Running form better by going barefoot?

This post is the follow up on my last blog entry. Running barefoot or in vibrams has been controversial over the last couple of years. Some experts recommend to take the shoes off, start slowly with short distances (less than a 100 yards), preferably on rough terrain to make sure there is plenty of feedback on how soft your step is. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Especially when people start out, their feet are so sensitive, that rougher terrain or gravel give a sensory overload and there is no way that running it barefoot with a good form is possible because people are in pain. The mechanoreceptors on our feet have been protected for decades by shoes, taking them off and going on gravel with baby skin, not a good idea in my opinion. I would suggest going on some grassy areas like a football field and run a couple of hundred yards or less 2-3 times a week, practicing drill and technique. From there you can move on to smooth asphalt, and then rougher terrain.

Does it necessarily make you a better runner? No! With everything form is the key. Since we have been in shoes for decades, our walking and running gaits have been altered. Changing it is not going to happen over night, over a month or even over 3 months. This is a long term commitment that most runners are not willing to do unless they are hurt. I don’t tell my personal training clients to change their running, unless they have problems. Why? It is simple, learning something new brings mistakes and mistakes can lead to injuries. If they are injury free at the time and have no history of recurring issues I will leave them alone. On the other hand if they constantly are having injuries it might be at the time to learn how to run barefoot. That does not mean they have to run barefoot only but it is the easiest to learn to run the barefoot form doing so, or if they insist on shoes wearing shoes like the vibram fivefingers.

If you are considering changing your running gait be aware that you have to really cut back on your mileage. You want to preferably start doing it when you run less miles, like now in the summer because of the heat. Let pain and discomfort be your guidance. If it hurts, don’t do it. Practice the running drills associated with your new technique and make sure you increase the mileage gradually, constantly reassessing your work. The best thing you can do is working with a coach that can look at your form objectively.

Have a great day,

Michael

Head Personal Trainer at Shape Up Fitness and Wellness Consulting

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