– Gloria Mak, Howl Staff
Throw away your fancy air-compression, arch-supporting , motion-controlling, it-can-do-anything-including-your-laundry running shoes; minimalism has really hit the running world! A lot of runners are starting to opt for “natural” or barefoot training, a choice which usually got people weird looks as they ran down the street in their Vibram Fivefingers shoes or their bare feet.
When the Vibram Fivefingers shoes came out, they were advertised as minimalist shoes designed to allow for the natural biomechanics of the foot. It was a more natural alternative for a variety of outdoor activities, but a lot of my running friends took to it even though the shoes made their feet look reptilian. However, interest has vastly increased since these shoes were brought to market. I’m even starting to see runners who ditch their shoes completely.
Sports physicians, podiatrists and evolutionary biologists nod their heads in approval of this trend. They say that barefoot running will prompt a runner to land on the padded and springy part of the foot towards the front instead of striking the ground with the heel. A series of analyses demonstrated that even on hard surfaces, barefoot runners who fore-foot strike generate less impact than rear-foot strikers in shoes. The analyses also found that barefoot runners had a springier step and used their calf and foot muscles more efficiently.
Sceptics point out that there are very possibly negative health effects from barefoot training. Their primary concern is the inability for an individual’s body to adapt or transition from cushioned footwear to minimal footwear. Also, if a person happens to over train in minimal footwear without allowing their feet to transition, the plantar fascia can easily become inflamed.
Still, as a sidewalk run rat in downtown Toronto, I feel like this is something that would be cool to try. A lot of friends have told me how great it is to feel the energy rush from the ground up into your body through your feet, or how magical it is to feel the irregularities and bumps on the ground that your feet would normally be insensitive too. I am ready to be asked where my shoes are and to leave walking pedestrians in the dust created by my proud, naked feet. However, I am quite positive that this might be something for the summer, as I am not made for the cold.
In addition, this could turn out to be quite student-budget friendly!