The barefoot running movement looks to be in decline even though more and more shoe manufacturing companies are adopting the trend. The movement got a huge boost in 2009 with the release of Born to Run, Christopher McDougal’s seminal book on the subject. The book argues that the human foot should not be encased in a shoe laden with support systems and cushioning because how can fifty years of shoe design compete with the many tens of thousands of years of evolution which has given us the biomechanical wonder that is the human foot? McDougal claims the instances of lower leg and foot injuries has risen dramatically since the mid 1960’s coinciding with the introduction by Nike of the sport shoe.
Humans evolved to run with a midfoot strike while running that is to say the impact of a midfoot strike is absorbed through the arch of the foot and the flex of the Achilles tendon with minimal vibration to the lower leg. The modern running shoe has, among other problems, heavy cushioning on the heel which promotes a heel strike while running which negates and by-passes the arch and its shock absorbing qualities. This sends the shock of the impact right up the tibia and fibula into the knees. One of the more common injuries resulting from this is shin splints. This stride pattern also means that the leading foot makes contact with the ground forward of the hips instead of directly under the hips which causes problems for the knees. These are just a couple of examples of the litany of problems caused as a result of these types of shoes. Barefoot running has proved popular in recent years as people are looking for alternative ways of healing reoccurring injuries.
The barefoot movement promotes running in a shoe with no support where the sole of the shoe is generally just 4mm thick and is only there to protect the foot from sharp objects. Most models of these shoes house the toes in separate compartments to encourage strengthening of the toes which improves balance and drive in the push off part of the run stride.
It can take as much as a year to fully adapt the body to running in these types of shoes. Many people rush this process and end up injured. I would consider myself an advocate although I don’t use the type of shoe described or pictured I do use a minimal shoe with no support. Although it has to be said, I never see barefooters winning races but they do rave about the health benefits.
What seems to be happening now is a lot of the big names in sportswear have versions of the barefoot shoe on the market. Unfortunately through product design, and no doubt marketing design, each new updated model seems to be gaining weight and support. Back to square one it seems.
McDougall, C. (2009) Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. New York: Knopf.
Doc, S. (2013) Why the Minimalist Footwear Trend Won’t Last, Available at: http://sock-doc.com/2013/11/minimalist-footwear-trend/ (Accessed on 18th November 2013).
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