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Entries in barefoot running (1)

Saturday
Aug042012

Barefoot running & knee/leg problems

For four years I tried to start running only to be waylaid by shin splints. I would cease training to allow them to heal and then try again, only to continue the cycle. I bought better running shoes (which made a difference but did not solve my problems), massaged and needled (acupuncture) my legs and practiced various stretches and exercises. But each time I tried to start up again, I would succomb to the shin splints. I have also experienced a disturbing lack of control over my left foot when my leg muscles seized up, usually around the second mile. I was unable to lift my left foot voluntarily. It wasn't painful and if I slowed down I could run through it, but it couldn't be healthy.

A friend told me about the research that was being conducted at Harvard University on barefoot running. Careful scrutiny and measurement from video of people running reveal that people raised in cultures where shoes are not worn never heel strike. They land on either the balls of their feet or in the midfoot and then roll through their feet. They also never complain of knee and low back pain associated with their running. Apparently the heel strike is unnatural, caused by the improper alignment of the foot to the rest of the body while in supported shoes, and it sends an enormous force through the joints.

I started toe striking last year. It took conscious effort in the beginning but I quickly adapted. I'm still in my supported running shoes, but just changing my foot strike solved my leg issues permenantly--no more shin splints and no more lazy foot. I hope to transition further toward the unsupported slippers over the next year. Transition is imperative as changing one's foot strike requires use of different muscles and one can sustain significant injury without a slow, deliberate transition.