The Benefits Of Barefoot Running
Running is one of the most natural forms of exercise available to us. Human beings have evolved to be efficient runners from the hunter-gatherer days – long distance running was necessary for survival and led to the continued success and evolution of our species. We literally evolved to run, as distance running enabled our ancestors to gather and hunt the food needed to grow our brains to their current size and give us the intelligence our species has today.
Today, running is more recreational and generally not needed for survival. Endurance running is part of this recreational activity, carrying on a tradition our species has utilized for thousands of years. Running is extremely healthy and provides countless benefits, both cognitively and physically, but is not without risk of minor injury.
Despite the running shoe industry and advances in sports medicine and prevention science, the overall amount of injuries to the legs, ankle and feet of runners has never really changed. About three out of four runners will sustain some sort of injury each year. These injuries include stress fractures, patellofemoral pain, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, patellar tendinitis and more.
The basic theory of minimalist running is that when a runner is barefoot, he or she naturally avoids heel strike at impact and transitions instead to a midfoot or forefoot strike point. The simple movement of bodyweight at impact from the heel to the front parts of the foot is thought to make running more efficient and less injurious.
Minimalist running uses shoes but they are different than the usual running shoe. Traditional running shoes (on the market since the 1970s) have a high heel offset of at least 8-degrees and often up to 12-degrees or more. This puts the heel higher than the forefoot. The traditional running shoe is designed that way to allow for more cushioning with a heel strike impact, and the way that it is designed appears to encourage heel striking. Traditional running shoes are less flexible, have stiffer heel counters and more arch support than minimalist shoes.
Minimalist shoes have lower offsets. Often, the heel to toe offset is 4–degrees or less.
Zero drop shoes have a heel that is at the same level as the forefoot. In addition, these shoes are usually lighter and more flexible than traditional running shoes. Some zero-drop and minimalist brands do offer various cushioning levels, but none approach the amount of cushioning found in a traditional running shoe. This may seem like a bad thing, but this lack of cushioning is intentional.
The theory of a minimalist shoe is that the shoe should bring us as close to natural running (barefoot) as possible.
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