With the increased popularity of “barefoot” running and those funky looking shoes, the fitness industry is booming with conflicting advertisements as to what is fashionable, sculpting, etc. What the ads don’t bother mentioning is that activities such as walking and running have nothing to do with fashion. It is nice to look good, but very few people look good after sweating up a storm. Even if you buy into the trend, you may not be helping yourself. A new study by the American Council on Exercise suggests that while shoes play a role in limiting running injuries, the majority of such injuries come from how the runner strike’s the ground.
The study suggests that the common heel-strike, promoted by the elevated “cushioned” heels of modern tennis/running shoes, is a hard habit to break. While barefoot shoes like Vibram Five-Fingers promote fore-striking and despite proper instruction, most of the participants in the study still struck the ground with their heels. Combine this with the lack of absorptive cushion of a traditional running shoe and the potential for injury increases. Correct fore-strike may require some active thought but it does decrease the injury risks and improves proper biomechanical function, which is great for joints, backs, and stride.
Personally, having tried running barefoot (literally, with socks), I can tell you that it changed my whole mindset about running. I have always hated it. Now, I
don’t. It has become easy. And, the switch from heel-strike to fore-strike came in an instant. I find it hard to run barefoot and strike the ground with my heel. It does not feel natural. This is coming from someone whose worn traditional running shoes her entire life, although (admittedly) I prefer being barefoot whenever possible or in flip flops. If you are interested in barefoot running, do your research and be prepared to actively retrain your body, starting with your mind. Also, you can check out Born to Run, a narrative on discovering the secrets of an Indian tribe dedicated to running hundreds of miles without injury or rest by award-winning journalist and often-injured runner, Christopher McDougall.
For more information on barefoot shoes and their plethora of styles, such as Vibram Five-Fingers, you can search the web. Here is the link to Vibram: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/index.htm
And for your information, yes, I plan on buying a pair. Which to choose?!