New research has shown that those people who run barefoot or in minimal footwear avoid ‘heel-striking’, instead landing on the ball or middle of their feet as they run . The article from ScienceDaily* has a more detailed analysis but the crux of the research shows that people who run barefoot have a much more ‘springy’ running method which decreases the harsh strikes a ‘heel-runner’ experiences.
"Barefoot runners point their toes more at landing, avoiding this collision by decreasing the effective mass of the foot that comes to a sudden stop when you land, and by having a more compliant, or springy, leg."
"Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun but uses different muscles," said Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman. "If you’ve been a heel-striker all your life, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles." (Credit: Image courtesy of Harvard University
These days however, we obviously live in different times to our ancestors, and running barefoot in most cities means lots of new environmental elements exist that may limit our ability run completely barefoot. Grok didnt have to deal with broken glass and shards of metal all over the joint!
However Vibram USA have developed a great middle ground, for those of us who want to run barefoot. They are called Vibram Five Fingers, and they are the weirdest looking ‘shoes’ you probably have ever seen. They are however, perfect for the job.
The first time I put a pair of these on and went for a run I came home nearly in tears. It needs to be said that you should really start slow with these bad boys, even if you are a seasoned runner. You have to train your feet to run in a completely different manner, and muscles that you have never felt before will begin to hurt. Push through they, and you will be running like Grok in no time!
*Note: It must be said the research on barefoot running was funded partly by Vibram USA.