(NaturalNews) Barefoot running is relatively non-existent in industrialized and wealthier countries although it remains common in poorer nations. Cushioned shoes are comfortable and well-integrated into our modern day society; however, science has shown they may not be the best way to run.
A recent study published in the journal Nature showed that barefoot runners had a greater amount of time landing on the balls of their feet compared to runners in shoes who tend to land on their heels first. Using motion and force analysis, scientists showed that barefoot runners who strike on the forefoot generate smaller impact forces than shod rear-foot strikers.
The human foot evolved over thousands of years without cushioned shoes. The structure of the foot and lower leg is very efficient at absorbing the shock of landing. By using the natural rhythm of gravity, barefoot running is extremely efficient at turning the energy of the fall into forward motion.
Daniel Lieberman PhD, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, says that cushioned footwear leads to a change in running mechanics that increase heel strike of the foot. Barefoot running, on the other hand, promotes striking the ground with the forefoot and middle of the foot. Running on the balls of the feet or middle of the foot reduces impact force by 2-3 times the amount of body weight that heel striking runners repeatedly experience.
"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," Lieberman said in a news release. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain."
"It's really about how you hit the ground," said Lieberman. "When you hit the ground, some of your body comes to a dead stop." For runners in cushioned shoes, "it is literally like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer, but the way in which barefoot runners run is more or less collision free."
Heel striking causes a large and sudden collision force at an average of 960 times for every mile they run, "making runners prone to repetitive stress injuries." Barefoot runners tend to point their toes more at landing, minimizing the collision by decreasing the "effective mass of the foot that comes to a sudden stop when you land, and by having a more compliant or springy leg."
Barefoot Running Suggestions:
1.Run on Grass: One of the most enjoyable ways to run barefoot is in the grass from spring – fall. Soccer or football fields are great.
2.Running on Harder Surfaces: Be careful and ease into it. Many people swear by running barefoot on hard surfaces, but it can be dangerous. Over-time your eye-foot coordination will improve.
3.Specific Footwear: Certain apparel simulates barefoot running while providing a quality level of protection. These products are very helpful.
4.Ease Into It: Barefoot running depends on a different series of muscle contractions that most people rarely use when running in shoes. Like any new form of exercise, this can cause soreness in the ankle, calf, and foot. Progress into it slowly and after 2 weeks you should have acclimated appropriately.