Barefoot Running, Uncommon Sense?

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80% of all runners are injured. This lead Professor Dan Lieberman to do a 4 year Harvard research that proved that heel strikers are two times more prone to injury than forefoot strikers. I find it amazing that the running community has not embraced this. Let’s face it; we are all tired of being injured. The big brands cannot disprove these findings, yet it’s as though they are keeping it hidden – making money on your ‘latest’ design is king after all. I still believe that technique is everything and of course there are great shoes that can help guide, teach and police this, but these are not an instant cure or magic potion.

There are three forms of human locomotion – running, walking and sprinting. Jogging is heal striking,  a hybrid of walking and running and is not a natural movement. In locomotion ground reaction force increases as speed increases. To explain: When we walk our body experiences one times its body weight of force, when running it is the equivalent of 2 to 3 times your body weight of force. The best way to understand this is to take your shoes off – now jump up and land on your heels – that is what 2 times your body weight feels like and I bet none of you even tried to do it as you already know it will hurt.

It is not natural to land on your heel but your forefoot is designed to take this force with ease, that is the basic bio mechanics of the foot. However, one can still get injured by just forefoot striking (two times less than heel striking) , but if you are still over striding, have a low cadence, your posture is bad or you are running too much on your toes you will still get injured. That is why good technique is key to running injury free. A skilled barefoot runner will need.

  1. Posture: Upright with torso leading the way and head looking towards the horizon (most people don’t even do this when walking) Posture is the hierarchy.
  2. Rhythm: Short strides with quick cadence (180 BPM) and elbows matching stride rate. (Low cadence is a common problem for many runners barefoot or not. Slow sticky strides.)
  3. Relaxation: Upper body, shoulders, wrists, hands and ankles all relaxed. Trust your feet they know how to do this.
  4. Foot strike: Mid or forefoot strike, directly under the hips, in line with the center of gravity.

Transition takes time as you are trying to undo years of running in tight, heavy and heeled shoes. When I put most people on a pressure plate they don’t even stand properly any more – weight distributed evenly over your feet with the center of gravity under the ball of your foot.  So take it slow and listen to your body. Like babies learning to walk, they all become walkers at a different pace. There is no set time for a transition to barefoot. Listen to your body and remember Posture, Rhythm and Relax.  For more info ask the coach at www.vivobarefoot.co.za and download Lee Saxby’s FREE eBook Proprioception – Making sense of barefoot running.

Article by Dale Turrell
Phone: +2782 929 9996
Email: dale@vivobarefoot.co.za