You may have read the title of this post and immediately started thinking about your favorite minimalist writers (who doesn’t like Samuel Beckett?), but the topic of the day is running. The benefits of minimalist shoes have been highlighted on this blog before, but the evidence continues piling up in favor of the less-is-more approach to mobility. In fact, we may be on the verge of seeing a barefoot running revolution.
The release of a Dublin City University study has prompted new rumblings online and in the scientific/medical community. Specifically, the study suggests that barefoot running does improve running economy (how efficiently your body uses oxygen). Can we bypass minimalism and go radically barefoot?
Getting through the Transition Period
One interesting part of the study centered on the period when runners started first simulating the barefoot style. Naturally, if you’re wearing shoes outside every day of the year (give or take a few weeks at the beach), your feet are not prepped for the harsh effects of the road and the world at large. A transitional format is thus recommended.
In the case of running, that duty would fall to Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), the minimalist shoes known for many “barefoot” walking and running enthusiasts. When wearing your VFF footwear, you’re gearing up for the great barefoot challenge. Meanwhile, you’ve got the protection of a 3 mm sole that shields foot bottoms from severe wear and tear on the road.
Your Body Changes to Adapt to Shoes — in a Negative Way
The most fascinating part of this ongoing research is the suggestion that shoes do indeed force feet to adapt — in a negative way. Scientifically, it may sound complex. For everyday runners, it might be easiest to say that your legs and feet anticipate impact on the ground when you run significant distances in your shoes. This anticipation ends up causing stress on your lower body, which in turn causes stress on your core and impacts your overall physique when walking or running. Translation: you are probably better off exploding those silly air cushions in your “advanced” running shoes.
The Road through Minimalism Before the Barefoot Revolution Takes
While barefoot walking and running fully takes hold, the VFF method is an excellent transition. To simulate the barefoot condition, this minimalist footwear is your ultimate ally. Again, it will take some adjusting to get through the period immediately following shod running and heading into the fully shoeless method. That protection from the dangers of the open road could turn out to be a huge difference while you embrace the path ahead.
In the meantime, you can do yourself another favor and lay off the high heels for a while. As another recent post points out, there is no mystery why women are experiencing more foot pain than men. The high heels and other fashion footwear are directly linked to these conditions. In the words of a famous Nike sneaker ad: “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
Reference: Four-week habituation to simulated barefoot running improves running economy when compared with shod running. J. P. Warne, G. D. Warrington, Applied Sports Performance Research Group, School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland, Corresponding author: Joe P. Warne, School of Health and Human performance, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland. Tel: +353017008472, Fax: +35317008888, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org