Going barefoot has its benefits
The health of our feet is vital. A minor deviation could negatively reverberate through the entire body inside and out. Our feet are also indicators of the health of the rest of our body. Modern shoe industry completely disregards this otherwise our shoes would look very different.
It’s not a panacea
Running barefoot is not a miraculous solution to your running injuries as many naysayers happily noted in the recent years. But nor is it a dangerous undertaking as some fearfully suggested.
It’s a good tool without guarantees
Going barefoot will help you learn to run with correct technique. It won’t teach you the correct technique, however. That has to be specifically learned.
Barefoot is a good tool to develop better perception of the body weight, support, muscle efforts related to the body weight location on the support and consequently muscle strength of the lower extremities.
But at the same time, barefoot running doesn’t guarantee a proper body position on support, proper interaction with support, and proper muscle efforts in space and time. This particularly concerns the pulling action of the support foot from the ground that was never a consciously accepted part of technique in the history of running.
Not a fashion statement
Running barefoot is exactly what it is – running without shoes, nothing more and nothing less. Humans have been doing it for a long while now.
To call running barefoot a trend is simply silly. If it’s a trend than it is the longest-running trend in human history. If anything is a trend than it’s the heavily cushioned, motion control, etc running shoes. That trend is roughly 40 years old. Whatever shoe style comes next – our bare feet are here to stay.
Choose the right question
Should you run with or without the shoes on? The much better and more essential question you should be asking yourself is ‘how’s your running technique’? Too much emphasis is placed on what we wear or not instead of how we move.
Running shoes don’t inflict as much damage as incorrect movement. But running shoes is a whole other important topic that we’ll discuss in another article.
So, is it not logical to assume, that if we learn how to do something correctly than regardless of the circumstance, and especially regardless of the costume that might come along with the circumstance, we should be able to safely and adequately perform the task at hand? In this instance – run well, run long or run often, run fast(er), run without the shoes or with, run in any kind of shoe (even the combat boots will do) and avoid injuries?
What about science?
What about it? Numerous studies had been done on various topics to do with running barefoot, types of foot strikes and types of running shoes without any definitive or conclusive evidence and the results were all over the map.
When it comes to running, the beneficial & quite natural outcomes of running barefoot to take note of are:
- significantly smaller steps
- higher stride frequency
- shorter contact time1
Why do we consider those beneficial? In the Pose Method® when running technique is taught, those 3 things are specifically emphasized. So going barefoot will help you attain those necessary skills with less effort.
Very few studies have been done on running technique as a whole. Three of those (just to highlight a few) done with pose method of running at the heart of the matter brought hope to the millions of injured runners by showing evidence of dramatic reduction in impact on the knees2,3 and improvements in pain and disability associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome4.
It begs the questions: why haven’t there been more of those studies? Why aren’t more scientists looking to study running as a whole body movement not just the legs and where they land and what’s on or off?
HOW we run is the key
The most important and definitive conclusion any reasonable person can and should make based on all the studies to date and probably some personal experience is that it’s not what we choose to wear or not wear when we run, ultimately it’s HOW we run that changes everything.
References (more studies on Pose Method can be found here):
- Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. Journal of Biomechanics 33 (2000) 269-278
- Impact Forces at the Knee Joint – A Comparative Study on Running Styles. Florida Atlantic University, 2001
- Reduced Eccentric Loading of the Knee with the Pose Running Method (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004)
- Effects of forefoot running on chronic exertional compartment syndrome. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 2011