Guest Post: A Passion For Barefoot Running by Matthew Kyle
Later in December I got an email from Mathew Kyle a representative from Altra Running, a company that specializes in zero drop footwear, asking if I’d be interested in doing a guest post on my blog. Mathew was kind enough to share some of his knowledge of some of the benefits of barefoot running and some of the things that you should be concerned about if you are interested in trying barefoot running.
Enter Mathew Kyle.
A Passion For Barefoot Running
Hundreds of thousands of Americans run, either for fitness, pleasure or competition. Running is one of the things our bodies were designed to do—originally we ran from predators and towards food. Nowadays, it’s a culture. You see running groups out on Sunday mornings, and marathons are more ubiquitous than ever before, with some major cities hosting more than one per year.
There are clothing lines and fitness accessories dedicated to the running culture, trainers to help you go from couch to 5k in 3 months, and sports physio therapists on hand to help with knee pain.
One would think the running market was already saturated. Then along comes Barefoot Running.
Barefoot running is meant to take us back to our very basic selves, when our earliest ancestors ran barefooted through grass, bush and stony paths. From a fitness standpoint, it is a more natural run, which engages the right muscles the right way, and doesn’t “lie” to us the way thick-soled shoes do. We feel everything, know when we’re comfortable or facing injury, and can make more informed split-second decisions as we run.
Though as toddlers we ran barefoot everywhere, over the years our bodies have adapted to shoes. Our arches require the support given by commercial footwear, and our soles are too tender to accept the harsh terrain beneath our feet. This means that even though we want to get in on the barefoot running craze, we need to start slowly in order to prevent injury.
Aside from the pain of stepping on stones and other debris in our paths, there’s a real risk of long-term damage if our arches tear and collapse. This can cut short a runner’s love of the sport as quickly and permanently as an ACL tear.
Shoes for barefoot running are becoming de rigeur in the movement. Generally having a thin sole and five “fingers” for your toes, these are literally gloves for your feet. Some runners are opting to go completely barefoot, but most are choosing the shoes as a compromise. After all, our ancestors never had to deal with broken glass and dirty needles while they ran. Better safe than sorry.
Those with higher arches are fine with the true shoes for barefoot running. Their feet can handle the shock and absorb it adequately with less risk of tearing. Those with flatter feet often opt for “minimalist shoes,” which are thin-soled, but offer more support and are similar in structure to a regular running shoe.
In either case, don’t just wake up one morning and decide to go barefoot running. Like the “couch to 5k” training, it’s important to break into it slowly. Lace up those shoes and walk for a bit. Run for short periods—as short as 5 minutes at a time. Let your body become accustomed to not wearing modern shoes with thick soles. Over time, your arches will build resistance and ligaments will toughen to handle the strain, lowering the risk of injury.
Who would have thought that getting back to nature, getting back to what was once normal to us would require training? Alas, it does. But once you’re there, you will wonder why man ever put on his first pair of shoes.