Go Natural

Barefoot

If you haven’t heard of barefoot running then you obviously haven’t stepped into a sports shop in recent times. All the big brands have a minimalist range, Nike, Merrel, Adidas, Brooks, even Asics have got their Excel33. Less cushioning in your shoes may seem a little perplexing to those who have not heard of barefoot running – I will attempt to justify why you should at least try it.

I used to run in some of the most cushioned shoes you can buy – the Asics Kayano 17’s. The heel is colossal and it feels like you are running on platforms, but due to the spongey heel I considered them safe for my body. “I must be a natural heel striker”. What a load of rubbish. Simply go to your nearest park and take your shoes off and start running. Within hundreds of metres the pain as you land on your heel will force you to switch to a more natural style. You will start to land on your mid-foot, letting your toes splay and your muscles and tendons absorb the impact. Another moment of clarity. This is what barefoot shoes claim to do (to varying degrees). They make you run in a more natural, mid-forefoot strike. Looking back to my Asics, I would never have chosen such massive shoes if a spotty teenager in a running shop had not shown me evidence of overpronation. It irritates me just thinking about it. I actually went into such a shop last month and asked if they saw any such issues when people ran barefoot. Silence. I am not saying that barefoot shoes will solve all your running injury problems, but if used properly they can certainly help you take a large step in the right direction. Pun intended. So give them a go and transition very slowly. I find even walking with no shoes to be an incredibly liberating experience and am loathe to put shoes back on (unless its gravel underfoot).

Barefoot beach

I watched a video where it said “barefoot running is not a fad, the conventional running shoe is the fad”. I completely agree, over the last few decades the amount of cushioning on shoes has increased dramatically, yet the injury rate has seemingly not decreased. Strange that. So what is the point in all this cushioning? Think about how we have evolved, how we will have run for millennia, why should 20mm of foam change that?

The only legitimate argument that I have heard against barefoot running is the surfaces that we now run on. Cavemen would not have been running on tarmac and that is fact. As such, I personally would not advise running a road marathon barefoot. The ‘barefoot zealots’ of this world will say otherwise, but you need to help protect your feet. Look for a slightly cushioned shoe without a heel (zero drop). In this way you will retain your natural running style but will give your body some cushioning so that the effects of tarmac will not be detrimental. I will do a comparison soon of various running shoes that will promote a barefoot gait for marathons which I hope will shed more light on this.

Tarmac aside, please just try running barefoot, if only for 100 metres. It brings back childhood memories of being full of energy and running round parks. Being able to feel the ground underfoot is such a raw sensation and something that minimalist shoes look to provide, along with a faster and more efficient running style. Just try it.


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