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sprints pt. II

Posted Sep 09 2010 12:00am

So my post on my new barefoot runners generated a lot of comments . There seems to be a lot of controversy on whether or not running barefoot is really better. I personally don’t advocate one school of thought or another. In spite of the fact that I’m starting to get into barefoot running I wouldn’t call myself a champion for the movement. I just think that it’s supplemental to a well rounded running programme a way to build strength in my feet and transition to a mid-foot strike.

So for your benefit I decided to do a little write-up about everything that I’ve been reading about barefoot running:

Due to the elevation of the heel caused by cushioned running shoes, shod runners naturally contact the ground with their heel first and with greater force. This strike encourages your feet to land in front of your body and the force of impact moves up through the heel, to your knees, hips,  and back. Additionally, the cushioning and stability control of running shoes weaken the foot and ankles which no longer have to do the work that the running shoes now do.

When running barefoot (or with minimalist footwear) the runner naturally has a shorter stride and strikes the ground closer to the front of the foot. Consequently the impact is absorbed by the foot  and the foot experiences briefer contact with the ground, hence the feeling of floating.

  • Most evidence that barefoot running is better appears to be anecdotal. There’s no concrete proof that it’s better for you, but at the same time there’s no concrete proof that wearing running shoes prevents injuries.
  • The benefit of barefoot running comes from the way that the foot hits the ground, but one need not run barefoot in order to change their foot strike. With training, a fore-foot or midfoot strike can be achieved in shoes as well (my husband does this naturally in shoes).
  • When barefoot training, you have to take baby steps (figuratively). You can’t try to be a champion and run 3.25miles on your first time out otherwise you might wake up 2 days later with calf muscle aches so terrible that you’re unable to walk. Trust me.
  • An estimated 70% of runners experience injury
  • The recent popularity of the sport has changed the demographic of the typical runner– it’s not just for the lightweight, athletic, and efficient. For example, the average marathon time has increased by almost 80 minutes in the past 20 years. These days, everyone’s running, and that’s a great thing! But this points to a flaw in the common defense made by barefoot runners that in spite of vast improvements in shoe technology the percentages of runners injured has not improved. It is difficult to compare the injury rates from past to present due to the change in the running population.
  • Barefoot running requires more calf muscle strength and Achilles tendon stretching

Does it create pressure on your joints to run on such a hard surface with no cushion?

I usually walk around barefoot at home and the flats I wear out have minimal support (like sanuk sidewalk surfers) so the barefoot shoes felt pretty natural. There definitely isn’t any support there and that’s the idea. It’s supposed to strengthen your feet, ankles, and calves.
I don’t know if I would want to stand around in them all day though. I remember being a cashier in my teens and getting lower back pain after working a long shift and wearing shoes with little support.I didn’t notice any joint pain while I was running with the barefoot shoes. Muscle pain, though? Yes. My calves are killing me.

How much did they cost?

They cost me $80 for the shoes. I also bought a pair of toe socks (which I haven’t tried out yet) for $15. That’s US dollars too, so they’re a bit pricier than I usually spend for runners (I love the Adidas outlet at Windsor Crossing to buy my sneaks).

And what’s on the bottom? Plastic? Rubber?

They’re actually rubber at the bottom. It definitely feels like your feet are directly on the ground– there is really no support. You still feel things under your feet like twigs and pebbles but they don’t hurt as much as they would if you had nothing on your feet.

If you have any more questions about the Vibrams just shoot me an e-mail. I’ll try to answer you back if I can, or I’ll wait until I have more experience with them and keep you posted!

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