They are called the forefoot strikers. They feel the earth with their heels and breath the air in with their toes. Barefoot runners’ have taken off as the leaders in natural fitness by touching nature at every step.
Kinesiology professor and lecturer on barefoot running Robert Clark and Brian Polidorim, an avid runner who has run a half marathon (City to Sea) and a Half Ironman (Wildflower) in barefoot shoes, gave some insight to this freeing phenomenon.
Health and Speed Benefits.
1. It helps strengthen muscles in our foot.
“Ironically really good running shoes can lead to chronic injury,” Clark says.
A running shoe is, “analogous to wearing an ankle brace or having a cast. It immobilizes joints and muscles loose ability to control motion.”
Polidori also has a personal testimony of this.
“Over time, I’ve found that I my ankles are stronger, and I never really twist my ankle running trails because there is no platform, therefore creating less torque on your ankle when you do step on something funny.”
2. Gives the runner a faster stride.
When converting to barefoot running, the motion changes from a heel strike, which means when running the heel
Being a forefoot striker, your ball of your hits the ground first. Photo is edited. Photo by Mia Mendola
hits the ground first, to a forefoot striker.
After your forefoot hits, your heel goes down, but barley hits the ground, then pops back up. Photo is illustrated. Photo by Mia Mendola
“If you are a forefoot striker, you land on the front of your foot and then the heel comes down, but does not hit the ground, and it immediately goes back up again,” Clark says
Why is this more beneficial?
When heel striking it is, “creating a breaking motion that slows you down. I can honestly say that I am a much stronger runner because I stopped using trainers (running shoes),” says Polidori.
3. The feeling is freeing.
It will make anyone giddy.
Barefoot Shoes or Just Barefoot?
A barefoot shoe is not needed to run barefoot. But there are specific barefoot running shoes that can help or hurt.
- Polidori uses the Vibram KSO’s, aka the 5-finger shoe. This protects the feet from the ground, but does not have a heel like normal running shoes.
- Avoid the “barefoot running” running shoe. “Some of the shoes, transitional barefoot shoes, could be worse than regular running shoes, because have a heel lift. Anytime you have that, you are more likely to land on your heel,” Clark says.
How To Start?
No person can go directly to barefoot running. Tips for starting are:
- Give a few months to transition. 8 months is an average time it could take for the foot and ankle muscles to adjust.
- Start somewhere soft, such as grass or the beach.
- Start off walking.
Barefoot running is hitting everyone. “After hearing one of Professor Clark’s lectures, I was immediately interested in barefoot running,” says Cal Poly Triathlon Team member Nick Shields.
*Even though this commercial shows these barefoot Nike shoes, they are just the kind of transitional shoes that could be worse for you than normal running shoes. The purpose of the video is to show the freeing feeling of running barefoot.*