Over the past couple of years the phenomenon of barefoot running has gathered some pace (sorry).Proponents of barefoot, or sometimes wild, running claim a lower incidence of joint pain and chronic injury which affects the vast majority of runners at some point in their training. It is being argued that the reasons for this are the overly supportive shoes we run in these days. Studies at Harvard University have shown that shod runners land on the well cushioned heel of a modern shoe. These heel strikes transmit huge forces directly into the knee and hip joints and can increase the twisting and torquing of the joints. Barefoot runners use a shorter stride and land on the front of the foot, absorbing the impact with the ankles and knees. This more natural running style has been observed in the Mexican Tarahumara tribe, who run distances of up to 150 miles in a day with nothing more than thin soles of leather or rubber thonged to their feet. The modern running shoe has only been around since the 1970s however humans have been running for thousands of years. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to allow us to run for long distances on hard sun baked surfaces.
That said just throwing away your running shoes and going out barefoot isnt recommended either. There are companies and products available to help you adapt to barefoot running. You can start easily by replacing your expensive, cushioned runners with a pair of basic flat soled trainers or plimsoles. For those who prefer a more tech approach have a look at the Vibram Fivefinger range, specially designed to give a natural feel.
If anyone has done much barefoot running, we would love to hear your experiences with it….
photo courtesy of federico stevanin http://bit.ly/b1oSN8
For anyone interested, the orginal academic research is here