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Run More Efficiently: Barefoot Running Techniques

written by: Fitnessmom • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

If you've never heard of this popular running trend, you might want to give it a try. Here is explanation how and why running barefoot is the better and more effective way to train. Learn the proper technique for running without shoes and the benefits to your health.

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    Wearing Shoes While Running

    For the millions of people who enjoy running, whether for sport or fitness, the one piece of equipment they believe is vital is a good pair of training shoes. If a person has high arches, they may even install inserts into their shoes for what they believe to be better "support". But what this does is creates a different gait for that person's already natural stride. If a person has problems with the way they walk or run, a shoe won't always necessarily fix the problem, but may in fact add to it.

    Consider what wearing shoes does for a person during exercise. While wearing shoes, we are not as conscious of how much we use our feet to help engage large muscle groups for posture.

    Wearing shoes can constrict our feet and inhibit their natural movement, leaving us open to injuries, pain and postural problems. The small nerve endings and proprioceptors in our feet tell the rest of our body what to do and where to go. With running, your feet are taking the impact of the ground's surface, and will react first during the exercise.

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    To Shoe or Not to Shoe?

    For those who do run barefoot, there is less impact on the joints and less reported injuries. This is due to the fact that they touch the ground with the ball of the foot, and not the heel. Most tend to land in a springy motion each time the foot makes impact with the ground, whereas, people who land with the heel leading first have more of a forceful impact. When we walk or run while wearing shoes, the nerve endings in our feet become desensitized to contact with the ground by the materials of the shoes.

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    How to Properly Run Barefoot

    Running barefoot uses different muscles in the legs as well as strengthens the muscles in the feet. By learning proper technique and developing some calluses, anyone can enjoy the freedom of running unshod.

    If you're new to running without shoes, start off slowly, and choose a smooth surface to practice on, such as a tennis court or playground at a park. For beginners, it is recommended that they purchase a pair of "minimal shoes" until calluses can be formed and landing technique has improved to prevent injury while retraining the feet to strike on the ball or middle of the feet.

    A minimal shoe simply contours to the natural form of the foot and has a very slender sole, looking similar to a sock.

    When running, it is best to keep a shorter, natural stride, and should feel somewhat like running in place. This is to keep the hips and feet aligned with one another and keeps the stress off of ankle joints and tendons. You should be landing on the ball or middle of the foot and finishing with the heel, not the other way around. Give yourself time to gradually work up to running a longer distance each time, and if there is pain, consider consulting with a professional trainer in this area to assist you.

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    Science Daily-latest

    Sports Science-Barefoot Running, Michael Warburton 2001: