Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barefoot Running -- Improve Mechanics For Good!

The picture above is of Barefoot Rick's feet after completing the Chicago Marathon is 2006. To many, the thought of running 26.2 miles on pavement without shoes conjures images of bloody stumps and permanent disability. But look, he's fine. How could this be?

Runners having experienced problems buy expensive running shoes are told the shoe selected will aid in correcting pronation or providing more cushioning.  In reality studies suggest they will experience a greater prevalence of running-related injuries than wearers of less expensive shoes (Robbins and Gouw, 1991).  Granted, it could be the runners in the less expensive flats are by nature more naturally inclined to run or younger (or both).  Regardless, a correlation has been established between expensive athletic shoes and injury.   In fact, runners will on average incur more than twice as many injuries from expensive shoes than those in cheaper shoes.  These tend to be the heavier highly corrective or supportive shoes with lots of technology.  Are shoe companies deceptivley advertising athletic footwear capabilities (e.g., "cushioning impact") that create more problems for runners than they had before?  Or, are they simply over enamored with thier engineering prowess and losing sight of the big picture.  Without a crytal ball its hard to say what exactly is going on.  

Ever worry about hanging all this bling on your hoof?

I wear shoes all the time.  I run for Team RC.  Mizuno sponsors the team and I am proud to be affiliated.  They make great gear and not just shoes.  Team RC represents the competitive arm for Running Central.  Adam White owns Running Central and helps feed my addiction to the sport of running.  His professional team are experts in footwear as well as all aspects of running and triathlons.  They understand everyone has unique running requirments and there's NO one solution.  But here is where they differ from the run of the mill athletic foot store.  When you come in with a mechanical problem be it over pronating or knee problems they try first to get athletes in a mindset to first fix the underlying condition before treating it.  Think of it this way.  If your tires on your car were out of alignment you could do a lot of damage just running mile after mile like this. You have two options, change the flatform or change your form.  The latter takes more time but will yeild the best long term results.  Running without shoes gives you the best feedback on what mechanically you are doing wrong.   Your feet hurt long before you do serious hip or knee damage.  Running shoes have a place (even in my life).  They protect my pigs from painful objects but they aren't corrective devices and the capacity for shock absorbtion and prevention of over pronation is limited.   But the running shoe is not all positive.  If you never get out of your shoes you will face a the downside to shoes, reduced sensory feedback.  This is especially dangerous when you understand the research points to less protection thereby increasing the injury-inducing impacts.   You may be having a false sense of security that may contribute to the risk of injury (Robbins and Gouw, 1991).  Here's the long term rub: once the natural foot structures are weakened by long-term footwear use, you will  have to rely on the external support of the footwear, but the support does not match that provided by a well functioning foot. When it comes to racing, team RC takes a less is best attitude.  If you are interested in knowing more.  Go see Adam at Running Central and talk with him about how best to proceed.

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