Friday, 22 February 2013

Barefoot running?

Many patients have asked me about converting to barefoot running.
It is clear that the shoe industry’s default recommendation has progressively shifted from an anti-pronation shoe to a neutral cushioned shoe over the past few years. There is however several scientific studies that do show that despite all the claims manufacturers do make about changing technology the percentage of runners getting injured annually is fairly constant. It is important to remember that it is a very competitive industry and companies are doing their utmost to differentiate themselves from their competitors often with unsubstantiated claims.

There is far more correlation between the variance and volume of your training to the incidence of injuries and most runners can thus benefit with a more structured approach to their training.

The argument  that running barefoot is natural and thus the correct way to run is definitely winning ground and several physiotherapist & podiatrist are gradually shifting their stance supporting this movement. I’m one of the physiotherapist that do promote shoes closer to barefoot since I believe if you can function with minimal “crutches/support/braces” you are generally better off. The big challenge is to manage your progression back to a more neutral shoe in small doses (as actually mentioned by a lot of manufacturers). Please don’t leap from the one extreme to the next.

Researchers have shown us that your connective tissue might take as long as 18 months to completely remodel and our bodies to thus adapt to major changes but that biomechanical interventions focussing on stability training & soft tissue release can assist in this process.

My final advice then is that you would probably be better off in the long term with shoes closer to barefoot. As with everything in life there is no quick fix and you must be committed to a gradual change. Start walking more barefoot at home & wearing minimalistic shoes for activities of daily living before changing your running shoes. Take your current pair of running shoes to a specialist running store with knowledgeable staff than can guide you through what will be a few consecutive models of shoes closer to barefoot, especially if you have been running for years.

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