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Barefoot running: The truth behind the myth

Posted on August 2, 2012 - 1:00am by Mike Smith

“If you think running is a fad, then it’s a two-million-year-old fad.” Daniel Lieberman, PhD.

Running without shoes may at first sound like an alien experience having become so used to the stability of modern footwear, but according to experts, barefoot running provides the ultimate freedom and is in fact the answer to minimising injury.

The growth in popularity of barefoot running is largely down to the belief that modern running shoes inhibit the bodies natural biomechanics and contribute to those injuries which they are marketed to avoid.

Trauma and overuse injuries are common frustrations amongst avid runners, and with little evidence to suggest that running shoes enhance performance or prevent injury, the barefoot trend is going global.

Daniel Lieberman, PhD, a Professor of Human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, continues to produce leading research in this area. An advocate of barefoot running, “the barefoot professor” also promotes the importance of adopting the correct form - advising those who want to take the leap from shod running to “do so gradually and carefully".

Professor Lieberman states in his research: “It is crucial to build up foot strength, calf strength, and learn good form.”

Shedding more light on this phenomenon is the author of the international bestseller, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. Using a mix of anecdotal evidence and his own experiences with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who run distances of up to 150 miles at a time, with just a strip of cut up car tyre to protect the soles of their feet, Chris believes that humans are natural-born runners who don't need gimmicks or technology to move quickly and efficiently. We've already been doing it for thousands of years!

Having suffered with injuries his entire life, Chris ditched the sports shoes at age 40 with the help of VIVOBAREFOOT expert, Lee Saxby, and has never looked back. Disheartened that running is thought of more as a chore and weight-loss activity in the western world, Chris believes we’ve spoilt our natural advantage by cashing in on it.

Why should I run barefoot?

First of all, running barefoot is undeniably the more natural way. Running trainers were only manufactured in the 70s but were far lighter and less cushioned than those now on the shelves. Modern sports trainers take away a lot of the work from your feet as they are built to reduce shock, provide comfort and stability. Some researchers believe that this has a negative effect on foot muscles by decreasing function.

There are also widespread concerns about the force at which your foot hits the ground as you run which increases with speed. Around 75% of shod runners land on their heels (rear-foot strike) meaning they are more prone to force-related injuries such as plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and overpronation. However, barefoot runners have a much lighter style with most landing either flat-footed (mid-foot strike) or on their forefoot which produces minimal impact force and lowers the risk of injury.

Tried and tested tips for barefoot running:

So for those of you who are ready to go the barefoot way, follow these simple tips:

1. Start slowly and listen to your body
2. Pick a soft and safe surface free from glass and other articles
3. Pay close attention to your running form and posture
4.Stay light and keep a spring in your step
5. Consult a VIVOBAREFOOT specialist

At All3Motion we have a certified VIVOBAREFOOT specialist. Peter Ford is an athlete with over 20 years of running and multisport experience, with many years working as a specialist. As a VIVOBAREFOOT certified technique coach and Forwardmotion Run Assessor at All3Motion, Peter will have you on your way to running as nature intended.

For more information about barefoot running and to book an appointment please go to ourwebsiteor call our office on 01908 611077