You’re not a real barefoot runner if you haven’t said one of these
Posted by Barefoot Running, Barefoot Running Shoes | Posted on 11-01-2012| Posted in
What are the benefits of barefoot running?
Well, Harvard’s Dr. Daniel Lieberman has another answer. His studies from 2 years ago showed how barefoot runners who forefoot strike put less force into the ground and, therefore, less force into their joints.
Now he has 2 new studies that have just come out that support how proper barefoot running form and minimalist running shoes can result in fewer injuries and more efficient running.
“Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study” looked at college cross-country runners and found that those who heel-strike (landing on their heels first) had approximately twice the rate of injury than those who forefoot strike. For those of you who’ve been exploring barefoot running know, proper barefoot form involves landing on the forefoot first.
BTW, that doesn’t mean you “run on your toes” — your heel can naturally drop to the ground after the forefoot meets the ground first. In fact, letting your ankle relax is part of the natural spring mechanism of the leg.
You may also know that the easiest way to help train yourself to forefoot strike is to go barefoot or wear something genuinely minimalist, like Invisible Shoes. The more you can feel the ground when you run, the less you’ll want to land on your heel… because IT HURTS!
Be careful, though, many shoes that call themselves “minimalist” still have enough padding and protection between you and the ground that you lose the barefoot feel and can still heel strike. In fact a recent barefoot running study by ACE and some video of barefoot runners made by Pete Larson of runblogger.com showed that a majority of Vibram Fivefinger wearers still heel strike as they run. In my experience, this is probably because the VFFs have enough padding (especially the ones made for running, ironically) that the wearers can’t tell they’re still heel striking.
Dr. Lieberman’s other study, ”Effects of Footwear and Strike Type on Running Economy” demonstrated that runners in minimal footwear have increased efficiency than those in traditional running shoes. Specifically, the study concluded that ”Minimally shod runners are modestly but significantly more economical than traditionally shod runners regardless of strike type, after controlling for shoe mass and stride frequency. The likely cause of this difference is more elastic energy storage and release in the lower extremity during minimal shoe running.”
If minimal shoes make you more efficient, that’s good news for us, since Invisible Shoes are about the most minimalist running shoe you can find.
Barefoot hiking may be the next minimalist/barefoot trend.
While barefoot running is the thing that became popular (thanks in large part to Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run), I’ve noticed in the last few months that:
- Many new barefoot runners haven’t read, or even heard of, Chris’s book
- A significant percentage of our customers are not runners, but hikers, walkers, gym-goers, yoga practitioners, and CrossFit-ers
And, more and more, I get emails and photos from people showing them at the top of some mountain, either barefoot or in their Invisible Shoes. A lot of times their emails will say, “I brought my running sandals with me to use around the campsite or if I was going through water and didn’t want my shoes to get wet. But it was so much more fun to feel the ground as I hiked, that I just put my hiking boots in my pack and wore my huaraches instead.”
I know the feeling. I haven’t worn real shoes for anything like a hike since the Summer of 2009, and the idea of balancing on my stiff hiking boot soles instead of gripping the rocks and roots isn’t at all appealing. And it’s definitely one of my favorite moments when I come upon a small stream to cross, and see a handful of hikers trying to figure out how to make it without getting their feet wet… and then I just plod through the water without breaking stride
Frankly, I love the idea that minimalism and barefoot and natural movement make it beyond the world of running, beyond the question of performance (e.g. “do you run faster barefoot?” or “is barefoot running better than shod running?”). After you’ve been barefoot for a while, you simply love the way it feels in every circumstance.
Granted, I also think that being barefoot or truly minimalist has other advantages — all those nerves in the bottom of your feet are there for a reason; use ‘em or lose ‘em. But if the only reason people take off their motion-controlled shoes is for fun, that’s good enough for me! And if they decide to wear Invisible Shoes for those times where a little bit of protection or style are needed, I won’t complain
Oh, backing up to the reason I wrote this post: There’s a great story today about a woman who climbed Kilimanjaro barefoot.