For the past two years I have been “barefoot” running (with Five Finger shoes) and I can honestly say, it has been one of THE best additions to my exercise regimen. The freedom, agility, fluidity of movement, reduction of impact, endurance and lower limb strength development has been simply amazing! I can’t tell you enough how efficient and light-footed I feel with each foot strike, and the amount of sensory awareness that develops from running in this way. From the small accessory muscles in your foot and ankle, to the positioning of each and every foot strike in space, the sensitivity you develop towards your body is very exciting. Simply put, running barefoot has made me fall in love with running. But enough of my own thoughts. Allow me to briefly elaborate on why barefoot running is worth a try!
Running barefoot allows us to utilize the full potential of the musculature found within the arch of our foot; I really believe the power within these muscles is quite often overlooked. If you can imagine a collection of high performance bungees stemming from the heel of your foot to the ends of each toe and to the base of the ball of your foot, you’re left with some serious tensile energy waiting to be released, like a spring board!
The problem with regular running shoes, is that the bulk of the cushioning doesn’t allow for a complete extension of your toes upon impact and follow-through because with each heel strike, it promotes increased ankle dorsiflexion (Altman and Davis, 2012). This excessive dorsiflexion “locks” the plantar (sole of your foot) musculature and restricts the amount of tensile force generated. Not only does this reduce the amount of propulsive power but also, the amount of ABSORPTIVE power. Just like any muscle, the elasticity of our musculature enables us to absorb exceedingly large amounts of force. The same holds true for the collection of muscles found in the arch of our foot!
To get a visual idea, view below (Netter, 5th Ed., plate 521):
I know the above image may seem overwhelming but if you are to take anything away from it, take a quick glance at the amount of muscles present and the way they interconnect with each other – the volume of available musculature allows for incredible shock absorption and power!
From personal experience, I would highly recommend anyone to begin running in this way so that they can experience the possibilities of barefoot running themselves. Just be sure to take your time and just like ANY new mode of training - ease into it, be safe and most importantly, see if it is something that you ENJOY. If not, let it go!
Remember, let us not underestimate what we already have within our own bodies. Part 2 will elaborate more on the injury reduction potential of barefoot running. I wish you all well and hope you enjoyed this post
PLEASE feel free to ask, comment, disagree or anything!