Barefoot running; How to incorporate it safely into your running program

It seems the latest craze among the running crowd is “barefoot running”. “Barefoot running” refers to wearing shoes with minimal support and ample flexibility in the sole, or just running in no shoes at all. Recent scientific evidence has shown that there has been a dramatic rise in knee injuries in runners in particular, since the shoe industry has continued to engineer shoes to help correct situations such as pronation, supination, low arches, etc. It has been found that runners who wear shoes that provide substantial support most often run with the heel striking the ground first, which results in an impact 2-3 times greater than their body weight. The high impact of running is what often leads to injuries in the knees, hips and ankles over time.  Studies have proven that those who run in shoes with minimal support or barefoot tend to land more on the fore or midfoot, thus reducing the impact of the foot strike to the body. This is in fact the way our bodies were designed to run.  Although this type of running has proven to produce fewer  injuries, it is essential that this new form is added gradually. The following are a few tips on how to go about integrating some barefoot work safely…

  • 2-3 times per week for 10-15 minutes try running on the grass without shoes
  • Gradually build on that time for the first couple of weeks
  • Once you have worked in the grass you may integrate some short runs on the pavement in a “minimal” running shoes for 1-2 miles
  • Over time your body will make the proper adjustments in stride to safely begin to lengthen the run time

Barefoot running should be something that is introduced gradually in order to be safe and effective. For many who have adopted this type of running too quickly, stress fractures among other issues have been reported.  In addition to the bullets above it is also important not to neglect regular stretching and foam rolling for optimal performance. A couple of shoes that are recommended for this type of running are the Nike Free series or the Vibram 5 Fingers. For further information on these products check out Maine Running Company on the web or at their store located on Forest Ave. in Portland, ME.

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