Barefoot running sandals, such as the Huaraches worn by the Tarahumara Indians, improve running technique by reducing over-striding.
Improve Running Technique with Barefoot Running Sandals
The influence of running shoe design on foot strike mechanics must be understood in the context of runners knee prevention.
Overstriding when running is strongly linked to runners knee. Overstriding means the ankle lands in front of the knee at touchdown during running (shown below).
Overstriding is also facilitated by the traditional running shoe –shoes with an elevated cushioned heel. These shoes result in a more extended knee at foot strike during running. In this case, the knee is unbent at foot strike, causing the ankle to land ahead of the knee and center of mass, resulting in damaging impacts.
In Tarahumara running sandals, the orientation of the foot (plantarflexed ankle) enables the ankle to align vertically relative to the knee, thereby greatly lowering knee-joint compression during running.
A plantarflexed ankle at touchdown is indicative of a forefoot strike, which is associated with less knee-joint compression as compared with heel strike running in which overstriding is very high and so is the incidence of runners knee.
The Take Home Message
Pure minimalist shoes such as the Tarahumara shoes are the better option for saving your knees. The benefits of these shoes on knee-joint health have received high-level support from the scientific literature whereas support regarding the traditional running shoe is weakest.
Be sure to check out other barefoot inspired shoes that great for improving running form.
More From Run Forefoot:
Lieberman, DE. Strike type variation among Tarahumara Indians in minimal sandals versus conventional running shoes. J Sport Health Sci, 2014; 3:86-94.
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.