Running barefoot vs. Shod running
Whilst running barefoot, there is more of a forefoot strike when taking off, and a more planta-flexed foot on landing. This leads to an increased ankle compliance, and decreases the mass of your body that collides with the ground; essentially, using your foot as a natural shock absorber – which in turn, increases your foot muscles.
Shod running (running with shoes on) tends to create more or a rear-foot strike when running. This is facilitated by the shoes, which are designed with an elevated and cushioned heel, encouraging a heel strike. These elevated and cushioned heels reduce the impact of rear-foot striking, and make it more comfortable; the shoes acting as shock absorbers. This is aimed at reducing potential injuries from running.
The landing-impact force is one-third less in barefoot running than in shod running.
Rotational energy is a key factor in this:
- In landing on your heel, the impact force is transmitted up into the body.
- On the other hand, the forefoot strike decreases this impact force.
- Through storing more energy in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, this energy is used in rotation, helping with the forward kinetic propulsion, and improving running efficiency, as less energy is lost.
The evolution of running
Early evidence shows primitive men had an enlarged heel, suggesting they mobilised/strike on their heels.
Through evolution came an adaptation for survival as men needed to run for longer and faster when hunting for food. Through this process came a more efficient running style, thus the development of a longitudinal arch that is present in modern humans and forefoot running.
So why barefoot?
The self-cushioning of our feet diminishes with the use of shoes, and there is a lack of knee and ankle-bend at initial foot-strike. In running barefoot, there is an optimal knee bend, creating a somewhat lower centre of gravity, leading to more compliance with the running surface. This allows an adjustment in leg stiffness to accommodate the surface hardness.
What’s more, shoes with arch supports and stiffened or well cushioned soles may lead to weakened foot muscles, which increase the likelihood of excessive pronation and plantar fasciitis, and change rotation profile which can extend into the knee, hip, back, and even neck.
For more information, or to book an appointment to have our physio team analyse your running behaviours, talk to your friendly Gold Coast Physio today on (07) 5574 4303!