WE all did it as children, but for most of us, the older we get, the less appealing running barefoot becomes.
But the trend towards walking and running sans shoes is gaining momentum as high-profile supporters encourage others to ditch their trainers.
Among them is Dr James Stoxen, a US chiropractor who presented at the Australasian Academy of Anti- Ageing Medicine Conference in Melbourne this month.
He believes the body has a ‘‘natural spring mechanism that’s perfectly good to take up the impact you feel when you run and walk’’.
Dr Stoxen says going barefoot can promote a healthy spring mechanism in your foot – which takes the impact when you go for a walk or run. But critics of the method say there is too little scientific research to promote the benefits of going barefoot.
Dr Dominic Thewlis is a UniSA lecturer who specialises in lower limb biomechanics and says, at best, the jury is still out on the topic.
‘‘There was speculative work published in 2010 that suggests barefoot running might be efficient . . . but there is still no evidence to say it is beneficial,’’ he says.
The 2010 study, published in the journal Nature , found soft shoes encouraged runners to land heel-first.
That creates an abrupt collision force 1.5 times the runner’s body weight, which contributes to injuries.
Barefoot runners land on the forefoot or with a flat foot, decreasing the effect, the study found. Dr Thewlis, however, says advocates of barefoot running failed to understand they could injure their foot simply by stepping on a stone.
‘‘Our feet have adapted to a pattern of wearing shoes,’’ he says. ‘‘We can’t sustain running on our toes. We revert to running on our heel because our physiological system is not capable of doing it for a long period.’’
UniSA Professor of Exercise Science Kevin Norton described the barefoot movement as a fad.
But if you decide to hit the pavement barefoot, Dr Stoxen says there are adjustments you should make to the way you run. This includes:
- WHEN you’re running and you want to run with maximum spring, don’t land heel first. The faster you run the more you lean forward
- WHEN you first start your run, bend forward at the ankles – right when you’re about to ‘‘fall through’’. ‘‘This is called a controlled fall. You’re falling constantly throughout the entire run with the mid-part of your pelvis slightly ahead of the foot.’’
- KEEP your second toe pointing towards the target. ‘‘If your foot does not point forward, it’s impossible for you not to twist your leg.’’
- DON’T run barefoot when the weather is freezing.
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