Posted by: Joe Nuss on Mar 30, 2010
By Stacey Richardson and Dave Williams
A few weeks ago, I dodged a barefoot runner coming towards me in the bike lane. I was swerving to avoid a pile of broken glass but, the enthusiastic, heel-striking runner was headed right for it! Neither sustainable nor safe, he hasn’t left my mind since that day. While Christopher McDougall’s Book, Born to Run, has done much to popularize going without sneakers, there are many reasons to consider keeping yours. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you bare all.
In most cases, if you haven’t grown up running barefoot, your lifetime of movement patterns have ingrained in you a heel-strike pattern. THIS IS OKAY! We are not all lightweight Kenyans who grew up running without shoes! There are other less dramatic modifications you can make in your run form to move towards mid-foot striking than running down a glass-littered bike lane in your bare feet. In fact, making these changes gradually would be a great long-term goal.
Focus on a run cadence of 180 steps per minute. Gently leaning forward with your entire body and running with your core will show more rapid improvements than trashing your run shoes.
Running barefoot on grass or turf for bouts of 50 to 100 meters at the end of a workout is a safe way to practice the benefit of going without sneakers plus, it feels great to run like a kid again - barefoot and carefree! You can even do these with your kids and model their run form. Begin with a set of 5 segments of barefoot strides and work your way up to 10, then 20 repetitions over several months.
If your suffering from pain and joint problems, it’s likely more influenced by your form, not your sneakers. Efficiency of movement, injury history, flexibility, muscle imbalances, body mass, core strength, agility, and even your warm-up routine are all things that you should have evaluated by a professional.
Remember, there’s a lot more to running than your choice of shoes or no shoes. Remember the bigger picture and you’ll stay injury-free and in your running shoes for many years to come.
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Stacey Richardson is a coach at Triangle Multisport and professional triathlete at 70.3 distance and has been ranked #1 in the Female Open Division of the North Carolina Triathlon Series for the past three years.