Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Barefoot Running: Part II

In our last installment we introduced the concept of barefoot running and some advantages that it has over our current trend of running with footwear that controls heel strike, supination/pronation, and gait mechanics of the lower limb. Today I plan to discuss how you can begin a proper barefoot running program.
DISCLAIMER: Before I even get started on this subject in no way am I telling anyone to go out and run barefoot tomorrow.  There is still extensive research that is being conducted in this area and before we fully understand the biomechanics of running without shoes; any use of the technique should be used with extreme caution.  YOU SHOULD VISIT YOUR PRIMARY PHYSICIAN AND/OR PHYSICAL THERAPIST FOR A COMPLETE GAIT ANALYSIS AND GET ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS CLEARED BEFORE ATTEMPTING A NEW EXERCISE TECHNIQUE. 
First I must cover some disadvantages to running without shoes in our modern urban environment.  If you have been running for a long time with running shoes you have slowly been trained to hit with your heel first before rolling onto the midfoot and then forefoot.  I bet you can imagine that if you went out and “hit the pavement” for a nice run with a strong heel strike that you would be in a lot of pain (especially in the heel).  When transitioning into running without footwear we must retrain our bodies to run striking first on the midfoot or forefoot (middle or balls of the feet respectively).  Other problems also will arise including stepping on sharp objects such as rocks, sticks, or glass.
So how do you get started?
First you MUST see your physician or physical therapist to make sure you are healthy and strong enough to begin a new training technique
Secondly, you need to know how to land on your midfoot or forefoot.  When running in this style you should land on the ball of your foot softly while gradually letting your heal come to the ground.  This is harder than it seems and should be attempted at slow speeds to start.  This form of foot strike will likely make you use muscles in your feet and lower leg that have not been used sufficiently so following the tips below will help you get started.
1.       Start your new program while progressing slowly.  Remember these muscles are going to be used in a different way causing fatigue and possible strain. This can be reduced by first beginning to walk around barefoot.  When beginning running you should start with a very short distance at slow speeds and “increase your distance by no more than 10% per week.”1 If you find that your feet are sore you should take a few days off for full recovery.
2.       Land gently on your foot; there should be no pounding.
3.       Take small strides.  Do not over step while running.
4.       Stretch you leg muscles!  Barefoot running will make you use your gastrocnemius (calf muscle) and hamstring more causing tightness and fatigue.    
5.       Stop if it hurts!  This should not be a painful process.  If you notice any pain in any part of your foot or in your calf you should stop your training and talk to your physical therapist.

Good Luck!

1.  http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/5BarefootRunning&TrainingTips.html

1 comment:

  1. That is really good information and thanks for sharing with us. You can get more from online physical therapy seminars