Factors that Alter Sensory Modulation in the Feet

Sensory modulation in the feet is critical for proper running mechanics. The feet are ‘sensory seeking’ segments of the body which means they are highly receptive to environmental stimuli, and therefore exposing the feet to the environment (via barefoot or minimalist footwear) maintains adequate processing of sensory information.

The degree of plantar sensory stimulation affects the functionality of the ankle, knee and hip joints whereby increased plantar sensory stimulation enhances sensory processing and responsiveness in the lower leg joints.

Factors that Affect Sensory Modulation in the Feet
Walking and running barefoot is the fastest way to restore sensory processing in the feet.

Factors that Alter Sensory Modulation in the Feet

The body is misguided when proprioception is blocked, and the result is out-of-control running biomechanics. Plantar sensory defectiveness also results in rigid, inflexible lower leg movements, poor registration, and impaired motor perceptual attention. This causes you to make massive mistakes when running, and increases your chances of getting injured.

Here are the factors that reduce or block proprioceptive input in the feet:

Shoe Cushioning

Foam Insoles

Regular Running Shoes

Unnatural, Soft Support Surfaces

EVA Foam


The Take Home Message

Understand that the real issue in most running injuries is defective sensory processing in the feet. The best way to gain better plantar proprioception is by running and walking barefoot. At least walk barefoot outdoors as much as possible. A great alternative to running barefoot is minimalist running. Here are examples of minimalist footwear that compliment proprioception.

You might also want to read my articles on the studies that discredit cushioned running shoes in their prevention of running-related injuries.

More From Run Forefoot:

Forefoot Strike Mechanics – Why land on the outer-side of your forefoot.

Run Better – Training tips from team Mo Farah.

Vibram FiveFingers – Best places to get barefoot running shoes.

Low Back Pain – Tips to use your back more effectively during running.

IT Band Syndrome – Debunking 2 common myths on this nagging condition.

Achilles Tendon – How to avoid Achilles tendon injury when running.

Proper Running Form – Heel strike vs forefoot strike landing patterns.

Modern Footwear – Cushioned running shoes are a magnet for running injuries.

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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