For many runners, up until recently, choosing the correct footwear would be essential to their training. This does not mean, however, that today’s athletes in training have taken to wearing any old shoe whilst jogging or sprinting; rather many have eschewed footwear altogether and taken up barefoot running. Proponents of this technique have stated it is the way that humans are meant to run and, as such, this style is much healthier and more beneficial for them. Yet, the question remains, is there any truth to this? Or, as the naysayers state, can barefoot running actually cause harm and injury to its practitioners?
Those who partake in barefoot running, inspired by the popularity of Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, believe that this technique can actually help them avoid injury. As many doctors point out, whilst running with shoes on, it is more than likely the heel of the runner will strike the ground first – something that stands in contrast to a barefoot runner whose foot is more likely to have the middle of their foot impact the ground first. This difference can, allegedly, help the runner avoid many long term injuries that those who run on a regular basis with shoes on suffer including calf and Achilles strains.
One way, however, in which barefoot runners put themselves at risk are those who shed their shoes and instantly go running for a long distance or on a daily basis. Experts suggest that the correct way to use the barefoot running approach is to ease oneself in slowly as it may take weeks or even months for the foot to adjust to this new running style and to get comfortable. Whilst many doctors have expressed the benefits of this style they also have pointed out the fact care should be undertaken so as to avoid injuries associated with subjecting the foot to an intense experience it is not used to. Nobody can become a Zola Budd or an Abebe Bikila overnight.
Due to this transition period between wearing trainers and completely eschewing footwear many brands have attempted to come up with new shoes which give the foot the feel of being barefoot, chief amongst them the Nike Free and the Vibram FiveFingers. Like Skechers before them, the shoes have been seized upon by runners with some vigour and proclaimed as “miracle shoes”; whether the trend, endorsed by people as varied as Danny glover and Scarlett Johansson, lasts or not, however, is open to speculation.
The principle behind barefoot running is that it can help avoid injuries as it teaches us to run in a new way with the impact of our bounds absorbed by a different area of the foot to traditional running. This means that the logic behind barefoot running dictates that it will take a while for a runner to adjust their style and, as such, much care should be taken. Whilst lifting weights, for example, is something that can help improve an athlete’s health it is always advisable to not go straight to the heaviest weight in the gym as injury would be more than likely; building up, using short periods on less heavy weights for a while would be more beneficial. The same principle applies to barefoot runners – start slowly and build up if you feel this technique is for you. Invest in some running shoes that will cushion your heel, such as Skechers, and alternate between these and short distances with no footwear. Over time barefoot running will begin to feel more natural and, at this point, it will be possible to add more and more of it to your routine. Like all exercise regimes the most important thing is to take care.
About the Author of this Barefoot Running Article
Kieron Casey is a fashion writer and blogger who also enjoys jogging in his spare time in his Skechers UK trainers.
You can know more about the history and health and medical implication of barefoot running, visit Wikipedia.
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