Abdi is a personal trainer based in Loughton, Essex. For the past 2 years he has been writing a blog about health and fitness – Always in your Corner www.alwaysinyourcorner.co.uk. Below he gives us his thoughts on barefoot running.
Abdi: Last year I attended a very informative Running/Footwear clinic at the Holly House Hospital. This clinic was given by Noel Thatcher, MBE and Par-Olympian. Noel was assisted by a Podiatrist and a representative from Brooks running shoe company.
The main topic that the clinic covered was barefoot running.
In recent years we have started to hear more and more about barefoot running and nowadays barefoot shoes are widely available even on the high street. More and more people have started to run barefoot, some might even have been inspired by a book called ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall.
The question is; what is the benefit of barefoot running as opposed to traditional running? To answer that question we need to look at how the foot lands on the ground in both running styles.
In traditional running you are supposed to land on your heel, then your shoes are meant to reduce a bit of the impact through cushioning and stabilize your foot, to make sure that you are well aligned.
The whole idea of running barefoot on the contrary, is that you are meant to land on the ball of your foot rather than your heel. There is little or no cushioning to reduce the impact.
Noel Thatcher gave us his input first, as a former competitive runner he has in recent years started exploring barefoot running and in his opinion it is a very good option to traditional running.
Unfortunately there is very limited research done on this subject, but according to Mr Thatcher, barefoot running could actually reduce wear and tear on mainly your lower back and also possibly your hip-joint and knees.
When switching over to barefoot running it is essential that you take your time to make the transition. Basically you need to start from scratch and rebuild. This means that if you are a competitive runner, you are going to have a long career break, possibly a year or more. To get used to the new running technique you need to slowly ease into things, at first you will only be jogging for 5 minutes a day.
The implications of not doing so could mean that you pick up injuries in other parts of your body, mainly your calf muscles.
Mr Thatcher also stressed that you are unlikely to run faster barefoot and that you are going to use more energy to move. So it is quite a big decision o start running barefoot. It is performance vs (possible) injury prevention.
I have personally worn Vibrams for about 3 years now. I haven’t done much running in them unfortunately since I am officially retired as a runner. I have done bits of pieces and so far so good. I mainly use them to walk around in and also at work and during my own workouts.
One of the main reasons that I retired from running was actually my lower back which showed quite significant degenerative damage. So now after attending this footwear clinic I am actually quite tempted to say the least, to have another go at running. I have missed running and if I can run without damaging my lower back and hip then I feel like I am the perfect candidate.
At the end of the very informative running footwear clinic we were all given a pair of Brooks trainers to take home. These are actually trainers that are designed for barefoot running. Basically the heel has been flattened to promote mid-foot landing. I did have a go with them on the track and they felt really good.
Comparing the Brooks trainers to Vibrams there is obviously the visual difference. Brooks actually look like a normal pair of trainers (without pockets for your toes). Also there is a bit more cushioning than in the Vibrams which may be helpful when running on the road.
This footwear clinic has certainly given me an incentive to go back to running and if I do it is going to be barefoot for me.
By the way, if you live in Loughton and want to get into barefoot running and feel that you need a coach. Look no further, I am the one to contact.
Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal Trainer in Loughton