Barefoot, or minimalist, running is a great way to strengthen your feet and improve your form. Many runners are beginning to embrace this type of running as a training tool or a way of life. The most prevalent question is “What shoe?” It’s this question that brings out the expert in every runner. Some runners will say weight is the most important, others believe its flexibility and then there is the group that will claim its all about the difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe.
For decades people have been accustomed to running and doing heavy walking with a great deal of padding on their feet. It has been instilled in the minds of the people that thick padding will prevent any injury to the feet and legs. Recently however, this belief has been challenged by the emergence of growing proofs on the benefits of minimalist running shoes. The fascination of people on this particular subject matter was perchance been amplified by the Best Selling novel of Runner McDougall’s Born to Run. In his book, he was able to vividly picture the culture of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who are able to cover hundreds of miles running swiftly wearing only thin sandals.
Minimalist Running: an overview
Since the world began our ancestors had walked and ran either barefooted or clad only with thin sandals made from dead animal’s skin. Even when they hunted and ran after their prey they practically wore nothing on the soles of their feet. Yet they were as quick and agile as the Tarahumara Indians are. With the advent of sneakers however, people have stopped running with barely clad feet. Running and walking now requires encasing our feet in heavily padded shoes which are supposed to prevent injury. With the wearing of stiff sneakers however, people’s gait had also changed. This new gait that people developed from wearing inflexible shoes makes them prone to injury when it comes to running.
The concept behind minimalist running rests on the revolutionary idea that “less shoe is better” as manifested perhaps by the Tarahumara Indians. It is the belief of the enthusiasts of minimalist running shoes that running practically barefoot or with just minimal feet covering actually benefits our feet, as well as our bodies health-wise.
Benefits of using Minimalist Running Shoes
You may wonder how would be your wearing shoes that have very thin soles that you would seem to be practically walking barefoot, would benefit your well-being? More so when you opt to wear those bizarre-looking toe shoes that would definitely make heads turn?
Specifically minimalist running will yield the following:
1. Since minimalist running shoes have diminutive top covering, a smaller amount of arch support and little to no heel-to-toe drop, it facilitates the shift to a fore or mid-foot landing, instead of the heel which is most often than not very painful.
2. Minimalist running shoes are lightweight, flexible and have a roomy toe box which permits your toes to spread upon landing thus developing a more effective step and shorter running pace which reduces the effect of impact.
3. By running on minimalist running shoes, your feet’s muscles are actually strengthened and your figure is enhanced through as your body get used to it.
Wearing minimalist running shoes has actually its perks which are scientifically proven. Studies revealed that by aiding you to imitate the gait of a barefooted runner who lightly lands on his mid or forefoot, minimalist running shoes will help you enhanced your physical running form, hypothetically diminish injuries and makes you run effectively and quicker.
Two Techniques to Avoid Injury
Injuries due to running are fairly common. Continually hammering the street with your body mass concentrated on your fairly inflexible heel is a considerable reason why. Due to the fact injuries, the consequence of this repeated impact, are likely to be sustained if not permanent, runners require a procedure of limiting this risk.
1. Include Cushioning to the Heel
Manufacturers historically have added in cushioning to the bottoms of their footwear mainly in the heel as a way to lessen this risk. This differential cushioning causes a phenomenon referred to as heel-to-toe-drop or “offset”. While standing on the floor in bare feet, your heel and forefoot are level. You have no offset. While standing on the floor in traditional athletic shoes, which have a well cushioned heel, your heel will be quite a few millimeters greater than your forefoot. The difference in height is called offset. High offset footwear might make the heel strike comfortable, however, they also make the forefoot-landing challenging.
2. Forefoot Landing
The alternative method by which individuals have lessened this risk of injury is to come back to the natural barefoot system of running along with its forefoot landing. The natural flexibility of the toes, tendons and muscles other than your heel absorb and soften the impact of the forefoot landing. If the only shoes at your disposal, has elevated offset, the only method to implement a forefoot landing would be to run without shoes. While, running without shoes, lessens the likelihood of the long-lasting injuries, it introduces the potential of different kinds of minor injuries.
Pulled Muscles -The impact forces that create injuries remain for those who use a forefoot landing. It only transfers the impact to regions of the body, which can better absorb it, specifically your Achilles tendons and calf muscles. The issue is that after you switch that transfer is generated abruptly. Irrespective of your conditioning as a runner when using the heel strike procedure, your calf muscles, will need to be strengthened to handle the forefoot landing. The calf muscle specifically should be strengthened to contend with the additional load, no matter what your physical fitness as a heel striker. Work up gradually from say five minutes the first day, adding just a little each day. If you don’t, cramps and muscle strains are probable; which means you might need to begin anew after having a prolonged recovery.
Abrasions, Lacerations and Contusions – Running without running-shoes raises the chance of scrapes, cuts and bruises to the bottoms of one’s feet. If you run without shoes anyway, nature will ultimately respond through providing natural soles of toughened skin on the bottoms of you feet. By wearing minimalist running-shoes, that are manufactured for people that use a forefoot landing, you can decrease the probability of this kind of injury to practically zero.
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