Foot proprioception virtually controls your biomechanics when running. Ever since the researchers at Harvard University suggested that humans most likely evolved as barefoot endurance runners, scientists have been investigating the role of proprioception in the feet in moderating biomechanics to allow ‘safer’ running.
What Foot Proprioception Can Do For You
Proprioception dictates reflexive signals to allow for adequate biomechanical adjustments and impact-moderating behavior. This is how habitual barefoot runners run with less impact and potentially safer than the average shod-runner.
Countless reports have confirmed that the proprioceptors in the feet warn us of painful impacts when running barefoot thereby enforcing the body to land with a forefoot strike rather than a heel strike. Why a forefoot strike over a heel strike? A forefoot strike running style may be more impact resistant compared to a heel strike running style.
Proprioception Critical Role to All Aspects of Running
In addition to enhancing perceptual awareness of impact, foot-proprioception mediates muscle control and leg stiffness to provide greater cushioning when running. There is no question that exposing your bare feet to the ground strengthens proprioception, improves tactile resolution as well as your running form.
Consider this example: you are running barefoot on an even road. What happens if the message from your spinal cord to your leg muscles are not exactly correct? You might set your foot down a little too hard, or not quite hard enough.
Nevertheless, you adjust your posture almost immediately and maintain your balance without even thinking about it. This reflexive mechanism is under control of the proprioceptors in the feet which allows humans to run safely.
From an evolutionary perspective, this is how the body likes to run, under the influence of proprioceptive feedback from the feet. Now, put on some shoes and run, and proprioception is dramatically reduced and balance performance is compromised.
Take Home Message
Though, humans have evolved more rapidly compared to other species, we have yet to adopt to running in athletic footwear. Why? Because injury rates in shod-running populations are substantially high whereas running injuries in habitual barefoot running populations are either rare, or not documented.
Many experts believe that humans are no longer subject to natural selection. If this is true, we may never get the hang of running in certain types of athletic footwear.
More From Run Forefoot:
- How Heel Strike Running is Harmful on the Knees
- Why Runners Should Run Barefoot More
- Disadvantages of Pre-Run Stretching
- How Runners Get Hip Injury
- Best Barefoot Walking Shoes
- Get More Energy For Running
Be sure to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page for answers to all your forefoot and barefoot running questions.
Run forefoot, because you are faster than you think!
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.
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