Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Barefoot Running: Is it for you?

Barefoot Running, is it for you?

By Meredith Cale
Kintec Fitting Expert, Run Clinic instructor, and self-confessed shoe geek

Barefoot running has been gaining popularity over the past few years. So far, it has stood the test of time and proven to have many benefits. But is it right for you?

Firstly, barefoot running is a great way to strengthen your feet. In structured and highly cushioned shoes, your feet have less freedom to move naturally. The muscles in your feet are used and exercised.

Barefoot running can also help to improve your running form. Because there is no padding between your body and the ground, you have better proprioception.

What is proprioception? In a nutshell, it’s the sense of your body position. Having better proprioception can mean less heel striking, shorter strides, and faster cadence. All of which reduce the impact on your body and some say can result in potentially less injuries.

Aside from all the great things barefoot running has to offer, there are some things you should consider before heading out on your next run sans-shoes. Firstly, not everyone’s biomechanics are suitable for it. So consult with a biomechanics expert such as a Kinesiologist or a Canadian Certified Pedorthist (such as those at Kintec) for a gait analysis beforehand.

It takes some time to adjust to running barefoot. You need to give you body time to adapt and build strength.  Too much, too soon is the most common problem people encounter. The result is usually an injury, which, depending on the severity can sideline you for many weeks.

Minimalist shoes such as the Vibram FiveFingers can also help to provide some protection. In this NewYork Times article, 10mm of cushioning was found to be the best balance between having too much cushioning and the metabolic cost to running barefoot.

The trend in the footwear industry these days is also towards a slightly lower pitch or even zero pitch shoes (such as those from Altra Running), and less towards the higher pitched squishy highly cushioned shoes from before.

For the best results, think of using barefoot running as just a training tool. One night a week or after a run, take off your shoes and practice running around a grass field for 10 minutes. You will get the benefit from barefoot running and won’t risk getting injured!

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