By: Coach Sara
I was talking to one of our members last week about how she’s “grounding herself” (transitioning from highly cushioned shoes to minimal cushion shoes or barefoot) and it got me thinking about my own preference for going shoeless. I’ve always been a barefoot girl. I can’t count the number of times my mom hollered at me to ‘put some shoes on’! She finally gave up.
I’m glad she did because not wearing shoes has helped me avoid a chain reaction of physical problems caused by cushioned shoes. High heels and heavily cushioned foot wear decreases the length of your Achilles tendon which decreases mobility in your ankle and heel. Poor heel and ankle mobility decreases the depth of your squat and makes it difficult to keep your chest up when squatting – this causes more stress on your lower spine and reduces your ability to squat heavy!
Cushioned shoes don’t just affect squats! They also encourage improper form while running!
“Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal foot wear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning relative to modern running shoes.”
People run in one of three ways: forefoot, mid-foot or rear-foot strikers. “Striking” refers to the area of the runner’s foot that makes contact with the ground first when running.
Humans are natural forefoot strikers. Forefoot striking reduces collision forces, which reduces the impact on joints and therefore produces fewer injuries than seen in rear-foot or mid-foot striking.
Modern running shoes were originally produced with the idea that they would reduce high impact injuries caused by rear-foot striking. This is not a cure to the issue! The cushion is simply masking the problem and contributing to continuous heel striking.
When a runner tries to run barefoot or with minimal cushion shoes their running pattern completely changes to reduce the impact on their heel. Try it yourself! Run outside on the concrete or grass with no shoes and I promise that you’ll start to run on your forefoot as opposed to heel.
Barefoot running isn’t for every one, and wearing shoes while at the gym does protect your feet, so after you read this I don’t expect you to go barefoot everywhere. Spend some time thinking about the benefits of minimally cushioned shoes and give barefoot running a try, especially if you’re a rear-foot striker.
If you’d like to learn more about barefoot running, check out Born To Run! There is no “better book about the sport, spirit and science of endurance running”.