Runners 1
With this year’s summer temperatures reaching over 115 degrees, finding motivation to run in the grueling heat is never easy. If anything, most of us hit the treadmill in our air-conditioned gym or completely skipped the cardio all together. Is the heat really an excuse not to hit the pavement? Probably not, but it happens to the best of us, the sane of us. But, with fall around the corner, maybe it’s time to lace up and prepare for the cooler running weather.
Since running became more of a movement than a fad in the 70’s, tons of running brands and footwear styles have emerged since. So, what are you running in? Do you wear your current running shoes because you like the way your feet and legs feel while you run or simply because you like the color? Do you truly know the benefits of your current running shoe? In todays market there are tons of running shoes that pride themselves on their exceptional structure and support that claim to aide against injury. Although probably true, in recent controversy, does the human body actually need the added shock-absorbing qualities in a shoe or are we better without it?
“The design of human bodies which enable us to run, is believed to allow such factors as sweating and bipedalism for humans to run natural at ultra marathon distances everyday” (1).  It is said that humans are natural born runners and our evolution and survival depended on it. History has shown that we used to run over long distances to hunt, to live, to survive all while being barefoot. The barefoot running theory is based on the fact that running minimalist proves the lack of support “activate(s) the foot to do what it needs to do, making it stronger, more flexible, less vulnerable to stiffness and pain,” (2).
Nike is credited with the first “barefooted” running shoe introduced to the public. Much of Nike’s success is credited to its co-founder and University of Oregon’s legendary track coach Bill Bowerman. His waffle iron inspired running sole was to help his runners shed time by taking weight off of their shoes. He said that the “ideal shoe would provide enough support for a runner during a race, but would fall apart once that runner crossed the finish line,” (3).
Not much has changed over the years. The more lightweight and flexible a shoe, with the lack of cushioning and support will in turn strengthen the foot to its most natural ride and be less susceptible to injury. Among other styles, a great example is the Nike Free, but the shoe may take some getting used to. Precaution by the brand itself, “Because you’ll be using some muscles in your feet more than you might be used to, it may take some time for them to get used to all that freedom. To give your feet time to adapt, we recommend you transition into using your Nike Free footwear gradually.” If Nike is not the shoe for you, there are many other brands that have the same barefoot concept running shoe. We are all different in how our foot is designed and the support that it needs. CAPPT’s partner Fleet Feet can help you figure out what shoe is necessary to fit YOU. When you come to CAPPT, you can receive a discount card to Fleet Feet off your first pair of shoes!
Regardless of the brand, the long-term effects of running barefoot will be riveting. Potential barefoot running benefits include:

  • Strengthening the muscles tendons and ligaments of the foot and develop a more natural gait
  • Strengthening the Achilles tendon and calf muscle by removing the heel lift and running forefoot rather than the heel
  • Allow your arches to act as a natural shock absorber rather than relying on cushioning
  • Improve balance and coordination by activating the smaller muscles in your feet, ankles, legs and hips (4)

In conclusion, barefoot shoes have particular benefits and potential solutions to injury for those willing to try. However, it may not be the solution for all.  Preventing running injury might not even start with a shoe, but with evaluating a runners needs. Here at the Center for Performance and Physical Therapy we can help determine any flaws in your biomechanics and help get you moving right! Call today to set up your running consultation (480) 585-6810.
 
 
References
 

  1. Guided History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  2. Preston, Marilynn. “Rethinking Running Shoes: Less (Cushion) Is More!” com (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  3. Tucker, Ross. “Barefoot Running, Shoes, and Born to Run” The Science of Sport. 26 June 2011. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  4. Kelso, Tom. “The Pros and Cons of Running Barefoot: What the Research Says”. Size or Shred. (n.d.) Retrieved July 21, 2015.