Barefoot Running

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Run
Tags: , ,

There has been a lot of interest in barefoot running these days.

In 2010, Christopher MacDougall wrote “Born to Run” about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons who run hundreds of miles at a time – barefoot. He has looked at the biomechanics of the body and come to the conclusion that anyone can run – you just have to know how! (http://www.chrismcdougall.com/) I have not yet read the book, but it is on my list.

Very generally, the thought is that shoes are not natural. We are born barefoot, and that is the way we are intended to walk and run. Most people in developing countries run barefoot all the time, and don’t have the same kind of injuries that the developed world sees. Shoes should only be worn to protect your feet from cuts from stepping on things, not for support.

What is the difference between running with and without shoes? As I understand it, when running in shoes (traditional runners), the heel strikes first and then the foot rolls forward to push off of the ball of the foot. The hard heel-strike causes pressure up the leg to the knee. Runners, therefore, are made with more cushioning in the heel, to minimize the damage. When running barefoot, the middle of the foot strikes first. This allows for cushioning of the strike, taking pressure off of the heel.

The term “barefoot running” may be misleading. It is possible to run a barefoot style while wearing shoes. The shoes do not need to be the heavy runners traditionally worn for running, but can be a lighter, minimalist type of shoe. This has, of course, sparked the development of new lines of expensive “minimalist” shoes! The Barefoot Shoe store (http://www.borntorun.com/) has a whole line of light running shoes, but Vibram seems to have the monopoly market on the Five-fingers “glove” for the feet (http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/).

All I know is that my knees and hips will not tolerate my previous running style, and my daughter has used “five fingers” for a week, and her feet are already noticeably stronger. While I will not spend the money on the five-fingers minimalist shoe, I will try to develop the style of barefoot running in lighter shoes.

These are the shoes my 12 year old runs in

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