Barefoot Running Essay

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Words: 1901
Pages: 8

Running head: THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING NATURAL

The Benefits of Running Natural

Patrick Larson

Decorah High School

The Benefits of Running Natural

The Benefits of Running Natural

Runners constantly inquire ways to become more efficient, smoother, injury-free, and ultimately faster. New models of clothing and gear aid in a runner’s search to transform into the fastest runner his or her body allows. Along with new clothing, companies like Nike and Asics constantly churn out fresh models of every shoe imaginable. Some shoes are lighter, softer, or stiffer; the shoes all claim to improve not only the technique and comfort of a runner, but to provide guidance in the quest to acquiring speed. A recent hot topic has taken the running world by storm. The question dates back to the beginnings of humanity: is barefoot running better than running in shoes? This question has been explored and experimented with by multiple universities, including Harvard and Newcastle. While countless types of running clothes and accessories do help runners of all levels, a more efficient and healthier type of running traces back to the roots of humanity. When performed correctly, barefoot running provides benefits that make it superior to its counterpart: barefoot running can return many benefits including strengthening muscles in the foot and calf, returning a runner to his or her more natural gait causing the foot to strike on the mid or fore part of the foot (Kelso, nd). Possible negative effects of barefoot running include stepping on a sharp object, strain on the achilles and calf, and leaving the plantar very vulnerable to the terrain (Kelso). But, when correctly executed with the proper transition, barefoot running eventually pays big dividends and proves the quest to being faster does not encompass buying the latest model of Nike shoes (Lieberman, 2011). The best and most efficient runners, from casual to competitive, possess high VO2 maxes. The VO2 max is a measure of oxygen consumption, meaning runners with a higher VO2 max can take in and hold more oxygen in their lungs (Sashes, 2012). The best runners in the world are the ones with VO2 max numbers trumping all other harriers. In a study performed at the University of Nebraska, Dr.Hanson found that running shod (in shoes) requires 5.7% greater V02 than running barefoot (Hanson, 2011). The study tested ten healthy recreational runners and had them run for six minutes at 70% of their VO2 max pace; the runners were tested on a treadmill and on ground. Heart rates and the rate of perceived exertion of shod runners were significantly higher (Hanson, 2011). This data led Dr.Hanson and his staff to concluded that barefoot running is more economical than shod running both on a treadmill and ground (Hanson, 2011). Similar findings were discovered in another study completed by Dr. Michael Wilkinson of Northumbria University. He tested 18 recreational runners in a six-minute moderate running task and found the patients experienced less oxygen uptake when running barefoot (Achieve Olympic, 2012). In the end, the data from his experiment showed a six percent improvement in running economy while running barefoot (Achieve Olympic, 2012). These studies are two of many conducted to test the efficiency of running barefoot. Both provide revealing evidence of the improved running economy when a runner kicks off the trainers. One of the first concerns people have about barefoot running is the lack of protection on their feet. Sticks, rocks, hard ground and sometimes sharper objects like glass and nails are all common objects encountered on a run. Road Runner Sports, a trusted running company, sent an email to its customers saying,
Don’t blindly follow the latest trend. This barefoot running thing is a major injury waiting to happen. Roads and trails are littered with pea size rocks…Ever walked on a beach or a sidewalk and seen glass shard by the dozens? Don’t…