Monday, April 30, 2012

The Truth About Barefoot Running

After recently reading one of the most popular running magazines around I had a good laugh.  I am noticing tons and tons of hoopla surrounding the barefoot running craze.  I am amazed at how people just jump on bandwagons without asking appropriate details.  
Here is the scoop.  There is no easier way to run.  Running is hard.  That is actually why it is so beneficial.  Barefoot running is not the unknown that unlocks a pain-free, super fast running experience.  Barefoot running is a lateral move. Remember happy running comes down to force.  There is a scale; one side the force produced by the ground (ground reaction force) and on the other side is the force your body can produce (strength/connective tissue tolerance etc).  When the scale is tipped to the ground reaction force you get injured, when it is tipped the other way you run without injury.  Barefoot running CHANGES both sides of the scale.  It does not increase or decrease the force, it makes it move laterally.   You need more strength to run barefoot; strength in the form as stability.  The demand for Core, hip, knee, ankle, and foot stability is higher.  That CAN be a good thing.
If you can get your body acclimated to barefooting and the necessary stability is achieved then you CAN run barefoot, but should you?  The injury rates are the same.  The injuries that barefooters get, runners with shoes do not get.  Broken glass?  Didnt see that rock or bump?  Stub a toe?  It is easier to get a stress fracture without shoes.  How long can you run barefoot without something like this happening?  The other traditional running injuries are basically the same.  If you can learn to run efficiently with shoes, wouldn’t that allow for longer, healthier running?  Wouldn’t the long term, cumulative effects of years of healthy running outweigh a short term, eye popping barefoot running career?
Can barefoot running contribute to healthy running?  Sure!  Barefoot drills, maybe some strides in the grass barefoot, or strengthening with no shoes on help you develop some of that stability.  Common sense prevails.  160 bucks for “barefoot” shoes? Spend that money on quality coaching or a gait analysis and trust your body.  Your body knows how to be efficient, it just might need a push in the right direction.  Lets make a lifestyle change, learn to handle force appropriately, and let that cumulative effect take place!!

    1 comment:

    Jill said...

    Well said, Ron! Thanks for this post. We have our kiddos from the track team do barefoot drills in the football field to gain strength in their feet, but never recommend running barefoot. Though I always laugh because racing flats are basically barefoot shoes with some spikes in them :).

    So.... I have an issue with my inner ankle, on the same foot as my bad heel. I'll email you. Grrrrr!