Running barefoot or in minimalist sneakers is a popular and controversial trend. This trend is supported by evidence. However, many runners who attempt to change their technique suffer repercussions.
Everyone knows that when wearing a cast or brace that body part atrophies and weakens. Cushioned soles and orthotics are an abbreviated form of a cast or brace. That "assistive comfort accessory" supports the foot and functionally takes over the role of the muscle, tendon, ligament and bone. The foot becomes weaker and depends on support. With time the foot weakness increases. When this weakened foot is forced to exert natural forces in an unfamiliar technique, the neuromuscular system is puzzeled and will soon suffer injury.
Assuming proper transition, minimalist or barefoot running technique offers multiple benefits. I call this technique full foot running because the full foot is involved when the foot strikes the ground. The benefits include:
- shorter stride length resulting in lower impact force
- reduction of "braking" action vs. heel strike technique
- decreased ground contact time, decreased flight time
- reduced vertical excursion further reducing impact forces
- weight bearing load is distributed over a greater foot surface area thereby decreasing pressure
- superior biomechanical alignment allowing for greater skelatal force absorbtion
- increased proprioceptive function of the foot
- heart rate and perceived exertion is significantly lower
Proper and efficient exercises that restore foot strength, flexibility and natural function will allow for a smooth painless transition. Runners with major deformities and weakness may permanently require additional support. So this new trend is not for everyone. Runners with recent injuries that require orthotics should eventually discard the othotic. Many patients are surprised that their flat feet or high arches are neutralized by yoga and the Feldenkrais Method. Technique transition may take months.
Another strategy we employ is slow motion video analysis. This clearly identifies what type of runner you are and your progression to one that you would like to become. Call us at 212-765-4800 for a Runner's Evaluation and Consultation. Many insurance programs will cover at least a portion of the cost. You will soon be on you way to a more educated, a more powerful and more efficient running style whether you run minimalist or with thich cushioned soles.