distances (up to and more than 100 miles at a time).

Mechanics of Running Barefoot

The experts say that running without shoes is very different than running in typical thick-soled running shoes.  Because barefoot runners assume a more natural running stride, landing mid-foot rather than on your heel, it is thought to cause less stress on a runner’s body, and therefore, create less injury.  Landing on your heel and rolling toward your toes, as most runners do, actually slows you down because there is a large decelerative force into the ground and a large force sent up your straight leg hitting each joint all the way up the chain.
When you run barefoot, your mid-foot naturally hits the ground first which then relies on your arch and leg muscles to absorb the shock.  Your heel will momentarily hit the ground and you will spring forward into the next stride.  When you use and strengthen your intrinsic foot muscles (when running in Nike Frees, for example), it allows the foot to move in a more “natural” range of motion.
Below is one study that might make you think twice the next time a running shoe store employee tells you what shoe you NEED to buy.
British Journal of Sports Medicine
The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomized control trial
Michael B Ryan, Gordon A Valiant, Kymberly McDonald, Jack E Taunton
Br J Sports Med June 2010
This study looked at randomly assigning shoe category type (neutral, stability and motion control) to 3 groups of different foot posture types (neutral, pronated and highly pronated).  All runners were female and undertook a 13-week half marathon-training program.  Thirty two percent of the runners missed training days due to pain/injury.  Many runners felt pain when correctly assigned the proper running shoe compared to being assigned the “incorrect” level of support.  This study concludes that the “current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious.”
This research study made me begin to question the validity of companies and websites that claim to analyze your needs by asking a few questions and then determining which of their products is best for you.

On the other side of the spectrum, I discovered the following website, which argues that less is more in a running shoe:
A new way to think about running

End of part 1.

It is Rick again.

I will have part 2 of the blog post very soon.  I just wanted to let you know that Jon-Erik contributed a great book to Muscle Imbalances Revealed 2.0 .

If you are interested in more info on barefoot running, I would check out the book.


Rick Kaselj, MS