Barefoot Running – Is it for You?
I just read an interesting article about barefoot running. The title is “Born to run barefoot? Some end up getting injured”, and it was written by Alicia Chang and syndicated by AP. Here is the link to the original article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47518383/ns/health-fitness/#.UCP_SqNmWFu.
It seems that, while some people can switch to barefoot running with no problem, for others it can cause serious running injuries. The trick, as you will probably know, is to switch over gradually. The catch is that running injuries may suddenly appear without warning and may stop you from running for an extended period.
The author describes ultramarathoner Ryan Carter’s attempt at running barefoot:
During a training run with a friend along a picturesque bike path near downtown Minneapolis, Carter suddenly stopped, unable to take another step. His right foot seared in pain.
“It was as though someone had taken a hammer and hit me with it,” he recalled.
Carter convinced his friend to run on without him. He hobbled home and rested his foot. When the throbbing became unbearable days later, he went to the doctor. The diagnosis: a stress fracture.
If you are thinking about switching to barefoot running, here are a few facts you should consider:
Barefoot running uses different muscles
Most shoed runners are heel strikers. Barefoot running encourages you to land more on the midfoot or forefoot, with a shorter stride than you use when wearing shoes. If you don’t manage this transition well, you will continue to land on your heel or else put too much pressure on your calf and foot muscles: either way leads to running injuries.
As the author says:
“Most just jumped in a little too enthusiastically,” said Langer, an experienced runner and triathlete who trains in his barefoot running shoes part of the week.
Bob Baravarian, chief of podiatry at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif., said he’s seen “a fair number” of heel injuries and stress fractures among first-timers who are not used to the different forces of a forefoot strike.
“All of a sudden, the strain going through your foot is multiplied manifold” and problems occur when people don’t ease into it, he said.
If you’re going to try barefoot running, make the change a gradual one. Try one short walk a week to start with, then start jogging and increase your pace or distance slowly each week. Give your muscles at least one full week of recovery time in the initial stages: they need that time to repair the fibers and build strength. (This, by the way, is the same principle we use in the 7 minute workout to build strength without getting injured.)
You may want to try barefoot running shoes (oxymoron?), otherwise known as minimalist shoes. They help to avoid cuts and bruises from stones and other nasty objects on the running surface. Even better, transition through a pair of the new lower profile running shoes that come somewhere between a normal running shoe and a true minimalist shoe.
If you watched the Olympic track and field events, you will have noticed how many of the competitors were recovering from running injuries, sometimes necessitating surgery. As weekend warriors, we amateur runners are also prone to injuries, but ours usually come from trying to do too much too soon. Transitioning to barefoot running is like any of the other running tasks we accomplish: impatience is our biggest enemy!
Ryan Carter’s story
The article finishes Ryan Carter’s story as follows:
In April, he ran his fourth 100-mile race — with shoes. Meanwhile, his pair of barefoot running shoes is collecting dust in the closet.