Have you seen people running with the vibram fingers running shoes (those funny looking ones with the individual toes) lately? In recent years they have become more popular, advocating a “minimalist” or “more natural” approch to running and encouraging people to train their feet, rather than “casting” their feet in running shoes. If you’ve ever wondered whether to stick with the standard running shoe or try the vibrams/barefoot this post is for you.
There is no shortage of information online about running shoes and barefoot running. Christopher Mcdougals book was a game changer for many people. “Born to Run” was an inspiring read and certainly inspired me to get out and run that summer. But is it as simple as ditching the shoes and running barefoot? Will this switch alone cure your lower limb injuries?
Originally, the standard running shoe was created to support our feet. Running shoes were made to absorb the impact from walking or running. Running puts 7 times your bodyweight through each step… that’s a lot of force for our feet and lower limbs to absorb!
In western culture, we don’t tend to walk around much in barefeet. We are used to wearing shoes for every situation outside of our homes, and so our feet have adapted accordingly. Of course, barefoot walking or running will make your feet and ankles stronger, but it’s not that simple. If your norm is to walk barefoot all day, then running barefoot is no problem. Whereas, if you’re used to wearing supportive shoes and you suddenly switch to barefoot, problems may occur.
The new stressor of barefoot running can be hugely beneficial for foot and ankle strength. When running barefoot, your feet are forced to work harder to maintain a stride. Your cadence will naturally increase, due to the more natural running motion (compared to shoes). It’s a great sensation to run on a surface without shoes, it makes you more in tune with your stride and foot landing. Naturally when running barefoot, you’ll find that mid-foot landing will take place. This makes you a more energy efficient runner.
How to incorporate barefoot running effectively
1. Start off walking barefoot and practice on grass or a soft surface.
2. Gradually add barefoot running into easy runs. Take off your shoes 5 minutes from the end of your run, making sure to focus on your stride and running easy.
3. Listen to your body, increase the duration gradually, adding a minute to each run is a realistic starting point.
4. Foam roll and stretch, your lower legs will be very tight for the first while.
5. Start in the off season, to allow for adaptation before the workouts start.
Take home advice:
If you’re running in shoes like me, don’t try to fix what ain’t broke, but keep an open mind to trying barefoot running!
Personally I found adding in barefoot running, really helped my leg stength.
Try it out and keep us posted.
Until next time