Barefoot running. It's gaining in popularity. Bring up barefoot running in a conversation with runners and it can be a hot topic. For the most part, runners are very loyal to their shoes. As with most anything, when the traditional way of doing something is questioned or changed, camps form and sides are taken.
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it...my philosophy of running is, "if it works for you, then do it." If someone has had 30 years of injury-free running in shoes, then I doubt he's doing anything wrong. And on the flip side, if someone has had injury, after injury, after injury running in shoes, then switches to running barefoot and suddenly is injury free, then it would appear that he's done something right. If it looks like a peach, and smells like a peach, it must be a peach.
The latter scenario, just happens to represent what happened to a buddy of mine Josh—Barefoot Josh. Josh has been running barefoot about a year and he's logged around 1,000 miles. (His barefoot miles don't include runs in which he wears socks, Vibram Five Fingers or other minimalist shoes.) He's also run a marathon and several shorter races barefoot. To read more about Josh's journey into barefoot running [click here].
Josh shared his love of barefoot running as well as proper barefoot running technique in a workshop at my fitness studio—RunnerDude's Fitness. I myself am a "taker and a maker"....I take bits and pieces of techniques from here and bits and pieces of knowledge from there and make my own home brew of running that seems to work for me. Because of a nerve problem in my right forefoot (Morton's neuroma), I'm not able to run barefoot. I guess, I could try running with one foot shod and one foot bare, but I'm thinking that may not work out too well. I may yet give one of the minimalist shoes a try, but until then, I've been incorporating many of the running form techniques advocated by barefoot runners into my own running, such as a shorter stride, more of a forefoot/midfoot strike, and a lighter more lifting motion of the foot instead of pounding the ground.
The one thing I'm not able to experience nor are minimalist runners is how true barefoot running can help a runner figure out what he/she is doing wrong by learning to "read" what their feet are telling them with each foot strike. Josh does a great job of explaining this in his workshop. Your feet become little sensors kind of like the ones in the fancy cars that tell you when somethings in the road ahead of you or when your tires are going flat. Your feet sensors can give the barefoot runner immediate feedback so that he/she can immediately make changes while running and hopefully avoid injury.
So, is barefoot running for you? Only you can tell. Give it a try and see what you think. Start slow and go short. Work your way up in distance and speed. Be patient. You may be surprised with the results.
Check out the video clip below taken from Josh's Barefoot Running Workshop at RunnerDude's Fitness.