Category Archives: Running Form

Become a Certified Natural Running Coach

Posted by on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 @ 9:12 am | Leave a reply


Newton Natural Running™ form coaching certification
provides coaches with knowledge designed to assist clients with efficient running form, injury prevention and training goals.

The next coaching certification program will be held:

JUNE 18 – JUNE 19, 2011 | OKLAHOMA CITY, OK

RED COYOTE RUNNING
5800 Classen Blvd. Suite 1, Oklahoma City, OK 73118
June 18, 8am – 8pm
June 19, 8am – 12pm

***Registration deadline is June 15, 2011.
Please contact coaching@newtonrunning.com to register or for more information. NOTE: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

Newton Natural Running™ Form Coaching Certification requires participants to:

  • Practice a Newton Natural Running™ form (e.g. Chi, Pose, Evolution, barefoot)
  • Attend a three day coaching certification clinic
  • Pass written, oral and/or practical examination

Certified Newton Natural Running™ Form Coaches can:

  • Teach and analyze Newton Natural Running™ form
  • Present Newton Natural Running™ talks and clinics
  • Use Newton Natural Running™ certified logos and marks
  • Obtain a free listing on newtonrunning.com
  • Get discounts on Newton Running products
  • Become a Newton Running Affiliate

The two-day coaching clinics include:

  • Newton Natural Running™ seminar
  • Natural Running textbook
  • Pre-assessment
  • Posture analysis
  • Gait analysis
  • Form drills
  • Strength and balance exercises
  • Teaching techniques
  • Footwear choices
  • Shoe and apparel package

Not interested in becoming a coach, but want to learn about becoming a natural runner? Attend the free Natural Running Presentation on Saturday, June 18 at 6 p.m. and one of the associated one-hour associated form clinics on June 18 or 19 at 10 a.m. All events take place at Red Coyote Running in Oklahoma City, OK.

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Registration Opens for Chris Legh Tri Camp in Vail, CO

Posted by on Thursday, April 14, 2011 @ 4:26 pm | Leave a reply

Two-time Ironman triathlete Chris Legh is hosting two triathlon training camps this summer in Vail, Colorado: June 16-19 and July 21-24, 2011.

This elite program is limited to a maximum of 15 participants in each of two sessions offered during 2011. The resort amenities and scenic setting offer the opportunity for the entire family to participate.

Package includes personalized coaching with world-class athlete Chris Legh along with support vehicles, test equipment, gear and full access to all resort facilities. It also includes three breakfasts at Ludwig’s Restaurant in the Sonnenalp, two specially prepared lunches and three healthy, gourmet dinners and three nights’ lodging.

The camp is hosted at the family-owned Sonnenalp Resort in the heart of Vail village, which has a 10,000-square foot European Spa and four landmark restaurants in an intimate, boutique hotel setting.

Camp prices are:
$1850 per participant in a single room
$1375 per person for two participants sharing a room
$1145 per person for two people; one participant and one non-training participant
$1250 per person for local participants

Click here to download the camp brochure.

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Transitioning to Natural Running Form and Shoes

Posted by on Friday, March 25, 2011 @ 8:05 am | 6 Replies

Men's Gravity Neutral Performance Trainer

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

Whatever your body type, fitness level or experience, the two biggest changes you can make to improve your running performance and reduce the likelihood of overuse injury are:

1. Wear shoes with a nearly level profile
2. Learn how to run naturally

How an Elevated Heel Affects Running Form

For the past 30 years, running shoes have been designed with thickly cushioned, built-up heels. This type of shoe forces the body to balance itself in an unnatural, backward-leaning position. Your toes are pointing downward, your weight is shifted rearward, and your back is slightly arched. Basically, your body struggles to maintain balance while compensating for the lifted heel.

If you’ve been running this way for years — and most people have — it’s likely the muscles and other soft tissue in your feet, lower legs (the Achilles tendons in particular) and core need to adapt to the proper body position that comes with running in flat shoes.

The Achilles tendon acts like a large rubber band that stretches and recoils with every stride. If you’ve been wearing shoes with an elevated heel — including your everyday work and casual shoes — your Achilles tendon has a shorter range of motion. When you begin running in a level shoe like a Newton Running shoe, the Achilles tendon needs to stretch to accommodate for the 10-15 mm distance that used to be taken up by an elevated heel.

How to Make the Switch

If you abruptly transition from an elevated heel to doing all your mileage in a level shoe, you’re likely to feel some Achilles and calf muscle soreness. Instead, make the transition gradually: run less than a mile at a time a 2 or 3 days per week. Work on your form and build strength in your feet, ankles and lower legs with the following tips:

Work on strength and balance:

  • Go flat as often as possible! Ease the transition on your Achilles and calf muscles by walking barefoot. Wear flatter shoes even when you’re not running.
  • Do balancing drills. Stand on one foot with a mostly straight leg, lift the other foot off the ground at a 90 degree angle and close your eyes. If you can maintain balance for 30 seconds with your eyes closed on both sides, you may have enough strength be begin transitioning to level shoes. If you lose balance on either side, make this drill part of your daily regime. (Be sure to work on each foot.)
  • Do barefoot heel dips on a staircase. While holding on to a wall or railing, balance yourself with your metatarsal heads on the edge of the stair even with the ball of your foot. Slowly dip your heel below the plane of the stair, feeling the stretch in your Achilles and calf muscles and then slowly raise back up.

Increase the flexibility and range of motion in your feet and lower legs:

  • Do common wall stretches. Lean into a wall with your hands while flexing the lower calf with a flat foot. Do this with both a straight and bent knee and repeat a couple times per day after the muscles are sufficiently warm.
  • Increase the flexibility of your plantar fascia. While sitting in a chair, cross your leg over your knee and firmly push your fingers or a thumb into the center of the sole of your foot. Maintain that pressure and point your toes up and down to stretch the plantar fascia.

Focus on form:

  • After a run, use form drills to further develop specific aspects of proper running form. Skipping, bounding, high knees and butt kicks are easy and don’t take a lot of time.
  • Watch yourself run. Have a friend video your stride in traditional shoes, level shoes and while running barefoot on grass. Notice how your body moves differently in each scenario.
    Do your feet land under your center of mass? Are you running with a quick cadence and relatively short strides? Are you running with upright but slightly forward-leaning posture? Are you carrying your arms close to your body at about a 90-degree angle? Adopt this form in your new shoes.

Take it easy!

  • Your inner marathoner might be craving the challenge and rejuvenation that a long run always brings, but refrain from going on long runs until you’ve gone through a gradual progression. Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week and make sure you’re diligent about self-analyzing your form and your progression.

Danny Abshire is the author of “Natural Running” (VeloPress, 2010) and the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot/forefoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years. For more, go to newtonrunning.com.

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Natural Running Program Reduces Injury Among Air Force Personnel

Posted by on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 @ 10:35 am | 3 Replies

 

Capt. Levi Severson (in white hat) is a Newton athlete and certified Natural Running coach.

(This article originally appeared in L.A. Air Force Base Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Quarterly newsletter.)

Written by Captain Levi Severson, SBIRS CTF & Air Force Marathon Team Captain

Most individuals in the Air Force recognize the importance of fitness to our mission, especially given our deployment tempo. What you may not know is running has risen to the #2 cause of recreational injury in the USAF (2010).

In addition, the Fitness Assessment (FA) failure rate is above 10% on average, and as high as 28% at some bases. The overall cost of injury and FA failure is high when medical, physical therapy and administrative time, are factored in.

These problems led to creation of the USAF Efficient Running Working Group (ERWG) last year. Thanks to the initiative of several doctors and other running-industry leaders, the knowledge gleaned from the natural-running movement will hopefully make its way to Airmen everywhere via Health and Wellness Centers and make running more fun for all.

The ERWG has yet to be approved for implementation, but the intent is to provide education on form, online support, year-round training programs, teaching strategies, instruction on interpreting video gait analysis, certification of instructors, and education for medical staff. Due to my involvement with AF Sports and experience with teaching natural running form, I have recently been more involved with the ERWG and wanted to share some of the concepts with more Airmen.

The Relationship Between Form, Footwear and Injury

You can reduce your chance of injury by relearning the biomechanics you had as a child. I doubt the children in our lives put much thought into how they run since it is more natural to them. However, after years of running in shoes with an elevated heel and being coached to run with a heel strike, adults find it challenging to relean “natural” form.

Starting in the late 1970s, running shoes began featuring increasingly cushioned heels, which creates a six to 14% ramp angle. This angle tilts your posture forward and puts you off balance. This instability increases unnatural forces on the knees, hips and back.

What is Natural Running?

An AF Sports team member, Lt Col (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella, describes the fundamentals of natural running on www.freedomsrun.org under the “training” tab. His critical points are:

- Land with bent knees with feet landing softly under your center of mass. Resist landing on your heel or taking overly long strides, which causes a loss of momentum. Run over the ground, not into it by visualizing riding a skateboard or Razor scooter. Ideal ground contact is with your foot under your center of mass.

- Touch down quickly with your foot in such a way that generates a “tap, tap, tap” sound, rather than “thud, thud, thud.” Keep your knees low and pick up your heels. A high knee lift is only for sprinters.

- Short strides and a quick cadence results in less vertical bounce. Like throwing a ball between two points, the ball travels higher if the points are farther separated. The ideal cadence is about 90 steps a minute. Build up gradually to this.

- Focus on the core and prefect posture. If you can teach your core muscles to lift your legs as opposed to pushing off with the small muscles of the feet, you have discovered new power. Think “run tall” and straighten your spine. Connect the dots between your ear, shoulder, hip, and bony prominence of ankle.  Initiate a slight forward lean from the ankles (not the waist). This harnesses some of the power of gravity.

- Practice running down a very gentle hill. When you allow yourself to relax and lean gently while maintaining good posture, and let your feet land under you to avoid braking- you are harnessing the power of gravity. This can be applied on the flats as well.

- Bend your elbows bent 90 degrees and don’t cross your hands in front of your body. Arms drive back, not forward. Relax your breathing and movements. Respiration occurs in the lower lung fields so learn belly breathing.

In addition to Lt Col Cucuzzella’s highlights above, there are a variety of programs out there to help teach the movements and make it easier to visualize. These programs include Chi-Running, Cady Stride Mechanics, Evolution Running, Radiant Running, and Pose Tech Training that can all be found online.

The Transition Process

I had a lot of success after picking up the book Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and over a period of 4 months, gradually applying the book’s principles. Eventually I was able to throw away my orthotics after 14 years of use and began wearing flat shoes (Newtons). Again, the transition to Newton shoes was a slow process where I started out wearing them one short run per week and eventually was wearing them every day after two months.

I often get asked about running shoes and typically make recommendations based on my experience and knowledge of various products. When choosing footwear, consider your running surface (dirt, trail, grass, cement, pavement, etc).

Generally speaking, if you are running on more manmade surfaces, a more protective shoe is preferred. For more detail on this topic, another great book covering the connection between form, footwear and training is Natural Running by Danny Abshire.

After a year and a half of improving my running form and wearing flatter running shoes, I improved my marathon time significantly and experience fewer injuries. my goal is for participants in the ERWG to find more enjoyment in running, the FA easier to pass, and your improved health.

As more the ERWG progresses, I will pass along updates. Good luck and happy training!

Special thanks to AF doctors Lt Col Mark Cucuzzella, Lt Col Dan Kuland, and Lt Col Antonio Eppolito for allowing me to reference their research and publications for this article.

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Causes and Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis

Posted by on Monday, March 14, 2011 @ 8:40 am | 1 Reply

This post is by Dr. Mark Cucuzella, a Family Physician at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine and Associate Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The plantar fascia (PF) is a strong ligament that runs from the heel to the metatarsal heads in the front of your foot. This ligament helps absorb the shock that occurs when your foot contacts the ground. It has function in the windlass mechanism recreating the arch on takeoff.

Plantar fasciitis is the common term for what should be more accurately termed Plantar Fasciosis. itits is an acute inflammation caused by a trauma or infection. osis is chronic degenerative condition.

No evidence exists for an ideal treatment of this condition without identifying and treating the causes, which can be many. Since we have no literature to guide us, I offer this advice based on my experience treating hundreds of runners and guiding them in self corrections.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

The PF is designed to manage a relatively small amount of stress. The intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot are designed to receive signals from the fascia and in turn manage the majority of the load. When those muscles are dysfunctional, the load is transferred to the PF, which is unable to handle it, and results in tearing.

You can repair these tears by using palliative methods, but PF may return as soon as you resume running. The only way that you can actually fix plantar fasciitis is to address the root cause: weak foot muscles. (Thank you Lance from Barefoot Science for the insight).

Several structural causes can contribute to PF:

  • Weak intrinsic foot muscles
  • A misaligned and weak first toe
  • Tight, shortened calf muscles
  • Tight plantar fascia

Other important contributing factors:

  • Increased mechanical stress from running or other activity
  • Obesity
  • Suddenly switching from supportive footwear that inhibit intrinsic foot muscles to flat shoes (flip flops) or barefoot
  • Poor walking and running mechanics
  • Wearing overly supportive footwear weaken the foot and make it less stable.

How Do You Correct Plantar Fasciitis?
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Danny Abshire on San Diego Morning Show

Posted by on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 @ 3:53 pm | 1 Reply

Newton.DA.Fox5.SanDiego.2.16.11

While in San Diego this morningfor a Natural Running Symposium, Newton Running co-founder Danny Abshire stopped by the Fox 5 studios for Morning Show appearance.

Click here to watch the video in which Danny discusses the natural running principles explained in his book by the same name, as well as the science behind Newton Running shoes.

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International Natural Running Symposia

Posted by on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 @ 3:00 pm | Leave a reply

PARAGUAY

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation & Discussion
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Store Name: VO2 MULTISPORT
Location: Crowne Plaza, Asuncion, Paraguay
Time: 20:00 – 22:00
For more information, call: (+21) 452 682 or visit www.triasu.com

BRAZIL

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation & Discussion
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Store Name: Track & Field
Location: Iguatemi Mall, AV. BRIG. FARIA LIMA, 2232 JARDIM PAULISTANO, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Faria Lima Floor,  Iguatemi One Lounge
Time: 1st session:  15:00-17:00
2nd Session: 19:00-21:00
Contact: Track & Field at www.trackandfield.com.br

UNITED KINGDOM

Natural Running Form Clinic
Friday, February 11, 2011
Presented by: Triathlon Consultants
Location: Thames Valley Athletics Centre, Wallace Walk, Pococks Lane, Eton, SL4 6HN
Time: 19:00 – 21:00
Contact: Triathlon Consultants at www.Ttclsports.co.uk

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation & Discussion
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Presented by: Triathlon Consultants
Location: TCR Show | Sandown Park Exhibition Centre, Portsmouth Road Esher, Surrey, KT10 9AJ
Time: 15:00 – 16:10
Contact: Triathlon Consultants at www.Ttclsports.co.uk

Natural Running Form Clinic
Monday, February 14, 2011
Presented by: Triathlon Consultants
Where: Thames Valley Athelteics Centre, Wallace Walk, Pococks Lane, Eton, UK, SL4 6HN
Time: 19:00-21:00
Contact: Triathlon Consultants at www.Ttclsports.co.uk

DENMARK

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation, Discussion & Form Clinic
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Presented by: Newton Running
Location: Copenhagen University Institute for Sport, Copenhagen, Denmark
Time: 19:00-21:00

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation, Discussion & Form Clinic
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Presented by: Senzone Silkeborg
Location: Norreskovbakke 14,  8600 Silkeborg, Copenhagen, Denmark
Time: 19:00-21:00
For more information, contact: www.senzone.dk/forside.aspx

GERMANY

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation, Discussion
Friday, February 18, 2011
Presented by: Lauf-bar GmbH
Location: Am Münchner Tor 1, München, Germany 80805
Time: 19:00-21:00
For more information, call: (+89) 368 99 920  or visit www.lauf-bar.de

Natural Running Form Clinic
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Presented by: Lauf-bar GmbH
Location: Am Münchner Tor 1, München, Germany 80805
Time: 16:00 – 20:00
For more information, call: (+89) 368 99 920  or visit www.lauf-bar.de

SPAIN

Natural Running Symposium: Presentation, Discussion
Date: Monday, February 21, 2011
Presented by: SBR Store
Location: Vía Sergia 69, Mataró, Barcelona, Spain 08302
Time: 19:00-21:00
For more information, call: (+93) 755 18 13  or visit  www.sbrstore.com

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The World is Flat if You’re a Foot

Posted by on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 @ 2:14 pm | 1 Reply

 

Screen shot 2010-08-04 at 3.13.05 PMDr. Mark Cucuzzella just passed us along a document outlining foot anatomy and biomechanics, barefoot motion, the effects of heel lift, shoe design flaws and myths, and proper toe alignment.

It makes for an interesting read—especially for any science nerds out there. Click the link to download the full document. The most interesting part is that it lays out the facts about how a foot works and is not Newton marketing material, but comes to the same conclusions that we believe in when it comes to proper footwear.

 

The World is Flat….if You Are a Foot

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Form Drills for Natural Running

Posted by on Thursday, July 1, 2010 @ 7:30 am | 4 Replies

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

No one has perfect running form, but everyone can improve their running mechanics. Doing so can make you a more efficient runner, which means you’ll use less energy in every stride and boost your running economy (the ability to process oxygen efficiently while running). Ultimately, improved form can make you faster and less prone to overuse injuries. Screen shot 2010-06-30 at 5.01.13 PM

One of the primary ways to improve your running technique is through form drills. Form drills are easy to do and don’t take a lot of time, but they’re often overlooked, forgotten or ignored when a workout is completed. Taking an extra 5 to 15 minutes to do form drills a several times per week can make you more fluid, more efficient and even faster for both short and long distances.

Most drills take the aspects of good form — a compact arm swing, soft footstrikes with the midfoot under your center of mass, quick leg turnover, an upright posture with a slight forward lean at the ankles — and accentuate it in a repetitive motion that trains the body to be comfortable with that movement during your regular running mechanics. Some drills are aimed at building smaller muscles (such as the intrinsic group and lumbrical group in the foot), while others help your neuromuscular system fire quicker.

Do one set of each drill three to five times per week. You can do the drills before or after your regular workout, but doing them after a workout can be especially helpful in loosening muscular tightness brought on during your run.

1) Run in Place

This sounds simple, and it is, but it requires an adherence to good form in a semi-stationary setting while varying your cadence from high to very high. If you’re following the aspects of good form, you should be moving forward slightly because your momentum and a slight lean from the ankles will carry you forward.

While you’re doing this drill, think about each element individually — a compact and consistent arm swing, light, mostly flat, midfoot/forefoot footstrikes, a steady but relaxed head, jaw, neck, shoulders and torso — and how each plays into the bigger picture of your running form.

This drill is especially effective in teaching your body to increase leg cadence (optimally to 180 steps per minute) and learning how to lift your leg to start a stride instead of pushing off. Do three 15-second sessions per set.

2) Jump Rope

Jumping rope is simple, but as a drill it’s not going to help your running unless you’re doing it right. Jumping rope can instill the soft, midfoot/forefoot landings we aim for while running. Your body will naturally not let you land on your heel — especially if you’re jumping rope barefoot — because landing on your heels would inflict too much force on the bones, muscles and other tissue in your heels, ankles and legs.

It can also emphasize elastic recoil, as your heel settles on the ground before a new stride begins. Jumping rope also reinforces the notion that a new stride should begin by lifting your leg instead of pushing off. As you jump off the ground, focus on lightly lifting your feet off the ground instead of forcefully pushing off the ground.

Alter your tempo between slow, medium and fast speeds, all while concentrating on the tenets of good running form. Each set should be 15-20 seconds in duration.

3) High Knees

Running in place with high knees is another drill that accentuates lifting your foot off the ground instead forcefully pushing off to begin a new stride. This is essentially jogging in place, alternately lifting your knees to a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground.

As with the jog in place drill, your slight forward lean and the momentum gained in this drill will gradually move you forward. Be sure to focus on soft, run midfoot and forefoot footstrikes, using your core to lower your leg down slowly instead of letting it crash to the ground.

This drill requires and also helps instill a compact and consistent arm swing, even though your arms might cycle slightly slower to coincide with the longer hang time of your legs. The motion of your arms will actually help you lift a foot off the ground to start a new stride and keep you balanced. (Briefly try this drill with your arms stationary at your sides and you’ll find yourself forcefully pushing your feet off the ground and you’ll have a more difficult time keeping balanced.)

Keep your torso, head and shoulders relaxed and fairly still during this drill and avoid too much vertical oscillation with your center of mass. Each set should consist of 20 high-knee thrusts or 10 elevations of each knee.

4) Butt Kicks

Butt Kicks accentuate the recovery portion of the running gait phase. Instead of using your hamstring to lift your leg off the ground, think about alternately flicking your lower leg backward with the use of your quadriceps and hamstring muscles then dropping it back down to the ground under the center of your mass.

The movement should be quick and pronounced but relaxed so that you’re able to return your foot to the ground softly at the midfoot. As with High Knees, a compact and consistent arm swing is crucial to keeping your balance and maintaining a high cadence. Each set should consist of 20 butt kick strides or 10 elevations of each leg.

5) Skipping 1 – Quick Skip

The goal of this drill is to quicken the timing of your neuromuscular system so you can increase your running cadence to 180 steps per minute or slightly faster. As you quickly pick up one leg off the ground with the start of a stride, the other foot skips off the ground with two small and quick hops before the legs alternate.

There is a staccato sensation to this drill when it’s done correctly, but the more you practice it the easier you’ll fall into a consistent rhythm. A compact and very quick arm swing is crucial to keeping your balance and maintaining a high cadence. Each set should consist of about 15 to 20 seconds of skipping.

6) Skipping 2 – Slow Skip

Unlike the previous drill, this is a slow-action skipping drill that accentuates the high knee action of the lifted leg during a running stride. With this drill, you’ll practice lifting your leg off the ground to being a new stride instead of pushing off the ground. To extend the duration of the lifted leg in the air, you’ll skip with the opposite foot.

The rhythm of this drill will also have a staccato effect, but it will be much slower in nature. A compact, slow arm swing will keep your balance and allow you to maintain a high cadence. Each set should consist of about 15 to 20 seconds of skipping.

7) Donkey Kicks

It seems like a silly name, but it looks just like it sounds like. Begin with a straight, slightly forward-leaning posture, a compact arm swing, level hips and flexed ankles and knees of the athletic “ready” position. Pull one leg backwards as if you’re kicking something behind you.

While balancing on the midfoot area of the stationary leg, repeatedly pull the kicking leg backward, then allowing it to recoil forward. This drill accentuates good hip extension and teaches your body to make footstrikes under your center of mass. Do 10 kicks with each leg per set.

8 ) Arm Pull Backs

This drill accentuates the proper motion of the arms during the gait cycle by highlighting the posterior portion of the compact arm swing. Begin with a level head and shoulders, keeping a straight spine with a slightly forward-leaning posture between the chin and hips. Alternate pushing your arms backwards as they are held at 90 degrees (or less).

The key is keeping your arms swinging in a plane parallel to your torso and not rotating your body to assist the movement. Do a total of 20 alternating pull backs per set, 10 with each side.

Danny Abshire is the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot/forefoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years.

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Beware of Barefoot Running Injuries

Posted by on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 9:17 am | 19 Replies

by Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

People have been experimenting with barefoot running for a long time, but in recent years the activity has gained mainstream notoriety and science-based credibility.

Most coaches, elite athletes, physiologists and other medical experts agree that running barefoot in very small doses on soft surfaces can help improve your running mechanics and teach your body to land lightly at your midfoot, but they also agree that you should wear some kind of running shoes most of the time.

“Throw your shoes away for good? Sure, if you have perfect mechanics and you’ve been living barefoot all of your life,” says Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a West Virginia University professor and 2:25 marathoner who has studied barefoot and minimalist runners in relation to running injuries. “But that’s not the majority of runners. Most runners absolutely need to wear shoes when they run.”

What Shoe Type is Best?

If you’re used to running in a traditional training shoe with a built-up heel, running barefoot can be a fascinating experience of freedom and can be the first step in developing natural running mechanics. Running unshod your foot naturally seeks out the ground by landing at the midfoot/forefoot, where it receives sensory interaction, or afferent feedback.

This sensory input immediately tells the rest of the body how to move efficiently with light footsteps, a high leg cadence, a relaxed but consistent arm swing, an upright posture and a slight forward lean from the ankles. This same feedback can be gained while wearing some types of lightweight shoes, but traditional trainers with thick levels of foam dampen the sensory interaction and make it much harder to interpret the ground, especially with the heel-striking gait those shoes promote.

How Run “Barefoot” in Shoes

Landing lightly at your midfoot and picking up your foot quickly to start a new stride is the most effective way your body knows to propel and protect itself while running. Conversely, your body generally doesn’t allow you to land on your heel if you’re running barefoot (especially on a hard surface) because it isn’t engineered to accommodate the blunt force trauma of repeated heel striking.

True, the calcaneus (heel) bone is a large bone, but it was designed to take the lower impacts of a walking gait and help balance the body as it rolls forward, as well as to help support and balance the body in a standing position as the rear point of a tripod.

Accepting large impacts on the heel bone from heel-strike running on the roads barefoot sends tremendous shockwaves (or impact transients) up your body. Those impact transients can have numerous negative affects upstream as your body tries to offset that force and remain balanced, including various forms of tendinitis, illiotibial band strains and adverse sheering in the pelvis and lower spine.

“It’s no different than somebody hitting you on the heel with a sledgehammer with 300 to 400 pounds of force,” says Dr. Daniel Lieberman, the Harvard University evolutionary biologist who concluded in a study released in January 2010 that running with midfoot footstrikes, either barefoot or in shoes, is better and less impactful than heel-striking. “So if you’re going to do that, it makes sense to wear shoes. A shoe makes that comfortable. A shoe essentially slows that rate of loading enormously — by about sevenfold in a typical shoe — and that’s what makes it comfortable and that’s why a lot of people can wear shoes and heel-strike.”

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