Ever wondered about the growing popularity of those strange, foot-shaped shoes? They may look unorthodox, but more and more evidence is showing that wearing those shoes may be more beneficial to both your body as well as your athletic performance. An article by Robin P. Zander (a practitioner of the Anat Baniel Method) explains the positive effects of running barefoot (aka “free-running) as well as using Vibram Five-Fingered shoes as opposed to traditional performance running shoes. “Free-running” involves the use of bare feet to run on tracks in order to improve traction, create more efficient shock absorption and running mechanics.
Zander's article discusses the many pro’s and con’s of utilizing Vibram running shoes and free-running, as well as traditional running shoes. Zander explains that Vibrams encourage the use of the toes, which results in an increase in foot mobility and active awareness of your foot placement while running. This conscious awareness can lead to improvement in running form which can potentially lead to less overuse injuries. Robin uses anecdotes from the Anat Baniel Method in order to give the reader a clearer understanding of the benefits to free-running. The Anat Baniel Method encourages people to gain awareness of their body’s position in space, as well as any muscular or skeletal imbalances that may exist in a person’s body. In addition, the Anat Baniel Method encourages the exerciser to stay within their realm of comfort rather than strenuously pushing themselves to their physical limits.
There are a few competitors to the Vibram shoe, such as the Nike running strips, but all-in-all Vibrams come as close to the next best thing to running barefoot—especially if you want to protect your feet while running through city streets.
For further reading, check out the New York Times Magazine article that inspired Robin Zander to practice free-running!
Author: Robin P. Zander