How beneficial is barefoot running?

31 Jan
2015
By Amelia Smith

There was a time when people ran without shoes or with simple sandals, such as huaraches. They crushed along dirt roads, charged through rocky terrains and raced across green grasslands. However, in some parts of the world, people choose running barefoot, while during the last four decades there has been a boom in the running shoe technology.

barefoot running

Statistics proves that since the past 40 years, people in the West have been running on built-in flabby shoes to prevent injury and go faster. But, on the other hand, barefoot runners argue that running in minimal or without shoes are better and safer. Today, most of us think of not hitting the streets without putting on the mega-industry runners. But there is a different class of people who prefer running barefoot and believe in a more natural shoe for running. So, who is right and what kind of shoes should one wear for the healthiest running experience? Let us know about it more carefully with this article.

The jogging trend

People have been running since a long time. It is seen as an excellent form of exercise that keeps you rejuvenated and relaxes the mind and soul. It was in the 1960s that non-conditioned athletes began to see running as a form of exercise. Then was the whole new world of recreational runners with the interest in sport-specific footwear. Soon the iconic Nike hit the streets, and its successes waved all across. It was lighter than its competitors, and the heel lift was just next to nothing. Suddenly, the new trend began bursting, and there were other characteristics that catered to the consumer needs than the traditional shoe fit and feel-good factor. Instead, the runner had to figure out the running style to prevent injury as well. There are barefoot running techniques that are seen to spring up in the new era. Interestingly, despite engrossment of scientists in the design, there is no style-specific running shoe that has even been successful in reducing injury.

Look at what’s important: the form or footwear?

It is an interesting fact that the running gait matters more than the shoe. A good form that includes impact force and compliance can protect from injury and help improve performance. Most of the runners have a preferred or instinctive style but can learn to use a different gait. Importantly, the footwear affects the runner’s gait. So, know your form and then decide on running barefoot or picking a minimalist shoe.

Also Read: Eat green and be healthy

Draw the bottom line

Running barefoot or with a minimal covered foot promotes a forefoot or mid-foot striking motion. But there is a debate on whether barefoot runners get fewer injuries. This can be a possibility, but there is not enough research to say that for sure. However, it is a known fact that cushioned, inflexible shoes contribute to a misleading sense of security about the run, thus becoming less aware of the gait. This is a problem as shoes do not eliminate the impact forces connected with many running issues but gait awareness and modification can. In the meanwhile, it is crucial for you to understand the barefoot running techniques and decide on the transition to minimal shoes or barefoot running. Build up slowly and be realistic because the feet and legs need time to get used to the new set of positioning.

Seek the best performance

It is proved that minimalist or barefoot running techniques tend to take shorter yet faster strides than shod running. There is a clear statistic that shows some interesting tradeoffs between stride length and frequency. Elite athletes have a higher turnover of steps per minute than the non-elite runners. Additionally, the shod runners tend to have 140-160 steps per minute, regardless of the speed, suggesting that minimalist footwear helps to promote a niche level flow and reduces over-striding.

On the other hand, research studies also show that barefoot strikers consume less oxygen than mid-foot strikers translating into better performance. However, mid-foot strikers still perform well at marathon events showing that no single variable tells the complete story about performance.

Preferred shoes for other sports

Barefoot running techniques can also be read on other portals and shared articles by experts who add to your daily exercise routines. Running is a part of daily workout yet there should be an understanding that needs to be build up to try out running barefoot in other sporting activities too.

As far as minimalist footwear is concerned, it is not appropriate for every activity. The most ardent minimalist and barefoot types will tie up for certain types of sports. For instance, it is necessary to wear shoes for racquetball, spikes for sprinting and stiff soles for cycling.

Finding a minimalist shoe

If you decide to give minimalist footwear a try then there are certain pointers that help you recognize the perfect shoe. Firstly, the minimalist shoes come in a couple of different variants ranging from separated toe versions to footwear that looks traditional. However, all of the minimalist shoes have common characteristics and these are:

1.    The cushioning is not that thick and is placed right on the front and back of the shoe.

2. With a flexible sole, the footwear allows you to flex your foot easily at the mid-foot thus adding to the comfort.

3.    It will be twisted along the length.

4.    The shoe will not have a stiff arch support.

Listen to your body needs

Different body types require varied types of attention. Be it as simple as choosing footwear, every body type demands a different kind of build-up. If you choose to change your running technique to barefoot then just remember that tissue building takes time and correct measures. And once you let yourself build up gradually to minimalist shoes then may never turn back. So, eat healthy, sleep well and know the requirements of your body and then shoot up for running barefoot.

The points above are some of the thought-provoking reasons that help to understand the basics of running barefoot and are even more crystal clear. The details of barefoot running techniques and minimalist footwear strike a balance between research and real-life experiences. Although running barefoot is helpful yet wearing a minimalist shoe for every activity can become an issue. So, smartly choose your footwear or running technique according to your body and live healthily.

Also Read: Important nutrients every man needs

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Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.

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