If you’re like me, running is an active way to keep in touch with yourself, the outdoors and others. Recently, my husband and I trained in barefoot running shoes for Ragnar’s Wasatch Back and we were surprised by our experience.
Why Barefoot Running?
The New York Times calls it “running in your birthday shoes.”
In the book “Born to Run” Christopher McDougall’s description of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who run barefoot made me want to try barefoot running because it seemed like a more natural way to run.
I believed feeling the earth beneath my feet would make running a more visceral experience.
The premise for barefoot or minimalist running:
1. Injury prevention
2. More efficient running style
3. Better posture
Can Barefoot Running Benefit You?
The biomechanics of running are not simple and runners have different running forms. Some will benefit greatly from barefoot running while others will not.
I’ve found specialty running stores extremely helpful in determining the type of shoe I should wear.
According to Men’s Health Matthew Silvis M.D., a sports medicine physician at Penn State, has studied injury rates among barefoot runners and has seen an “alarming number of foot stress fractures, calf tears, and Achilles strains in runners transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running.”
Give barefoot running a shot if you’re options are limited due to injuries. There are many runners out there who suffer from chronic injuries and have found barefoot running help to reduce them.One runner said “I have an old knee injury that gets aggravated…I would not be running if I were not running barefoot.”
Don’t change to barefoot running if you’ve never had a running injury. This was my situation. I changed and then I had my first serious injury. I started training slowly, walking for two weeks, then running a mile or two. Then one day I ran 5.5 miles and I felt a tweak in my calf and suddenly I couldn’t move my leg without significant pain.
Within a week I saw a physical therapist who wasn’t surprised when I told her I was using bare foot running shoes. She said barefoot running had brought her a lot of new clients.
Dr. Allison Gruber, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says “Each runner runs a certain way for a reason, likely because of the way they were physically built. Unless there is some indication that you should change things, such as repeated injury, do not mess with that plan.”
Essentially “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It seems intuitive but one can get sucked into barefoot running’s beneficial claims and I’ll admit, those minimalist shoes look pretty cool.
Making the Switch
Runner’s World says anyone who’s making the switch from conventional shoes to minimalist footwear needs an extensive training period to ready the foot for barefoot style and reminds runners “not everyone’s foot is able to tolerate barefoot running, even with the training period.”
Barefoot Running Shoes
There are plenty of minimalist thin-soled shoes on the market to support barefoot running. I personally like Zemgear because it is a female-owned small business started in 2010 to help active individuals find their Zone of Endless Motion (ZEM).
I also like Vivobarefoot because I can actually pack these around they are so flexible AND they are very socially responsible in manufacturing their shoes.
I love my barefoot shoes for walking, hiking, and running errands. I would buy them specifically for these activities. I love the way my feet feel wearing these types of shoes…just not running.Whether you stay with traditional running shoes or make the switch to barefoot running you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel when you run in the correct shoe for your feet.