Barefoot Running, “Laser-Like” Precision on Foot Strike Awareness

Inadequate foot strike awareness is caused by neurophysiological and perceptual conflicts when cushioned footwear is worn during running.

For example, a heel strike landing represents suppressed kinesthetic judgment because cushioned, compressible material of a shoe limits the flow of sensory traffic at the muscle and tactile receptors.

  • As a result, inputs from muscles and joints during running are poorly perceived, which in turn, block body processes that are involved in safer footfalls and movements.

Barefoot Running, “Laser-Like” Precision on Foot Strike Awareness

Barefoot running is more effective at reducing the frequency and intensity of heel striking. Although some argue that pure minimalist shoes are effective enough to reverse the habit of heel striking, runners are more aware of foot strike awareness when barefoot. This is because foot strike awareness is governed by kinesthetic sensibility which is under proprioceptive control.

  • To optimize static and dynamic joint position awareness, proprioception cannot be blocked or reduced to any extent.

Therefore, foot strike awareness is culminated with barefoot running. Learning forefoot running in minimalist shoes is incompatible to the muscular actions associated with barefoot running. For example, barefoot runners tend to jerk their foot up off the ground; whereas learners wearing minimalist shoes might remove their foot slowly off the ground.

Just Try It

Barefoot running best at optimizing foot strike awareness
Barefoot running best at optimizing foot strike awareness

Although many runners dislike the idea of running barefoot, running without shoes brings more troubling discrepancies in foot strike awareness under better control.

“Psychophysical function relating perceived and actual foot position when barefoot is unity”, according to Dr. Steven Robbins (MD) at McGill University. This means that humans make the best judgments in foot strike awareness when both muscle receptor and tactile information is available.

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Robbin S and Waked EG. Foot position awareness:the effect of footwear on instability, excessive impact, and ankle spraining. Clin Reviews in Phys Rehabil Med, 1997;9(1):53-74.

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!

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