How good is barefoot?

I read a piece in the new York times the other day, it was about barefoot running. To be more precise, it was about how barefoot running can save the world. All it takes is a shift to the balls of the feet and all ills are solved, the article cited a couple of cases where people had changed technique and were now injury free. It can be a very efficient way of running when done correctly but it’s definitely not the answer for everyone.

I work a few days a week doing biomechanical analysis at Profeet running store often seeing people who are carrying injuries and we try to work out what the mechanism is behind that issue and resolve it. Now, the majority of people will run for 2-3 sessions per week and be training for either general conditioning or with a race in mind. Quite often their running style and motor patterns have been grooved over many years and the time and effort required to change these patterns is significant, too significant for many to make the shift to forefoot running. For some, the changes needed are purely technical and they are the ones who will make the transition fairly smoothly if they want to. They will be very body aware and as such will be able to make the positional changes needed to run forefoot.

For others, it’s more a question of function. They don’t have the requisite strength and or flexibility, or inclination to develop the requisite strength and or flexibility in order to aid a change of running style. For those people, the best course is to maintain the current running style and work on bang for buck areas to reduce risk of injury. Namely correct shoe and orthoses, management of training volumes and, depending on potential injury mechanisms, a manageable strength and conditioning intervention. For some, structural issues will be the limiting factor. These will often simply have to be accommodated for with a footwear and orthotic intervention.

So before everyone starts going nuts for forefoot, barefoot, pose and backwards (yes, it does exist) running techniques you need to ask a few questions. Is your current running style a problem? Are you physically able to change it? Are you motivated enough to change it? Either way, get yourself down to Profeet to get checked over.



Neil Welch

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