The first thing that comes to our mind when one is overweight is to exercise. And running is considered to be a good form of exercise that helps increase the body’s metabolism that, in turn, helps lose weight. The muscles get toned too.
There are many types of gear that people invest in to run effectively and comfortably. However, today, there are many who like to run barefoot. It has, in fact, become more popular recently.
Though the shoe industry has advanced a lot to provide the best shoes that will provide comfort and are fitness related, many still prefer taking the barefoot running route.
Minimalist running or barefoot running or natural running all mean the same. It involves running in a way that lets our foot perform the functions it was created for. In these types of running, one may or may not wear a shoe. And minimalistic shoes are not like the heavy-duty cushioned shoes that have heels. These are flat shoes.
Runners who have suffered chronic injuries prefer adopting the barefoot or minimalist running style. It gives them some relief from their symptoms and lets them enjoy the run and relax too.
Before you start running barefoot, you need to check if it is okay for your body and your overall health. You need to understand how running could affect you and your body. Please consult your doctor and then go ahead.
There are 2 phases involved in running. One phase is ground contact. In this, the foot will hit the ground. It will remain in contact with the ground. The other phase is the swing one. In this phase, the foot moves in the air.
From these two phases, the phase having contact with the ground is more important. It helps in understanding the effect of wearing or not wearing shoes has on the running gait. During the swing phase, a little shoe weight is felt while the foot is swung in the air.
During the ground contact phase, the ground impact sends your body weight to the legs by almost five times.
Thus while running, your foot touches the ground and also swings in the air. By this movement, the impact is felt on your legs when the bodyweight is shifted on them. There is definitely a difference in the impact, depending on whether you are doing it barefoot or by wearing your shoes.
For those who wear shoes and run, they normally hit the back of their foot first. This is known as the heelstrike. This is the opposite when you run with minimalist shoes or run barefoot. This time you will strike forefoot or somewhere closer to midfoot. This brings about two important changes mechanically.
Your running stride becomes shorter: When you run with a higher frequency and take shorter strides, the impact of the force is naturally reduced on your foot. Due to the shorter strides, there will be less impact in your hopes, knee, and ankle areas. Also, it will benefit the heart rate by lowering it. Even the perceived exertion rating will be lowered while the running efficiency is increased.
You will land with a flatter foot slightly when indulging in barefoot running: When running barefoot, you will notice that your toes are pointed up towards the sky.
When you strike the ground, you will not hit your heel first to the ground, unlike when you wear shoes. Because of this, the ankle and the heel will not have to experience much impact and pressure.
Also, your skin on the foot bottom will sense the ground well when you are running barefoot. This is called proprioception. This helps the smaller muscles located in your feet to perform better.
The load or force of the impact will get lowered on the joints and, in fact, get distributed better in a better way. This way, there will be fewer risks in terms of getting your hips, knees, and ankles injured.
Having said all this, we need to remember that shoes do protect our feet from coming into contact with sharp objects, germs, and bacteria present on the ground, and from extremely hot or cold ground temperatures.
And, if your running form is poor, you are overweight, have weak hips, or have always wondered shoes for every activity, you would love to run wearing shoes that are cushioned to give your feet the extra support and save it from any extra impact when the foot hits the ground.
Irrespective of the category you fall in, if you train yourself well and take the necessary precautions, you will be able to move smoothly to barefoot running without getting injured.
Tips When You are Overweight & Plan Barefoot Running
Listed below are few tips to consider when you plan to have a transition to barefoot running:
Take one step at a time, just like baby steps
Your muscles will need at least four to eight weeks to adapt to the transition from shoes to minimalistic or barefoot running. Take it slow in the first four weeks. Try to first walk barefoot for 20 to 30 minutes daily.
Also, try as much as you can to avoid wearing shoes when you are standing in your home or at work. Then in the following two weeks, try running on soft surfaces barefoot. Let the distance for running be small.
Do this like 2 to 3 times a week. Do not try to do more than a mile. Gradually try to increase the numbers by 10 percent every week. After the completion of these first eight weeks, if you do not experience any pain and your feet seem comfortable running on soft surfaces, start running on harder surfaces.
Do not overdo it. Take a step at a time. First, check if your feet are comfortable running on a new surface that is harder for a longer duration and distance.
Make Drills part of this transition
Make the time to get your body trained to run in good form. You can do this by including certain running drills like a lean drill, toe-up drill, or even skipping. By doing these drills, you will run efficiently and strike the ground nicely. You can use these drills even if running with shoes on.
Feeling the ground
Your foot will find it a bit difficult to sense the ground well at first, especially if you have been used to wearing heavy, protective, huge shoes. Hence, try doing activities that will help your foot sense the ground.
Some of these activities include trying to stand on your one leg while doing some tasks and balancing your body at the same time.
The back of your leg needs to be made flexible, so your calf muscles and the Achilles tendon don’t feel painful or tight. You could use the foam rolling technique doe the back of your legs and do some calf stretches to acquire the flexibility
Make your Feet Strong
Your feet muscles are likely to be weak if you wore shoes throughout your life. Standing on one leg would help here.
Plyometrics to be Included
When you wear shoes, they are cushioned in a way to reduce the impact that your feet could face on hitting the ground. But when you run barefoot, there is no such cushion to protect your foot from the ground impact.
This is where plyometrics comes into place. They are nothing but explosive exercises. They involve activities like hop, skip, or bound with one leg or two legs. Side to side hops and jumping using a single leg on a box is good to train for barefoot running.
Ignore the Naysayers
Not all will be supportive of your actions. And some will be very curious to know if you did the right thing. So learn to ignore these types of people.
Learn to have fun
You should enjoy every step you take while running barefoot. If you feel you are hard on yourself, slow down.
Barefoot running is nothing but trying to run in a way the body was designed to do it. The foot was designed to absorb the shock of the ground impact. It was designed without any consideration being given to wearing shoes.
Shoes infact make one more prone to injuries as the impact is felt more harshly when the heel strikes the ground first instead of the front or midfoot. You could wear minimalist shoes to save your foot from any environmental hazards.