[heading] Barefoot Running – Is it for You?[/heading]
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] 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:
[quote style="1"] The first time he tried it two years ago, he ran a third of a mile on grass. Within three weeks of switching over, he was clocking six miles on the road.
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.[/quote]
If you are thinking about switching to barefoot running, here are a few facts you should consider:
[heading] Barefoot running uses different muscles[/heading]
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:
[quote]Podiatrist Paul Langer used to see one or two barefoot running injuries a month at his Twin Cities Orthopedics practice in Minneapolis. Now he treats between three and four a week.
“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.[/quote]
[heading] Transition slowly[/heading]
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.
[note color="#FFCC00"]I order my shoes through this link and can return them after running in them for a while if they don’t work for me – you can do the same if you like.[/note]
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!
[heading] Ryan Carter’s story[/heading]
The article finishes Ryan Carter’s story as follows:
[quote]Carter, the ultramarathoner, blames himself for his injury. Before he shed his shoes, he never had a problem that kept him off his feet for two months.
In April, he ran his fourth 100-mile race — with shoes. Meanwhile, his pair of barefoot running shoes is collecting dust in the closet.[/quote]
[note color="#FFCC00"] If you enjoyed this article you might also choose to read the following articles in this blog:
There has been a lot of controversy recently over barefoot running, so when I found this article on the subject I decided to republish it. I would love to hear your experience, or views on the subject.
Barefoot Running, or Just a Minimalist Shoe?
By Ben Pearl, DPM
Mention barefoot runners and most people’s first association is probably the legendary 1960 Rome marathon victory by Abebe Bikila. To some advocates the conversation can get heated up quickly as if you were talking about politics. The fundamental question that has yet to be fully answered is whether one can accurately track a population of runners who are barefoot vs. shod.
From the Savannah to the Track
Anthropologists such as Daniel Lieberman believe that the human foot developed to run barefoot. His hypothesis is that we were built for endurance running. Prospective studies and randomized controlled trials of barefoot and shod running are difficult to achieve for obvious reasons. Robbins and Gouw argued that plantar sensation induces a plantar surface protective response whereby runners alter their behavior to reduce shock. The less-cushioned shoe permitted increases in plantar discomfort, a phenomenon that they termed “shock setting.” Coaches such as Brooks Johnson and Vin Lananna have used barefoot running as part of an overall program to train the body to run long distances fast. In their opinion, to run properly, the foot needed to grasp and release on a variety of surfaces such as dirt, grass, road, concrete, and gravel.
The Shoe Industry Steps in
Several companies have weighed in with their versions of a running shoe which simulates barefoot running. Adidas’ approach was to try and copy the shape of the foot. In theory this will produce smaller lever arms that react faster. The idea for the Nike Free was born out of a visit by a couple of researchers to Stanford where Lananna was having athletes running barefoot as part of their training regimen. Many competitive runners I spoke to use barefoot running or shoes like the Nike Free as part of their training. Nike had students test it for 6 months and those using the Free for 6 months had greater flexibility and strength in the foot.
I interviewed researchers Tobie Hatfield from Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and Jeff Pisciotta from the Nike Sports Research Lab to find out how the shoe industry has incorporated the concept of barefoot training into their shoe design. They seem to be spearheading the shift back to their spirited roots to the old Bill Bauerman days when they made prototype soles on waffle irons. They studied 20 competitive runners on grass, and kinematics analysis demonstrated a general trend towards full foot contact. If you watch the footage of Abebe Bikila’s Rome marathon you will notice the same thing. The perception of some of the runners tested was that they were landing more toward the forefoot than they actually were.
Many believe that racing barefoot is difficult unless you have been running without shoes all your life. Many recreational runners are also starting to try barefoot running in an effort to prevent injuries and improve technique. The problem with this is that some of them will not have the conditioning to handle the transition to barefoot running. Experts in the field agree that any transition to barefoot running be done slowly.
The Cushion Illusion
The running shoe industry has built much of its platform on cushioning. The theory goes that very soft shoes will bottom out when loaded, producing higher impact forces than firmer shoes that do not bottom out. Yet for any of us who have run downhill on concrete, the more cushioned shoes seem to be less jarring. So how do we reconcile this? I interviewed Benno Nigg, one of the foremost biomechanics gurus on running shoes, and he was able to offer a new paradigm.
He started by telling me that there is no article in the literature which supports the notion that peak force transmission will be altered with varied levels of cushioning. In fact peak force transmission does not occur during heel contact as we might intuit, but in midstance, where the internal forces on joints, muscles, and tendons are 4 to 5 times greater than during impact.
There is something else that accounts for the perception that we are more comfortable in a certain level of cushioning. Nigg’s vibration model explains that when we impact the ground, our soft tissue compartments (e.g., calf, hamstrings, etc.) start to vibrate. The human body does not like vibrations. Consequently, muscles are activated to dampen these vibrations. The degree of dampening that occurs in various types of shoes is what leads to our perception of comfort in the shoe. So we have an innate sense of what works for our bodies that is probably more accurate than any test could demonstrate for us. We must also consider the fatigue that occurs within the muscles that are working to distribute the vibrations. We know from other studies that fatigue can lead to injuries and this may be part of the answer.
The trend in the shoe industry seems to be toward offering shoes with more minimalist designs. Barefoot training can help train the small muscles that are not trained in stable running shoes. Yet, it is hard to isolate all the force vectors because of the complex arrangement of the joints of the lower extremity. And Robbins’ association between injury and wearing shoes may be mitigated by other factors: perhaps in developing countries barefoot runners may be too poor to seek medical attention; also, shod runners may wear shoes because they have problems running barefoot.
Certainly runners that have grown up running barefoot in areas where it is more prevalent, like Kenya, have been conditioned to run more efficiently barefoot than more industrialized countries. Beyond that elite athletes are exceptional in their foot musculature and would have an easier time in general running barefoot than others.
For more information on Dr. Pearl, visit http://docforjocks.blogspot.com.
One question I had was “Where do you put the racing chip?” This picture answered it for me.
Let me know your views on this controversial subject by leaving comment.
It’s race day morning, and you’re fired up!
Your training didn’t go quite according to schedule, but you took my advice and left enough lagniappe to take care of it. You’re trained and ready, and excited to be going in for your first really big race.
You set out all your gear the previous evening to be ready for your big day. The start is at 8:00 am, and you have been told to be there by 7:30. It’s an hour’s drive, but with 50,000 runners arriving at 7:30 you decided it would be safer to leave at 6:00.
To give yourself plenty of time to get a snack and a bathroom break, you got up at 5:00 am. Now it’s 7:45 and you’re in the line getting ready for the start. Being a middle-of-the-pack runner, you’re in group #23 of 50. (Sometimes these are called “corrals” or “carousels” or some other name, but I’ll call them groups for today.)
The excitement builds, your adrenaline is kicking in and you’re getting thirsty. You drink another bottle of water as you listen to all the build-up. Now it’s 8:00 am, and the elite runners are off!
Suddenly you realize that you need another potty break. The excitement, the water you drank, the unfamiliar routine have all conspired. You realize that a diarrhea attack may be coming and you might need to find a porta-potty fast.
You’re embarrassed, but don’t be! It happens to the best of us. Poor Paula Radcliffe got caught during a race (with no porta-potty) and, of course, a press photographer could not resist really embarrassing her.
But the race has started, and your group is moving up fast. What to do?
First, calm down. It’s not the end of the world, but you do need to take care of your problem. Your group will probably have gone long before you return, but so what?
These days, big races are all chip-timed, so your time will be taken from the moment you start, not from when your group starts. So, even if you’re not sure if you need the break, it’s better to take it now rather than during the race, when the time out will be included in your race time. So take the break, join a later group if necessary, and start when you’re ready: you’ll be more comfortable, and your time will still be good!
Take care of yourself, enjoy the race, and accept the pre-race jitters. (They won’t hurt, and might even help your performance.)
And you thought running was just about running!