Scientists, experts, coaches, athletes, and EVERYONE has tried for years to improve running ability and comfort. There is no denying in the benefits of running. Running is about achieving goals, pushing yourself and having fun. Running can be an exercise, a hunting tool, a method of transportation, a source of entertainment, an art, and more. For runners, running can be the greatest fulfillment in life. Everyone all ages and backgrounds can enjoy running. All you need is shoes.
As with everything, nothing exists without drawbacks. For runners, this usually means long-term injuries to the knee, ankles, shin-splits, hips, lower-back pain, and more. Top level running athletes are commonly injured and setback for weeks due to small injuries. All sorts of shoes and equipment have been designed over the years but none really delivering the promise of allowing the runner to go faster while giving the athlete the supportive cushioning. The proof is that all the new designs have NOT worked. Nearly NONE have really decreased the injuries. They DO however improve the comfort, but the injuries have always remained.
Lucky for us, there has been great breakthroughs in research. For the purpose of saving my time, I will not bother to list my sources or care to spell any researcher’s name right. I will simply explain the logic behind the theory and hope that you apply it to your knowledge.
Runners are getting injuries no matter what type of shoes they wear. Runners suffer injuries from head to toe such as neck, shoulders, back, hips, thighs, knees, shins, and ankles.
Shoe manufacturers have long marketed buzzwords like air gel, gel cushioning, shock impact, and etc…but none of these new shoes have really helped agains running injuries, NOR have they really increased running performance. The DO however come through with their promise of COMFORT. Although technology has greatly advanced over the past years, yet running shoes have not any real benefits to runners.
The best endurance runners have been known for YEARS to come from Africa. Kenyans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, and the rest of that continent have been dominating our marathons for years. Not only do they beat the rest of the competition, they do it with ease. Their record times seem almost IMPOSSIBLE. They are able to maintain a competitive 1-mile pace for a whole 26 miles! They can train for hours at a day, running 100 miles in a day during heavy training sessions. The most shocking of all is that they run barefooted! They thing is to realize that these barefoot runners run for the longest amount of time continuously barefooted without injuries while maintaining a very high speed! Are they genetically gifted in any way? Are they physically superior to us? There is no denying that people of African descent can be great sprinters no matter where on earth they end up in. But why isn’t it that African-Americans don’t come close to the level of their native people? In some places in Africa, people hunt down deer and other animals by chasing the animal until it gets tired, which they then kill it. Their running abilities aren’t just impressive – they’re out of our league. There must be something we are doing wrong!
Avoiding past mistakes and useless technology:
Today’s over-cushioned shoes are TERRIBLE because they don’t improve runners’ performances and they don’t help against injuries. WHY? Simple, first off we have to begin with the shoe design. Running shoes today are ALL built for comfort. They are built with tons of cushioning, and the soles are shaped to complement the natural shape of the human foot. While this feels GREAT and comfortable, it doesn’t allow the human foot to respond naturally when running. Naturally humans are anatomically made to run on the balls of their feet, bare-footed. When the ball of the foot hits the ground, the front of the foot (the only part allowed to touched the ground), spreads out flat and allows the shock to absorb evenly throughout the foot. Since the heel of the foot is not touching the ground, the shock bypasses the heel and travels up the calves and then essentially to the thighs. With proper form, the shock is quickly and properly distributed from the foot to the calves up to the big leg muscles of the runner. This allows the runner to take the force of the stepping impact with his legs and build up bigger leg muscles. Bigger and stronger leg muscles allow for better performance and decrease the chance of injury.
In contrast, the problem with today’s shoe design is that the curved “comfortable” insoles don’t allow the foot to flatten. The cushioned heel and shock impacts in the heel of the shoe make it TOO comfortable for runners that they begin to develop the lazy running habit of stomping the heels down on the ground when they run. This heel stomping effect usually leads to runners trying to outstride each other which promotes even more running on their heels. The curved insoles don’t allow the runner’s foot to flatten along the ground properly; this hurts the ability for the shock to travel up the leg properly to the big muscles. Another problem with comfortable shoes is that fact that they allow runners to slam their heels; this is very damaging because it brings massive impact into the heels and also isn’t proper form.
So in short, comfortable shoes promote bad running form which means decreased performance, and increases injury because the shock impact doesn’t travel properly up the leg muscles. Instead the impact travels at a harsh angle hitting the foot, the heels, the knees, shins, and legs in a manner that damages them over time.
Research has shown and proved that running barefoot can be very easily argued to be the best way to run. Running barefoot forces runners to run correctly, build muscles in a manner that increases performance and decreases chances of injury. There has been many studies where runners ran barefoot on grass for periods of time over months and very positive results have surfaced. There are several college track teams that have their runners running barefoot on grass during conditioning phases. It has also been noticed that by running barefoot, the feet become more sensitive and responsive to the ground the floor. This sensitivity adds quickness to activate the foot muscles to absorb shock and propel the runner forward. Of course when a runner is wearing shoes, it keeps the foot from feeling the ground and adding that extra grip strength and muscle response speed. A cushioned shoe however desensitizes the tiny reacter muscles on the bottom of your foot and makes them slow and weak. Over time, a negative chain reaction goes off and the path up your legs sets off injuries like shin splints, runner’s knee, and ITB strains. Big cushioned shoes also shorten your calve muscles because they’re used much less when your heel is striking the ground.
Nike and several other shoe manufacturers have been desiging shoes that allow the foot to take its natural form through all the stages of a running motion. It’s made to allow the runner to run “barefoot” in a sense. You can tell when a hot trend is being set off when a major shoe manufacturer like Nike is designing shoes for barefoot runners. There’s also been plenty of specialty shoebrands like “JumpSoles” and other companies that sell platform shoes that are missing the heels which are meant to boost your jumping height. In reality, you could just jump around without touching your heels on the ground and you’ll get the same results.
It’s quite ironic how far in technology and research we’ve come only to make a full circle back to the beginning where mankind first started. Barefoot running is the way to go, it’s natural and it’s safe and makes your legs naturally strong. Who knows, maybe you can become an animal after all that “natural conditioning.” Go ahead and join the ever-growing cadre of barefoot runners at marathons and parks and you too can benefit from this. NOTE: do not run barefoot on unsafe surfaces likely to have broken grass, skin-splitting rocks or other painful objects.