You may have seen me running around the parks in either St. Albans or on Hampstead Heath without any footwear on and wondered what I was up to, so I thought that I would write something about why I do this.
Humans have been running barefoot for millions of years, even some of the greatest runners of all time have won gold medals running barefoot. In 1960 Abebe Bikila won the first of his gold medals by running a marathon in a world record time of 2hrs 15mins 17secs. Even today the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who have some of the best runners in the world run barefoot races that are 100miles long.
It was only in the 1970’s that the modern running shoe was invented by the big branded sports companies. If your wondering how humans coped with the impact of the foot hitting the floor before the ‘running trainer’existed its because of the way that the foot lands.
When running bare foot, runners tend to land on their forefoot before bringing down the heel, this enables the muscles in both the feet and lower leg to absorb the force in a way just like the suspension in your car does. However when runners that wear the modern running trainer, they tend to land with a heel strike which is facilitated by the raised cushion at the back of the shoe. This heel striking action actually slows down the running movement and then the runner has to then accelerate again, just imagine how much quicker you will be if you could prevent this.
Although there is no clear cut evidence to show that barefoot running is better than wearing a trainer, scientists have discovered that those that run barefoot or in minimal shoes tend to avoid heel striking and land with a forefoot strike. Dr Leiberman from Harvard University states that ‘People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike.’ He then goes on to speak about the amount of force that hits the ground when running with a heel strike, approximately 3 times your body weight 1000 times per mile.
Why Run Bare Foot?
Many bare foot runners say that they are more comfortable running like how our ancestors used to, I personally agree and love the feeling of the grass between my toes, it really wakes my feet up especially if I’ve been in shoes all day long. But for runners that are naturally rear foot strikers, barefoot can take a while getting used to, and if rushed can result in injury by the stress put on the Achilles tendon.For many novice bare foot runners the injuries faced may outweigh the positives of barefoot running.
If you are going to pursue a barefoot running style here are some tips that you might like to follow….
1. Start with a simple walk in the park without your shoes or socks on, get used to your feet muscles working without the support of your trainers, just be careful of anything on the floor that might cut your feet or dog pooh.
2. Once you feel that you are ready to run, start slow and only go for about 5 minutes. Remember this is a new movement and your calf muscles may not be strong enough to do much more.
3. Shorten up your stride length, if you try to stretch as far as you can you wont be able to land on your toes, go slow and enjoy it.
4. Make sure that you do some strengthening exercises in your lower legs, strong calves are important when you start to run on your toes more. You will also need to carry out some stretching exercises to create some movement around your ankles to prevent injury.
5. Only when your ready do you step up the distance, take your time and do not try to keep up with your friends at the beginning, you will catch them soon enough with your new and improved running technique.
If you would like to run like a barefoot runner but you are not prepared to go completely barefoot do not worry. Many of the big companies make their own versions of minimalistic footwear which make it less likely to get cuts and bruises on the bottom of your feet.
For more information regarding personal training in St. Albans or North London contact www.Shapeupfitness.co.uk or call 07834270929 for Andy.