When it comes to adapting the proper running form, kids are in a better situation than adult shod runners because the connection between the touch receptors in the feet and the understanding of movement is more instinctual and continual at an early age.
The work of Dr. Lieberman describes how kids should run.
How Kids Should Run
When investigating running foot strike mechanics in barefoot Kenyan children, Dr. Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, discovered that these children were forefoot strikers, not heel strikers and that they landed on the outside first on the forefoot.
Lieberman also found that the forefoot strike landing pattern did not produce the distinct impact peak observed in a heel strike landing style and believed that if children never wear shoes, they will be forefoot runners.
When a child runs in a shoe with a thick cushioned elevated heel, they tend to heel strike and consequentially, produce an impact peak that jolts the skeletal system. And, when kids begin running with a heel strike, the heel strike running style is maintained in adulthood. Is this a bad thing?
Even though the human body has impressive adaptation mechanisms, we do not seem to adapt well to the impact peak related to heel strike running. Most recreational runners heel strike and the injury rate in running is absurd.
Many studies have found that the impact peak may be one of the underlying causes of most running-related injuries, and if you look at the best runners in the world, they are not heel striking.
If we let our children run barefoot and in minimalist shoes, they may become efficient, injury-free runners compared to adult heel strikers.
That is not to say that heel strikers aren’t efficient, but I did mention that the best, fastest runners in the world are not heel strikers.
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Lieberman et al. (2010). Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot Versus Shoe Runners. Nature, 463:531-35.
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.