I recently had the pleasure to do a performance coaching consultation with a man who was looking to improve his running. At the time of presentation he was training consistently and running approximately four times per week without any complaints of pain nor dysfunction. When setting up the appointment, I requested that he bring his preferred training shoe, which in this case was a pair of Vibrams. In typical fashion, I made sure to take a look at his footwear and proceeded to ask how he selected the Vibrams as his primary running shoe. He remarked that he enjoyed their comfort and lightweight nature coupled with the fact that they elicit a forefoot strike pattern. Naturally, I started to scratch my head because it was clear that he was relying on a heelstriking strategy based on the wear pattern, particularly on the left side. After taking him through a battery of tests related to the performance demands of running, I had him get on the treadmill to assess his running gait. It should be mentioned that he had run on a treadmill in the past so it was a familiar condition.
Once he settled into his preferred running speed, it was readily apparent and no surprise that he was heelstsriking in the Vibrams. Next, I had him remove the vibrams and get back on the treadmill and resume running at the same speed. Without any cueing, he naturally adopted a different striking pattern more consistent with a midfoot or flat footed stride. After completing this simple treadmill assessment, we discussed the research pertaining to what had just occurred. My goal in highlighting the results of this study from 2012 was not to necessarily change anything related to his running as he was free of injury and training consistently. Rather, I just wanted to ensure that he developed an accurate and refined understanding of the role of footwear as is relates to running and strike pattern to avoid being had by any shoe manufacturer's claims.
Although the authors did not include Vibrams as one of the conditions in this study, they did investigate four running conditions: (1) barefoot; (2) a minimalist shoe (NIKE Free 3.0); (3) a lightweight racing flat (NIKE LunaRacer2) and (4) the shoe in which they were currently using for most of their training. It should be mentioned that in contrast to the Vibrams which have no heel to toe differential, the Nike Free 3.0 does have a 4mm drop, which is important to bear in mind as we discuss the results. Additionally, the subjects in this study were highly trained runners and have therefore most likely grooved consistent running mechanics. Nonetheless, the major differences between running barefoot versus shod based on the results of the study included the following:
1. Stride length and stride frequency were significantly shorter and higher, respectively when barefoot compared with all other shod conditions.
2. Peak knee flexion was significantly decreased compared with all other shod conditions with no difference between shod conditions.
3. There was a 12.6%, 8.4%, and 14.2% reduction in peak knee abduction moment when running barefoot compared with the minimalist shoe, racing flat, and regular shoe, respectively.
4. Peak power generation was reduced at the level of the knee when barefoot compared with minimalist shoes and racing flats while an increase in peak power generation was noted at the ankle while barefoot compared with all shod conditions.
5. Peak power absorption was also greater at the ankle when barefoot compared with minimalist shoes and racing flats.
6. The magnitude of reduction in negative work at the knee joint was similar to the magnitude of increase at the ankle when barefoot versus shod.
In closing, this is just one of several examples of how footwear can influence one's running mechanics. Considering this particular individual was pain free and consistently training, I did not advise him to change his footwear. In the event that he goes on to sustain a running related injury, however, his shoe selection is undoubtedly a topic worth revisiting. This case highlights the fact that running barefoot is minimalist footwear is simply not the same as running barefoot. Wishing you HAPPY, HEALTHY, and STRONG Running!
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MIKE REINOLD & ERIC CRESSEY'S FUNCTIONAL STABILITY PART 4