About Bretta Riches

I have a BSc (HONS) in Neurobiology from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON. Currently, I am pursuing a MSc in Neurobiology/Neuromotor.

Bretta Riches, at Run Forefoot
Bretta Riches of Run Forefoot. We are all born to run, the modern running shoe steered us off course.

I am interested in the neurobiological mechanisms of biomechanics in the context of running. Specifically, I am interested in the influences of landing strategies at the proprioceptive level and the underlying brain-behavior associations regarding landing strategies in habitual barefoot runners.

Because habitual shod runners seem to have difficulties acquiring a running technique that reduces impact, habitual barefoot runners are more resistant to injury via the use of a more sensible landing strategy. In principle, the barefoot landing strategy (i.e. forefoot strike) seems to prevent preventable running-related injuries.

Though the work of Dr. Steven Robbins (MD) and Dr. Daniel Lieberman (PhD) uncovered clues about how to run safer by running barefoot, unfortunately research is at the beginning of understanding the importance of proprioception on mediating safe running behavior.

My area of interest focuses on how long-term use of cushioned footwear effects proprioceptor density and signaling and how a loss of proprioception manifests as poor motor control and inadequate impact-moderating behavior during running.

Why care about healthy proprioception?

Running shoes have a suppressive action on proprioception whereby a loss of sensory traffic is strongly linked to low, or poor intrinsic muscle tone of the foot. The result is weaker feet with arches unable to yield normal loads. Not only that, reduced proprioception from shoe cushioning affects the degree to which landings are perceived during running.

Proprioception is Everything in Running

I believe adequate proprioception is the building-block of proper biomechanics, and the end result is the forefoot running technique because it is the only running style that affords the highest impact reduction compared to other running styles such as heel striking.

And finally, the brains of children and adults of habitual shod populations may have less white matter in sensory motor areas compared with those of habitual barefoot populations. Because shoe cushioning reduces proprioception, sensory motor areas of the brain may posit impaired foot-ground interactions, impact detection, and biomechanical development during running.

Going barefoot not only restores foot strength, but builds a balanced brain making it a better proprioceptive feedback processor with better motor functions for running.

More From Run Forefoot:

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

1 Comment

  1. Outstanding site. I recently returned to running after a total hip replacement following a couple years of increasing pain. Before everything went to hell however, I’d embarked on a forefoot running makeover. I spent about 4 years having more fun running than since I was a kid (I’m 65). Wonderful to be moving again. This site is one of the best I’ve seen re the biomechanics of forefoot running. Keep up the good work.

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