Barefoot or Baresole?

Barefoot versus Baresole

The debate rages on: barefoot or shod? For years, hardcore runners have been asking this question. Both the shod feet runners and minimalists (people who run barefoot) are firmly on their own sides. But is there a middle ground? This article will present research concerning shod foot and minimalist running, and then we’ll introduce a great compromise to these two sides: the Baresole. This innovative insole offers some arch support while also simulating minimalist running.

Running Shod

Running shod, or running with shoes, has the advantage of being the trusted training method for decades. Even with the rising noise of the minimalist movement, the shod runners have kept doing what they’re doing. Perhaps for good reason: The New York Times reported that running barefoot may not be ideal for runners.

Journal of Applied Physiology Study

In The Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers studied whether heel striking (landing on the heel) or landing on the front of your feet is more conducive to efficient running. Studying which running method is important as landing on your feet’s front end is the rallying cry of the minimalist movement. Proponents of barefoot running say that it allows for a more efficient stride and requires less oxygen.

The study looked at 37 experienced runners, half of whom were heel strikers, the other half were runners who landed on the front of their feet. All of the study participants were told to wear running flats while running on a treadmill. They were all to do this at a slow, medium and fast pace. As the participants ran, the investigators looked at each runner’s’ heart rates, oxygen uptake, and determined which carbohydrates were giving the subjects energy.

In an interesting twist, the researchers decided to ask the study participants to change their style of running. This means that the heel strikers started landing on the front of their feet and the barefoot runners started landing heel first.

Study Results

What the investigators found was that the heel striking turned out to be the more economical form of running. The heel striking runners ended up using less oxygen than the unshod runners. When some of the barefoot runners switched styles, they too ended up using less oxygen.

When landing on their heels, the runners burned fewer carbs. Because of this event, the runner’s bodies went to their stores of fat and other sources for energy. This ended up leaving the unused carbohydrates for another time when they were needed.

These results led the authors of the study to believe that since heel strike running was more efficient when it came to the runners’ store of carbohydrates, this meant that heel strikers would last longer in a race than those who landed on the front of their feet. This is because when a runner’s store of carbohydrates runs low, they feel as though they are about to succumb to fatigue. Heel strikers have a longer run time before they face biochemical fatigue.

At a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, the news was just as sobering for barefoot running advocates. They examined five studies and found that none of them proved that minimalist running was any better than running shod.

Is Minimalist Running Bad?

Not necessarily. The science behind running is very complex, so the barefoot versus shod question cannot easily be answered, even by scientists. Although one major study found that running barefoot held no significant benefits for runners, it does not mean that no one should do it. The next section will discuss the positive benefits of running without shoes, as well as the downside of running shod.

Minimalist Running

Minimalist running is either running barefoot or running with shoes that do not have heels with high cushions, do not have arch support, and do not have insoles that are stiff and unyielding. Some people like minimalist running because they find that it strengthens muscles and ligaments in their feet, plus they feel that it gives them a more natural stride.

Another benefit that barefoot runners feel they have is that they have better balance than their shod counterparts. This may be due to the fact that without the stiff insoles, heel lifts and arch support in the way, minimalist runners feel more at ease when they run, hence the better balance.

When a person runs barefoot, they also improve their proprioception, which means having a physical sense of how the individual parts of a body part work together. When a runner goes minimalist, all of the following body parts are working more harmoniously to give the runner a better sense of balance:

  • Ankles
  • Feet
  • Hips
  • Legs

A runner who has a better sense of proprioception can more easily sense what is and isn’t working and make changes from there. With proprioception, a minimalist runner can tweak their stride, their gait, their speed, and any other aspect of jogging that can factor into a runner’s peak performance.

Why Shoes Can Hamper a Runner

It is well known that barefoot runners land on the forefront of their feet. The reason that shod runners mostly land on their heels is because of all the extra padding in running shoes. However, some researchers feel that this isn’t the most natural way for runners to operate. With heel striking, there is an excessive braking that happens with each stride. What some more effective runners do is land on the middle part of their foot. This keeps each and every stride effortless.

Heel lifts are another culprit in the hampering of a runner’s stride. When a runner removes it, or switches to minimalist shoes, it helps to prevent injuries such as Achilles tendinitis and calf strain. Running barefoot or with minimalist shoes also strengthens and stretches the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

The Baresole Compromise

Many people can not make heads or tails of the research behind shod versus minimalist running. They listen to their running friends on both sides, then walk away from these conversations even more confused than before.

For those runners who have been longing for a compromise between shod running and running with those funny toe shoes, it may have arrived in a very unique form. Baresole is a specially designed insole that has special wedges, drops and cutouts that will aid you in your quest for a better stride and a better run.

Thanks to this insole, minimalist runners can remain minimalist without having to go and buy those costly, and often ill-fitting, toe shoes. This is done through technology which can turn the most unyielding shoe into a comfortable barefoot run. It builds up the muscles that you use while you are barefoot, but without having to take off your shoes.

The Cutout

Baresole uses a unique cutout method that drops your big toe below the rest of your toes. This gives you more power when you push off on your foot, which mimics the gait that you would use when running on softer ground. There is also a very subtle wedging in the back that copies the heel striking aspect of a person’s gait when they are walking or running on softer earth.

Other Benefits

In addition to all of these features, the anti-microbial aspects of this insole prevents bacteria from forming and nasty odors from sticking to it. This was created with a closed cell technology that keeps your running soles fresh and safe to touch.
No longer do you have to sit and listen to the diatribes about shod running and minimalist running from your running buddies. You can have the best of both worlds by having a minimalist runner’s level of foot comfort while having actual shoes that can protect you from pebbles, bits of glass and other debris that can injure a runner going barefoot. Once you have your Baresoles, you can be minimalist while running to maximum levels.

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