Kick off your shoes !
Since I first became seriously interested in the biomechanics of running some twenty years ago as I searched for the 'Holy Grail' and searched for that perfect racing season I experimented with different running styles and spent thousands of hours 'tinkering' on my own running form just as a professional golfer would spend thousands of hours on the driving range working on their game.
I make no secret that it is my belief that the optimal way to run from a 'ground mechanics' perspective is the midfoot or forefoot strike (not toes -that is a product of sprint speed and should strictly be for the true sprinter). Ground mechanics is ultimately the point of contact your feet/ankle make with the ground which is largely determined by elements that take place in the body from the ankle up. I refer to this as the set up ' very much like a golf swing set up' and also intrinsically linked and determined by the previous drive off action from the opposing foot ;think in these terms, running is a series of many many jumps from left to right to left etc...
At the time of my research & development there was very little written that I could find about the proper movement of running and in fact I truly ended up writing the book that I could not find..which leads me to a subject upon which I am asked very often, namely the subject of barefoot running and my thoughts on its place and effectiveness.
In essence barefoot running makes a great deal of sense, the human locomotion in its purest form...the human adjustment or compensatory mechanism naturally corrects our own inherent mistakes because it recognizes that without the support structure (crutch) of a shoe it will not allow you to run with less than ideal running form so essentially it overrides your flaws and makes the corrections on 'auto pilot'...in small doses this is a very effective corrective tool I use regularly with my students.
More than meets the eye
Conceptually like I said a good idea, the problem is that so many runners and coaches take the concept and run with it (excuse the pun)..they do way too much too soon and create a Pandora's box of other issues.
Great runners have strong and flexible ankles designed to very quickly and efficiently absorb the impact forces whilst simultaneously perpetuating motion and that is the key~ perpetuation of forward motion, not interrupting it.But it takes a while to develop and strengthen this structure,to strengthen the ligaments, tendon and bone to be able to withstand the midfoot strike- barefoot running will assist this process but it must be in small and sensible doses and the adjustment in structure and form will have other effects further up the chain to the upper leg, hips and back that must also learn to adapt and accommodate.
My advice here is locate someone in your home area qualified to assist,coach and guide you...from there build up in very small doses in a 'foot friendly' environment such as the hard packed sand at low tide when the surface is relatively flat, on a track or on a turf field that so often make up the middle space inside the red oval. Move in different directions on a small canvas over fifteen to twenty meters working on form, light skipping forwards and backwards, horizontal side float transitioning into a brief stride and establishing the relationship between the upper and lower body, the arms and the legs, the wrists and the ankles...By all means practice barefoot running but heed my words, less is more !
Walk in peace and let the good times roll !
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