If you live in Missoula you’ve likely caught a glimpse of a barefoot runner. Among the throngs of runners there are some unmistakably naked feet and many others scantily clad in some kind of five-fingered foot glove.
You may have processed this in a similar manner as I did, at first thinking these people were following a ridiculous fad and accumulating an impressive list of injuries. But then I heard some logical arguments on the benefits of barefoot running. I decided it deserved a second look.
Thus, I read an article by Dr. Irene Davis of the Spaulding National Running Center at Harvard. Doing so helped me to discover the potential benefits and strategies behind a barefoot running program.
Here is what I took away from the article:
- Padded heels, stiff shoes, and arch support can prevent our feet from working properly while promoting an unnatural gait. Running barefoot strengthens muscles of the feet and lower leg and encourages a softer strike pattern.
- Barefoot shoes (e.g. Vibram FiveFingers®) should be considered as a means of injury prevention when running on rough surfaces, in excessive cold, and at night. A true barefoot shoe should be easy to twist and bend and will make landing on the heel uncomfortable.
- Barefoot running should feel gentle, relaxed, and quiet. The best test for proper form is to run on a smooth, hard surface. Sensation in your feet and leg will alert you if you are landing too hard.
- The transition to barefoot running should be slow, as muscles of the foot and lower leg need gradual progression to get strong enough to handle the load. Excessive stiffness or soreness and any kind of pain are indications that rest and more modifications may be needed.
- Finally, people with diabetes, neuropathies, or any other kind of sensory impairment affecting their feet should not run barefoot as the lack of sensation heightens the possibility of injury.
For more information on barefoot running check out Dr. Davis’s website by clicking here.
We also invite you to schedule a Runner’s Clinic at Alpine. This 1.5 hour physical therapy examination includes 2-D video analysis and a thorough clinical examination. Doing so enables your physical therapist to design an individualized exercise specific to your needs. We can provide you with additional information on barefoot running, as well as to improve your running performance. For additional information, click here. Or call or clinic at 406-251-2323.