As a child I was constantly running around barefoot. I could be found barefoot, tearing around the backyard with my brothers, especially in the summer. It just seemed better, more natural, to have unrestrained feet with which to chase my brothers around the house. This experience may have helped me prevent chronic injury coming from impact landings over the years, and develop a safer style of running.
Researchers at Harvard have been testing the effects of running with and without shoes. It turns out that people who run with shoes on tend to land on their heels, increasing impact beyond those who run barefoot. Barefoot runners generally land on the middle-to-front of the foot. This decreases the effective area of foot touching the ground at immediate point of impact, causing the foot to act more “springy.”
Modern athletic footwear is designed to make heel-striking more manageable by reducing impact through cushioning. This helps people who run with shoes but does not allow the same development of certain muscles as shoeless running does, such as calf and some foot muscles. More difficult for shoe runners is learning to run as a shoeless runner, which takes time for one who has been running with shoes for a long time.
Next time you go for a run, think about going barefoot (if you have a safe place to go, that is). It is easy to tell after just a few steps that it is a completely different style of running. You can really feel yourself bounce more, and feel the burn deep, deep in the calves. So run like a kid in the summer, in a field or on the beach.
Written by: Erik Alvarenga