Catalyst (ABC TV 6th September) ran a story on barefoot running with some interesting analysis of barefoot and shod strides. When a runner shifts from running in shoes to barefoot running, the gait pattern changes from landing on the heel to landing on the whole foot or mid-fore foot. There is greater ground reaction force when wearing a running shoe, and the calf muscles work very hard with barefoot running. The metabolic cost of running increases with barefoot running.
There is some great analysis in the Catalyst piece, of the way different muscles work when running barefoot compared to running in shoes, which serves to highlight the fact that you can’t just throw away your shoes one day and start running barefoot, and expect not to get injured. Like anything new, you should ease into it slowly. And by slowly, we mean gradually increase your barefoot mileage over a period of six months or so, and don’t do all of your running in bare feet or in minimilist shoes.
The increased demand on your calf muscles means it would make sense to include calf raises in your strenth training for at least 6 weeks prior to starting to run barefoot, along with some good calf stretching and strengthening when you start to leave the shoes behind.
Is barefoot running for you? Not necessarily. It really depends on the structure of your foot and your biomechanics, and your willingness to make gains little by little. It certainly does feel great running in barefeet or with minimal footwear every now and again!
Go to the Catalyst article, and also take a look at some of the links provided at the end of the transcript. It makes for interesting reading regardless of whether you are an devotee of the barefoot or minimalist approach.
Tell us your experiences with barefoot running and minimalist running shoes. Do you love it? Do you hate it? If you think you’d like to try it, ask us for advice.