I once considered that barefoot running could be accomplished in a minimalist or rather “barefoot style” running shoes. You know, the type of shoe that has minimal padding thereby apparently encouraging a more “normal” barefoot running style. Living in Sydney's inner west it seems reasonable that I would want to protect my feet from any style of sharp objects that may be lying on the ground. Not being too paranoid, I'm really thinking about glass and such. Indeed, in the past I have recommended this style of shoe for this reason.
What the evidence says.
Unfortunately (1), it shows that as soon as we are shod (wearing shoes) we run differently. Our gait pattern changes so that we no longer run with a barefoot pattern. A pity as barefoot running has been shown to decrease forces across the patell0-femoral joint (2) and the larger tibio-femoral joint of the knee which can really help if you are experiencing pain in these areas.
So, great idea but unfortunately the current studies tend to bust this myth. However don’t despair, landing on a mid/forefoot when running still enables the same effect in reducing forces to the knee joint. So if taking your shoes off isn’t an option, a tiny bit of application and concentration to adapt your running style can still help.
1 - Running in a minimalist and lightweight shoe is not the same as running barefoot: a biomechanical study BJSM 2013: 47: 387 – 392
2 – Take your shoes off to reduce patellofemoral joint stress during running: BJSM 2014; 48: 425 - 428
So what does this mean ? When does it start? Stuff to consider?
Its not just about the Christmas excess but also about getting mentally and physically fit to avoid injury and have your best season ever.
There being a world of difference between the pro world and the field of the recreational sports person, I believe that pre-season training should be embraced as a chance to deal with last years injuries and try to prevent a recurrence of these same issues. Being able to perform better, earlier in the season is not only likely to improve your results but also help to prevent injury (as much as this is possible). A full review by a physio to assess any old injuries and to gauge any weaknesses, or in this positive environment, areas that require improvement can be identified and a specific program can be tailored for the individual and their intended activity.
Pre-season training does not need to be a grind and dependant upon your baseline it does not have to be an arduous task. Initially 2-3 sessions per week aimed at strength and cardiovascular fitness would be a great start for any individual. Later on skills sessions need to be integrated , not just to hone your skills but to work on the balance/control tasks required in your sport. It is this last issue that the get fit quick regimes do not consider. Any improved control and improved body positioning helps to decrease the stresses on the body, especially in a fatigued state so the old training tasks that we learnt early in our sporting careers can often be the most important.
When to start ? Its good to have a break sometimes but just remember as a general rule you need at least six weeks to have muscle growth so this number can perhaps be taken from the date prior to your first training session or, considered return to “proper” training.
This BLOG only details a basic outline. There is a lot of information on the net differing significantly based on factors such as the level and age of the competitors. The principles generally remain the same and the following links can be considered in researching this further:
Jason is the Leichhardt Physiotherapy's practice principal and has been practicing as a physiotherapist for over 16 years