Could Running Barefoot Be Healthier For The Body?
Running has become an extremely popular sport and activity, not to mention that it can also save your life if you are being chased! But did you also know that there are many health benefits brought about by engaging in running or jogging including:
- Improved cardiovascular and respiratory systems leading to improved endurance and circulation.
- Improved immune system reducing the risk of catching a cold or flu.
- Increased stress reliever endorphins. Exercise, including walking, jogging and running increases endorphins that have a “happy” effect on body and mind. Stress, depression, and anxiety can be reduced by exercise.
- Weight loss. Running (and even walking) is one of the best ways to burn calories and maintain a consistently healthy weight.
- More energy! Running helps to burn off excess “stress” energy brought about by our daily routines. This allows for a better restorative night’s sleep, which results in more productive energy.
However, running done incorrectly can be a double-edged sword, and much of that “sword” comes from the type of shoes we wear when we run/jog/walk.
Generally, when we think of “running shoes” we think of shoes that protect the bottom of our feet from the terrain, and that have built-in mechanisms such as arch support, heel cushions, and toe protectors. Yet in the pursuit of protecting our feet, we inadvertently compromise the very thing that is required for efficient physiological running (and walking) movement – naturally developed foot muscles, and natural human bipedal locomotion.
Simply speaking, the stiffness of shoes encourages a “flat-foot” and “toe-strike” step, over the natural “roll” (heel-toe) step.
The result of not utilizing the “roll” step increases the risk of ankle, knee and hip joint injuries.
Over time, the arch of the foot becomes so underdeveloped that it causes muscle weakness that can result in a “fallen arch” due to the mechanical stressors of running and jumping in these shoes.
Shoes also block the foot’s natural reflexive proprioception hindering the ability to feel changes in terrain. Without the ability to feel these changes we are unable to make necessary biomechanical adjustments, and the likelihood of spraining ligaments and/or tendons and falling increases significantly.
Today, there is a new trend in shoe wear that addresses this issue—minimus shoes, the next best thing to being barefoot.
These lightweight shoes provide protection without compromising the reflexive proprioception and allow for muscle development in the feet. However, just like with any exercise program, it takes time for the body to adjust to these newly implemented changes. If you ever wore a cast while healing a broken bone, you found out quickly that the lack of limb mobility results in muscle atrophy, and it took time to regain normal use of your limb again.
The same principle is true when it comes to a lifetime of wearing stiff shoes. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your feet are underdeveloped and by wearing minimus type shoes can help restore the integrity of your feet.
It is important to allow this process to occur in stages by wearing minimus type shoes for short periods at a time to help your feet adjust.