What is barefoot running all about anyways?
Pretty much everyone these days has seen those strange Vibram “toe shoes” or heard something about this barefoot running thing.
Whether you’ve read the book “Born to Run” and barefoot/minimalist running has piqued your interest, or you just think it is a completely wacky trend, there is a lot of debate about the benefits and validity of the movement.
First of all, a little about myself. I am the proud mother of a 1 year old boy, Wyatt.
I love running, trail running, mountain biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, camping…….pretty much anything that is active and can be done outdoors.
I have a degree in exercise science and have been working in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years, and my husband Scott (who is an exercise physiologist) and I put on a national race series called the Naked Foot 5K.
And yes, the race is what it sounds like- a barefoot optional 5K.
So knowing this, I guess I am a little biased when it comes to the barefoot running movement.
However, I’d love to share some facts, knowledge, and my philosophy about barefoot and minimalist running with you before you form a strong opinion about it one way or the other.
Barefoot Running… Why?
First of all, we consider ourselves “barefoot moderates”. We like to run barefoot but use it as more of a tool to help us refine our running form, strengthen our feet and as a part of our larger training regime. I’d say we do less that 3 miles barefoot a week.
As a trail runner, I strongly believe there is a time and place for a good pair of shoes too (although there are some amazing ultra runners out there like Jason Robillard that do trail ultras barefoot).
That is why I was so happy when the shoe companies started making “minimalist” footwear. Basically shoes with a little less padding specifically around the heel area.
You see, the theory is that traditional footwear, with their humongous padded heals promotes running with the heel striking first then the rest of the foot. Studies have found that runners that “heel strike” have far more impact on the joints than runners that land on the forefoot (ball of the foot) first.
Pretty much every footwear company out there these days is making a minimalist shoe model, and they’d be dumb not to. A survey in 2010 found that minimalist footwear would make up 1/3 of the multi-billion dollar athletic shoe industry by mid 2011. This has already happened and then some.
Should You Run Barefoot?
So here is our input on the whole thing: Learn to run better first. If you don’t want to run barefoot then learn to run “like you are barefoot”.
If you heel strike you may benefit from taking off your shoes, finding a nice soft grassy field and just practicing landing mid-foot. Make sure your heel still hits the ground, just not before the ball of your foot does (many people make this mistake, never let their heels touch, get really sore calves, possibly Achilles issues and swear off barefoot/minimalist running for life).
Another thing to focus on is increasing your turnover. Meaning to take smaller steps and get those little legs moving faster. Don’t extend your legs way out in front of you, keep those feet below you and you will never heel strike and will lessen the impact to your joints significantly.
Go and try out a pair of minimalist shoes. Don’t wear them all the time at first, you need to make sure your body gets used to having less padding. You need time for your feet to get stronger, your bone density to increase, your joints and ligaments to adapt.
Most people just don’t do this whole barefoot running thing right. It can really benefit your running, walking, and really over all health (less joint pain!) if you take your time and listen to your body. I think that this “trend” is here to stay and that it will really change the way people think about running, training and the footwear industry for the better.
Last thing: Sign up for a barefoot friendly 5k! The Naked Foot 5K benefits the charity Soles4Souls- we encourage people to bring shoes to donate and then running the race barefoot is optional.
We have partnered with Kids Running America and want to stop childhood obesity! Thus, our 5K is FREE to kids under 12 and we also have a shorter free kids 1k.
We organize “Learn to Run” clinics and training sessions leading up to each race to teach you to run with better form whether barefoot, minimalist or traditionally shod.
Our events also include a “Bare ‘Life” expo with games, fitness demos (like yoga, crossfit, etc) and organic food and product samples.
So, we hope to see you out there and if not get out and run and HAVE FUN! That’s what barefoot running is really all about.
Ever run barefoot? Want to start? Share below!