Have you ever entered a marathon?
Or perhaps you’re just a “casual runner.”
Either way, you’ll at least want to educate yourself about the latest trend in running.
It will certainly change the way you think about running, and perhaps even the way you run.
In the Mexican Copper Canyons, in Northwestern Mexico, there resides a reclusive tribe of people able to run ultra long distances.
Called the Tarahumara Indians, they commonly run barefoot (or with a thin piece of leather under each foot) more than 100 miles at a time, at incredible speeds without getting the routine injuries many runners face.
Author and journalist, Chris McDougall, who is also a serious runner, was tired of being repeatedly injured. He set out to uncover their secret.
The key thing he noticed is that they don’t do the traditional heal strike when they run because, with limited padding, the impact would be too jarring on the foot. Instead they run with their fore-foot hitting the ground first.
The basic idea is that this is how the human body is designed to run. But because modern running shoes (which have only been around since the early 1970s) elevate the heel and offer overall padding to the foot, the majority of people (75 to 80%) run with their heel hitting the ground first.
In other words, humans have altered their natural running style to conform to the design of the running shoe.
So is traditional running passé? Should you head out immediately and buy a minimalist running shoe?
Before I answer that, let’s look at a 2010 study done by Harvard University Scientist Dan Lieberman, who is featured in Born to Run.
Lieberman’s study found “that runners who land on their fore-foot land with far less force and far greater efficiency than their heel-striking counterparts.”
He concludes that barefoot running may indeed reduce the chance of injury, but cautioned that further study is needed.
So let’s look at the pros and cons as they sit today.
First, the pros…
Barefoot running appears to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot (that aren’t being overly used when you run with your heel hitting the ground first.) Because the heel is not elevated, it will also strengthen your Achilles tendon and calf muscle, which will reduce injuries such as calf strains and Achilles tendinitis.
Because you’re running on your fore-foot as opposed to the heel, you’ll develop a more natural and efficient running stride.
It may also improve your balance. The rational being that the smaller muscles in your feet, ankles, legs and thighs will be more active, which will give you better balance and coordination.
Running barefoot does not offer as much protection for your foot should you land on a piece of glass, nails, rocks, thorns, sharp rocks etc.
Another con is the actual transition period. If you’ve been running for decades, you might find it difficult to make the transition. In addition, you most likely will experience blisters until calluses are formed on your feet.
That said, its’ recommended that you transition to it very gradually because the change will be a shock to your feet muscles. If you take it too fast, you could injure your feet.
So it comes down to a few things. If you’re happy with how you currently run, you might not want to make the switch. The old saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.
However, if you are experiencing health issues that you feel are related to running, you might want to consider it. But take it slow and check with your doctor first.
As someone who is serious about looking after your health, why not take advantage of our free fitness consultation offer? Take advantage of your FREE Fitness Consultation (an $87 value)!
During this consult, you’ll receive detailed information on how to get fit and trim that’s tailored to YOUR body.
There’s no obligation and it’s totally and completely free. To sign up, click here.