TOP 3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BAREFOOT/MINIMALIST RUNNINGYears ago, way before it was popular, I had read about the benefits of barefoot running. At the time, I had been going almost daily to a nearby park to run around the paved trail on the edges of the park. Upon being enlightened to this new-found knowledge, I was eager to try running barefoot at the park. I parked my car, took off my shoes and socks, and just started running. Yes, I got a lot of weird looks from others going around the path, but I felt freer in running, than I had ever noticed. All those benefits I had read about I was convinced they were impacting me quite profoundly. I must have ran 2 miles that day; longer than I normally had run. At the end of the run, I walked to my car in complete satisfaction. You know where this is going don't you? As I opened the trunk of my car to gather and put on my shoes and socks, I noticed that I had bleeding blisters and raw open sores all over my feet. There was no way I was going to be able to put on my shoes or socks without bleeding through the socks and shoes. The pain I experienced the next few days left me having regretted doing so much so fast, but I was still determined to see how I could benefit from running “the way God intended”. How about you? Have you ever considered running barefoot or in minimalist shoes? If so, here are 3 things to know about barefoot/minimalist running.
1. HUMANS WERE MEANT TO RUN TOE-TO-HEELIf you were to look at cultures in which people walk around barefoot, and you were to ask one of the adults to run, guess what you would see? You would see, as their feet hit the ground, that they first land on their forefeet of their feet with movement towards the heel. This is naturally how we were designed to walk and run. When my kids were toddling around, I could even see them do this. With squeals of delight, they would run from one piece of furniture to another on their tippy toes, sometimes never letting their heels strike the ground. It is through years of wearing traditional shoes that we have learned to walk with our heels hitting the ground first. This constant stress we put on our heels can be one of the leading reasons we develop PLANTAR FASCIITIS, as well as, many other leg and foot injuries. Many studies have shown significantly higher incidence in both the severity and the frequency of injuries associated with “heel striking.” versus forefoot or even midfoot striking. Want more proof? Do a sprint across a very hard surface, barefoot! Chances are you will start hitting the ground with the balls of your feet, versus your heels, just so you don't experience the pain of striking the ground on your heels. Striking the ground heel first is the worst way to really absorb the shock that your feet have to take, and instinctively we all know that as we cringe thinking of a time we have painfully struck our heel. Running in “barefoot shoes” or minimalist shoes help train the feet to run in the way that God intended us to do so.
2. YOU DON'T NEED CUSHIONED HEELS TO RUN FASTERIt was in the early to mid-1970's, that the modern running shoe was introduced. There was this belief that a more cushioned heel would allow runners to increase their speeds by lengthening their natural stride by striking the ground heel first and not forefoot first. So Nike's founder Bill Bowerman introduced shoes that were well cushioned on the heels thus lessening the impact of heel striking. Evidence points, however, that by altering our natural pattern of movement, we actually run slower than we actually could. If you want to run to your fastest potential, trying a pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes might be the very thing that gets you there. So, I am a proponent of proper arch support when trying to alleviate plantar fasciitis. I have talked about what to look for in “running shoes". Yet, I also can see the benefits of running in minimalist shoes. If you have plantar fasciitis, I first recommend working on healing yourself from that, and so suggest using proper shoe support as I have mentioned before. Once free from plantar fasciitis, you might try experiencing the benefits of barefoot or minimalist shoes.
3. TRANSITION BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND MINIMAL/BAREFOOT SHOESIf you remember the blisters I mentioned at the beginning of this article. You want to avoid that, as well as, just let your feet get use to having a new stride. From years of heel strike walking, your feet are probably de-conditioned, and need time to strengthen the muscles of the calves and feet. I would suggest wearing minimalist/barefoot shoes for a few days, as much as you feel like, before ever running in them. Then when you start to run in them, start with a short run and see how you do. Softer surfaces will help you adapt to your new stride. By doing this, you will help to avoid early injury or pain in this transition. Conclusion I really like the science and the idea of going back to running and walking the way that we were created. If you like that idea, and can't run barefoot, I would really suggest trying a pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes. You might have to get past the way the barefoot ones look with all the toes separated, but you might just fall in love with this new way of walking. As you do so, you will be strengthening the muscles of the lower legs and feet and living healthier in the process. In the meantime, stay healthy so you can stay fit! Cheers! Drew
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