We are born without shoes. Our first connections to the ground are without shoes. Naturally shoes become an early part of our wardrobe as soon as our mothers buy their first pair of adorable shoes for us to wear. But the truth is, we don’t need shoes for everything. As toddlers we learn to balance, walk, jump and even run without our shoes. Unless you practice martial arts, dance or gymnastics, there are few opportunities when you train and spent time barefoot from ages 5 years old to adulthood. The revival of being barefoot has opened up tremendous interest in the value and overall benefits that barefoot training provides us as an adult.
It is amazing to think that in the past 2 years, 10% more people are involved in jogging and running (according to the National Sporting Goods Association). If this is true, I feel as though the rates of heart disease should be lowering as well. Nonetheless, the increased participation in this hobby with wonderful cardiovascular benefits should lead to the new 35 million runners buying new pairs of shoes. However this is not the case with the recent attention paid to barefoot training. I have written on barefoot training this year, but thought I would revisit it since a new article was published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal that discusses its benefits.
The biggest advantage of running in shoes is the protection it offers for all sections of the foot. In fact, a shoe provides the sole with needed protection, stabilization and shock distribution.
The primary differences between running in a shoe and barefoot are listed below. The differences below do not shock me, however I was surprised that the recent article in 2011 in the International Journal of Sports Medicine (nu 32) revealed that when you run barefoot there is a 5.7% lower oxygen cost on the body and “ that at 70% of VO2 max pace barefoot running is more economical than running shod (with shoes)… and there is a more than a 10% increase step rate.” (Carey Rothchild, National Strength and Cond Association Journal volume 34).
- The initial contact is on the midfoot and has a forefoot strike with the ground
- The step length is shorter
- More steps are taken without shoes
- There is heighten balance and stability when running without shoes. This leads to strength improvements in the foot muscular and connective tissue.
- The initial contact is the rear of the foot or called heel striking.
- The step length is longer.
- Less steps are taken with shoes in the same distance travelled.
- The shoe offers the majority of the stability and therefore the foot does not have to make the effort. This does not have significant strength gains within the foot in general.