Barefoot Running

The terms 'barefoot' or 'natural running technique' refer to understanding the nature of movement and running in a way which utlises your bodys somatosensory system (sensory system - think of this as your sixth sense) to run in an efficient, less injurious manner.

During human locomotion our brain receives visual, stimular and proprioceptive feedback via our sensory system, with the largest feedback (upto 70%) received through our feet and joint receptors. Runners who wish to adopt the technique of barefoot or natural running therefore remove the layers of material between their feet and the ground in an attempt to allow their feet to provide increased feedback on how the body is landing, loading rates and compression/tension to the brain.

The use of conventional cushioned/stability/motion control running shoes and inserts/orthotics will reduce the sensory systems ability to feedback adequate information to the brain and studies suggest this can alter the way in which a runner moves (stride length, leg rhythm, foot position, posture) therefore many running shoe manufacturers now provide a lighter, more flexible, thiner soled running shoe that can be used to help retain the sensory feedback, whilst protect the runners feet with puncture resistant and weather proof material. 

The majority of barefoot/natural technique runners will land upon their forefoot, adopt a shorter stride length, land closer to their bodies centre of mass (underneath their hips) and utilise their lower leg and intrinsic foot muscles for shock absorption, stability and forward movement. The same characteristics can be spotted in the technique adopted by elite athletes who need to reduce braking forces whilst running at speed and increase efficiency such as the use of muscle tendon elasticity during sprint, middle and long distance running. 

The majority of shod runners utilising conventional cushioned/stability/motion control running shoes and inserts/orthotics will land upon their heel, adopt a longer stride length, land significantly infront of their bodies centre of mass and have an increased body mass impact* upon landing comprising of heel, foot & lower leg compared with runners adopting a barefoot/natural/forefoot technique.

* Effective Mass Impact:

Heel Strike: foot & lower leg = 6.8% of total body mass

Forefoot Strike: forefoot & some portion of rear foot & leg = 1.7% of total body mass

Any runner wishing to adopt the technique of forefoot running, or utilise barefoot running shoes must both learn the skill and technique of running in this way, as well as allow time for their body to adapt and condition to support this new loading of the muscles and joints in the lower leg and foot. Incorporating thin soled, barefoot lifestyle shoes into daily practises for walking etc will help with the transition by improving foot health such as muscle activation, flexibility/suppleness and in cases re-alignment of the 'Big Toe' to help with the walking and running gait.

Chris Adams, Founder of The Running Coach, has an indepth understanding on running technique, assessment and correctional practises to advise and support you in your transition to a skilled running technique. Whether you wish to run in conventional running shoes or barefoot shoes, he will help you develop your running potential by reducing injurious movement patterns and advising you on how best to adapt your current style for maximum long term gain!