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Barefoot Running Revisited

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 1.41.31 PMBy Dr. Michael Cerami

As we slowly work our way out of this crazy winter weather and start focusing on what fun the Spring will bring us runners, I wanted to remind everyone that now is a great time to work on your running form. By focusing on your ”neuromuscular” skills now, you’ll be ready to run free with the wind when the weather changes.

With running form in mind, I wanted to share the concepts of a new book I recently finished on running.

Barefoot in Boston by Arthur Horne is a quick read and will provide you with some interesting ideas and observations to fine tune your perceptions about barefoot running. I found the book funny and helpful because the author mixes research in with his personal observations as Sports Performance director at Northeastern University.

So let me share what I thought was most insightful:

1. Most children are in shoes too small for their feet which leads to the toes overlapping later in life. This problem sets us up for foot problems in our later years.

2. If you grew up not wearing shoes, you are less likely to have “transition” problems when using minalimist shoes or barefoot running.

3. Mid-foot and forefoot running reduces the shock and load to the foot, leg and hip. Very important since you are on average striking the ground ~ 1000 times per mile.

4. The Tarahumara (Born To Run) have run barefoot since birth. Those years of adaptation have strengthened their muscles ligaments and tendons as well as the bones of the feet. Lets not mimic them.

5. Wearing shoes that have a significantly higher built up heel height (compared to the forefoot sole height) will eventually tighten your achilles tendon muscles (gastroc/soleus) and restrict your ability to maximize your running efficiency.

6. The body accepts 1.5-3 times your body with each step during running at about 1000 steps per mile. If you weigh 150 lbs., thats 225-450 pounds of force on each foot with each step. If you cannot strap 300 pounds of weigh on your back and perform hundreds and hundreds of heel raises, your are probably not ready to run barefoot.

7. Barefoot running is not for everyone, BUT a barefoot lifestyle and barefoot TRAINING may certainly be incorporated into your day.

8. Start off with a 1/4 mile jog barefoot or begin your strength training with your shoes and socks off. LISTEN TO YOU FEET. New pains mean too much, too fast.

9. Try “grabbing” the floor with your arch throughout the day. Making “monkey toes” may help your knee pain by recruiting adjacent muscles.

10. Working the small intrinsic muscles of the foot with go a long way to help your ankle and foot adapt to better running form.

Dr. Michael Cerami writes a weekly blog for Utah Sports and Wellness and has been a competitive triathlete for over 18 years. He is available for a free injury evaluation one Saturday per month at The Salt Lake Running Company (700 East store) by appointment. He can be reached at 801-486-1818 or online at www.utahsportsandwellness.com

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