TO DO…. OR….NOT TO DO (Shoes to Soles)

26 years ago when I came to India for the first time(being born and brought up as an NRI) something caught my attention so surprisingly. My siblings were charmed about the greenery India had while I was amazed and thrilled by the sight to see all my villagers carrying their daily activities in “Bare Foot”.Right from traversing on the grassy meadows to the rocky hills all in my village young, old, men & women treaded barefoot. It was something which my mind could neither conceive nor ignore. How is this possible? Was the constant question my urban brain kept asking my rural mind.

Never did I then knew that 21years later I myself am going to be a barefoot runner. This question was never answered till the day came where I had to learn it myself. Yes, that’s me. The unanswered questions to my child brain slowly started to be revealed to my “Soul” through my “Sole” .

Is it good to do long distance running barefoot?? Absolutely YES. Our body has all it needs to survive in this planet earth. When it comes to foot the answer remains the same. It has all it needs to endure running mile after mile. Our foot is mechanically complex which makes it structurally strong. The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and around 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments which acts towards structural mobility and stability, while the 3 arches namely the transverse arch, the medial longitudinal arch & the lateral longitudinal arch adds on to the complex shock-absorption system. Which means the foot is designed to run on highly uneven surfaces without losing balance and also propel the body to greater speeds without losing ground control or without any dangerous amplification of ground reaction forces which could convert into impact to damage any structures. Isn’t it amazing to know how well designed we are to run bare foot?

But remember the entire body mechanics follows one rule. “What you don’t use…you LOSE”. Yes when such an enabled structure is not given its load appropriately it loses its skill. Which is what has happened to our foot and running abilities after the invasion of “ SHOES”. Hence when we decide to let go of them we need to apply a lot of thought to it. Remember shoes are only for protection and not to enable your running or support your foot as many shoe companies claim to be. Most of the runners today in the marathon world fall in the age category of 35-55yrs. The remaining age groups are relatively less but still occupy a good portion of the graph. And the unspoken factor is …we all have lived with some or the other footwear throughout our life. Hence entering into barefoot running becomes a bit of a risk to start with. But once you decide to let go your shoes there is NO real transition. Many follow a transition mode of more cushioned shoes to less cushion shoes and then to a zero drop shoe and then finally barefoot. Remember a covering on the foot is nothing but a shoe, however thin or thick it might be. Hence the first step and the only step to start bare foot running is barefoot walking and not minimalistic running. This calls you to literally stop focusing in events and start focusing in barefoot training.

As I told you many runners are between the age group 35-55 , any changes made externally in the body takes a longer time to accommodate by the body. That’s why it is always good to start walking and give a good exposure to the feet of various terrains like tar roads, asphalt, lawns, muddy terrains and sand terrains like beach for a minimum of 8 weeks. This sets the tone for conditioning the foot towards various surfaces and also enables the foot and body to relearn its lost skills. Duration of barefoot walk could be restricted to 1 hour. During this phase blistering is common to start with followed by skin peeling too.

Stage two is jogging on all the different terrains mentioned above. Keep in mind not to push harder with speed during this phase as the body is relearning how to take impact and diffuse impact. Duration of this jog could be restricted to 1 hour. This phase also lasts approximately 8 weeks.

Stage three is to increase the duration of jogging beyond 1 hour. This stage too lasts approximately 8 weeks. Once you complete 24 weeks(6 months) you are now ready to practice speed trainings. You would also notice that the foot reflexes would have considerably increased during these 6 months of barefoot training, I mean your ability to withdraw your foot from the ground when sharp objects come in contact before they puncture your foot would be really rapid and swift. Run properly on barefoot ones sole does not callous but becomes leathery soft and smooth. But if you notice hard callous formations in the sole it clearly shows that the running form is erroneous. You need an experts observation for correction.

Keep in mind I always suggest to run not more than 3 days a week so that you have atleast 3 days to practice strength and conditioning exercises. Strength and conditioning is the back bone for running and not just piling mile after mile.

I am sure you will enjoy this journey from Shoes to Soles.

Last modified on Saturday, 26 September 2015 05:56

Dr.Gladson Johnson

Dr.Gladson Johnson is a practicing Sports Physiotherapist by profession for the past 12 years and a passionate bare foot runner for the past 5 years. He is the founder of Attitude Prime an organization which caters to Sports Injuries and Pain management through “Exercises” . Dr.Gladson Johnson believes that “Exercise Is Medicine

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