So, you've been hearing more and more about barefoot running...but what's the big deal, and why are so many people jumping over to this strange new technique? Turns out, many studies are siting a slew of physical benefits.
According to Bill Hendrick of WebMD Health News, "Researchers reporting in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Nature show that runners who run without shoes usually land on the balls of their feet, or sometimes flat-footed, compared to runners in shoes, who tend to land on their heels first.
The scientists, using motion and force analyses, showed that barefoot runners who strike on the fore-foot (land on the balls of their feet) generate smaller collision forces than shod rear-foot strikers.
The researchers say that although there are anecdotal reports of reduced injuries in barefoot populations, more work is needed to test their view that either barefoot runners or those with minimal footwear (such as sandals or moccasins) have reduced injury rates."
Vibram FiveFingers, manufacturer of the innovative foot protection for "barefoot" running, states the benefits in a simple 6-point list:
1. Strengthens Muscles in the Feet and Lower Legs - wearing FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.
2. Improves Range of Motion in Ankles, Feet and Toes – no longer ‘cast’ in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.
3. Stimulates Neural Function Important to Balance and Agility - when wearing Vibram FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.
4. Improves Proprioception and Body Awareness – those same neurological receptors heighten body awareness, sending messages about body mechanics, form, and movement.
5. Eliminates Heel Lift to Align the Spine and Improve Posture – By lowering the heel, our bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spine alignment.
6. Allows the Foot and Body to Move Naturally, Which Just FEELS GOOD.
This TV presentation from Boston Channel 5 discusses the benefits of running barefoot, including research at Harvard University. Preston Curtis (13-year barefoot runner) is featured:
Though barefoot running may not be for everyone, it certainly presents a new and interesting option for runners. Even some who still swear by their standard running shoes are using barefoot running as an occasional alternate training method to help strengthen the foot and leg muscles that don't typically get attention in a standard running regiment.