Poor Proprioception Linked to Slow Running

Most runners switch to forefoot running, not only to avoid injury, but to gain speed. However, poor proprioception was found to be a barrier for permitting faster running.

Poor Proprioception Linked to Slow Running

Individuals with poor proprioception, a sign of sensory and motor neuropathy, have been found to walk and run slower as a safety strategy to compensate for the loss of stability. In support of this, Deursen and Simoneau (1999) confirmed that a slower gait is used to provide more safety in individuals with compromised proprioception.

Proprioception is more valuable than we think. Proprioception has a strong evolutionary basis because it enabled our ancestors to run barefooted injury-free. Undoubtedly, interfering with proprioception will cause a runner to make a lot of biomechanical-related errors.

The only way to disable proprioception is to wear thick, cushioned running shoes. This is how certain footwear makes the easy task of running seem difficult. In contrast, wearing thinner running shoes or running barefoot deeply stimulates the plantar proprioceptors by delivering steady, unchanging pulses of sensory input. As a result, a runner is less motivated to run at slower speeds with cautious intent.

The Take Home Message

Forefoot runners who wear thick cushioned running shoes may show proper biomechanics, but may unintentionally run slow. Wearing thinner running shoes may prevent your performance from dwindling. The reason for this lies in the ability of proprioception to regulate gait and balance.

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Deursen RM and Simoneau GG. Foot and ankle sensory neuropathy, proprioception, and postural stability. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 1999;29(12):718-726.

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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