Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shod Versus Barefoot Running - Foot Strikes

 If you have been following my blog you know that I have embraced sprinting over distance running as it gives me a time efficient yet challenging workout to supplement my cycling fitness while having less(repetitive) impact upon my body. Been doing some reading about sprint drills and proper technique when I stumbled upon the current schism within the running world; shod versus barefoot. Insert somewhere within that spectrum the latest thing - minimalist shoes that mimic barefoot but offer some protection and coverage.

I have been somewhat familiar with the concept of barefoot running due to the fact it has become popular within the paleo/primal/ancestral nutrition camps but being a cyclist I never really paid much attention. That changed somewhat since adopting sprinting as a crosstraining tool. Being a heel striker I found it interesting that the vast majority of runners are as well and the (resulting) debate over whether modern shoes(geared to prevent pronation and offer comfort) actually makes people heel strike. I guess the theory is that we naturally are mid/fore foot strikers but our shoes force us otherwise?

So me being me I had to put it to a personal test. After doing some warmup sprints on my usual 70 metre trail I ventured over to the adjacent softball diamond and went barefoot. The sprint distance was about 62 metres starting at centre field ending on the foul line in left field. The grass was not short but fairly level and the footing was fine despite being damp. It actually felt real nice on the toes.

First sprint was barefoot. Time of 10:83@62 metres
Second sprint was shod. Time of 11:14@62 metres
Third sprint was barefoot. Time of 10:86@62 metres

I was definitely faster barefoot but attribute part of the foot speed to less weight(no shoes).It is also important to realize that, regardless of your foot strike tendancy, sprinting naturally keeps you on your fore foot.That then begged the question whether my normal(non sprinting) running gait and foot strike would be any different going shoeless?

I video taped my normal running stride both shod and barefoot to test the theory. I do appear to be positioned to strike the ground mid foot while running barefoot but definitely heel striking wearing shoes. The run distance (to the camera) and pace was the same for both experiments. With three passes completed for both the shod and barefoot views they all garnered similar/identical results; mid foot stikes without shoes and heel striking with footware.

I am anxious for my track spikes to arrive to give them a test and see how a minimalist type shoe feels and performs.My understanding is the flat, flexible and thin soles of minimalist shoes fit somewhere between barefoot and shod, offering a more natural feel but with some protection for the feet.

Interesting stuff and now I`m also curious to determine if running barefoot or with minimalist footware over distance would still cause me the(same) discomfort I suffer while running shod? Stay tuned.....

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