Thursday, June 9, 2011

Built to Run Barefoot?

The New York Times had a wellness blog post yesterday (June 8) titled "Are We Built to Run Barefoot?"  It was a cursory look at barefoot vs shod running and related research on running injuries.  As usual, the posted comments are just as interesting, if not more so, than the post itself.  Here is the single best of the bunch...

Barefoot Ken Bob replies on June 8, 2011...
(If you like his post, check out his outstanding barefoot running book.)

Barefoot running is not simply running, except without the shoes!

I recommend starting out on gravel, or a rough surface to help resist the temptation of; 1) pushing any part of the foot into the ground hard (heel or fore-foot), 2) skidding, twisting, or grinding your feet into the ground, 3) going too far, too soon (before you have learned to run gently, efficiently, and gracefully)

Do NOT try to learn barefoot running in minimalist footwear!

Invariably the reports I have seen and heard of people getting stressinjuries from "barefoot" running, were NOT even BAREfooted, but rather the were running minimalist ("barefoot") footwear, or occasionally barefooters avoiding challenging terrain, like gravel or rough asphalt. 

DO NOT confuse barefoot running with running in "barefoot" shoes - they are as different as night and day, blindfolded and clear-sighted, senseless and sensible.

We were blessed with sensitive soles for the same reason we don't like to hold our hand in the fire for long. It hurts to do stupid things. Bad running technique hurts in bare feet, especially on gravel or rough surfaces. Pain is a warning that if we continue holding our hand in the fire, it will cause serious damage!

On rough surfaces, we learn to run gently in much shorter time, because it hurts to run badly in barefoot, especially on rough terrain. That's why I encourage people not to avoid rough surfaces, but embrace them, to see them as educating. Running barefoot on gravel trails was my graduate school.

One reason people want minimalist footwear is because it hurts to run barefoot badly, and because adults don't like to change the way we run. After all, that will take time, patience, learning, and change...

Adults all-too-often will accept injury in the future, in order to continue running badly - in a way that would hurt if we were barefoot (or without pain-killers), rather than taking the time to figure out how to run more gently, with less pain.

Which is why I also encourage people to become more like children. Do NOT commit yourself to X number of miles, or X number of minutes. Instead, try having fun, playing, experimenting, and listening to your bare soles. They really do want us to LEARN to run and walk more gently, and with less injury. 

Children take a few steps, and fall down, and are excited that they took a few steps. Children aren't wondering when they'll be able to run their next marathon!

So be more child-like, curious, interested in learning, without worrying so much about how far you'll be able to run today, or tomorrow, and before you know it, you may be able to run further, faster, and more often than you ever could with shoes!

That has been my experience, and the experience of hundreds, perhaps thousands of others barefoot runners I've been in contact with since creating the original Running Barefoot website in 1997.

What Lieberman, Davis, and others are discovering in research, barefoot runners have known for as long as we can remember.

Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton
co-author: Barefoot Running Step by Step
founder: The Barefoot Running website (since 1997)

No comments: