Do you know how you run?

If the answer is yes, then the second question is ”How would your running technique change if you were bare foot?” 

The reason these questions are important is straightforward.  We think your body was designed to do its job best without shoes.

Stepping backwards in time a little, in the caveman days things were different.  The foot was unshod (without shoes) from the moment of the first step until one’s dying day, and thus the foot developed and looked different.  The sole of the foot was thicker and callused due to the constant contact with rough and offending surfaces thus preventing skin penetration. The foot proper was more muscular and it was often wider in the forefoot and the toes were likely slightly separated due to the demands of gripping, which would necessitate increased muscular strength and bulk to the foot intrinsic muscles. 

It was the constant input of uneven and offending surfaces such as rocks, twigs, mud, foliage and debris that stimulated the bottom of the foot, and thus the intrinsic muscles, sensing joint positions and relaying those variations to the brain for corresponding descending motor changes and adaptations to maintain protection and balance.  The foot simply worked different, it worked better, and it worked more like the engineering marvel that it truly is. 

Most animals on this planet run on their toes or forefoot. This allows for a more active control of the impact that will be placed on the lower leg, which in turn will decrease the rate of  injury. If you have a large heel cushion and you land on your heel you are asking the cushion to take the place of your brain. The last time we checked, air filled foam couldn’t think all that well.  In the last few years  there has been a return to bare foot running. But it is not necessary to go barefoot to gain the benefits. You can just change your running style. 

When running either shod or unshod, to minimize injury, try and remember the following points:

Where does your foot strike the ground? Your point of contact or strike should be somewhere between the mid foot and the ball of the foot.

Where is your center of gravity relative to your point of contact with the ground? Your center of gravity, which is located in about 2 inches below your belly button and in the center of your abdomen, should be directly over or slightly forward of your point of contact.  This is accomplished by leaning forward at the ankle.

Make sure you activate your core muscles, including your abdominals and glutes. Your abdominals should be active when your foot is in the air and your gluteals when your foot is on the ground.

This is how you would run if you were bare foot and it is how you should run in shoes. If you do nothing but apply these to changes to your running you will be well on your way to becoming a more effective runner. 

The Gait Guys give special thanks to Dr John Asthalter, who contributed to this article