Emils Solmanis

bear foot


With all those homophonic puns out of the way, today's topic has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any member of the ursidae family. Today we'll talk about barefoot running and what that is.

so you want to be a nudist

First, when I say "barefoot", I actually mean "minimalist". Actual barefoot running is practically non-existent, mostly because humans are actually pigs in disguise and, statistically, you'd have to get stitches after every session. You would totally be That Guy at the A&E if you had to explain that you cut your feet whilst running around London barefoot.

the gear

Regular running shoes usually have lots of cushioning and support. It varies model from model, but you'll generally see the soles be around 1 cm thick, with closer to 2 cm on the heel. That's because most runners in these kinds of shoes have a heel heavy footstrike.

If you look at barefoot / minimalist shoes, they have three main differences:

  • thin soles, most on the order of 3 mm or so
  • even height throughout
  • tries to "hug" your foot and match the arch as close as possible

There are several makers of these, like Merrell or Vibram. You can find more if you go looking, but it's obviously a somewhat niche market.

To state the obvious, if you try heel-striking in these, you… well you won't die, but you'll certainly regret it the next day.

why would you ever

The argument for going barefoot stems directly from that. Heel-striking is generally not a very natural thing. You only get away with it because you have some heavy cushioning protecting you. Without that, you'd be slamming all your body-weight into the pavement, at speed, without anything there to absorb the impact.

Your foot has all the muscle and fascia tools needed to cope with that impact, but because modern running shoes offer loads of support and padding, they aren't being utilised and have atrophied over time.

A further argument therefore goes that running in padded shoes actually increases chronic injuries like plantar fasciitis, because you're not using your feet right.

Whether all that is true is a matter of some ongoing medical research.

onwards and upwards

As for myself, I've only started. I got myself a pair of Vivo shoes, let's see where this train goes. I'm not exactly throwing out my Asics just yet, but given everything I've read on biomechanics and other such animals, I'm reasonably convinced engaging your feet more and moving to a bouncier front-strike should be beneficial.

I'll report back with results when I've gathered more personal distance in them.

What about you, think this is just another hipster fad? Let us know in the comments!

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