The natural running movement is quickly becoming a revolution. Are you onboard yet?
Thanks to the advancement of lightweight high-performance running shoes plus a best-selling book and recent stories in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Washington Post and National Public Radio, to name a few, the natural running movement has become quite the rage in recent months.
Natural running is running the way the human body was meant to run in its purest form—namely, barefoot—across a solid surface. That means running with good mechanics and an efficient gait that focuses on landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot (the ball of the foot, but not the toes) and quickly lifting your foot off the ground instead of pushing off with excessive muscular force. Natural running can help make you a stronger, more efficient runner who is less prone to overuse injuries.
Tenants of natural running can be seen while running barefoot and running in lightweight or minimalist running shoes that allow your feet to develop proprioception or “feel” the ground with every step. Running barefoot on a soft lawn, wet sand or even a smooth sidewalk offers proof of your body’s natural inclination for moving across a surface with as little muscular force as possible. The same is true for minimalist running shoes on pavement, concrete, or hard-packed trails.
That afferent feedback from feeling the ground encourages your body to naturally run efficiently with light footsteps, upright posture, a relaxed but consistent arm swing, and a slight forward lean. Landing lightly at your midfoot/forefoot and quickly picking up your foot to start a new stride is the most effective way your body knows to propel and protect itself while running. Conversely, your body doesn’t allow you to land on your heels, especially if you’re running on a hard surface, because it isn’t engineered to accommodate the blunt force trauma of repeated heel striking. But that’s fine because landing with hard heel impacts doesn’t allow you to be efficient and run with good form.
Running barefoot in controlled circumstances can help you improve your natural running form while also strengthening smaller muscles in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that are otherwise unused while running most contemporary running shoes. Many elite runners and triathletes regularly incorporate barefoot drills on soft grass surfaces into their weekly routine. However, it’s very important to implement barefoot running sessions in small doses so as not to become vulnerable to injuries caused by an over-reliance on propulsive muscles in the feet, calves and hamstrings or overstressing the plantar fascia and Achilles tendons.
Unfortunately, most contemporary running shoes have been designed for running form that encourages heavy heel striking and dampens the afferent feedback that allows the foot to sense the ground. Newton Running shoes were designed to be an extension of the feet, enhancing ground contact without the jarring impact shock of the road, sidewalk or hard-packed trail below.
Newton Running’s patented Action/Reaction Technology encourages natural running or a barefoot running gait and enhances the shock absorbency, leverage and energy return throughout the gait cycle. Newton’s independent lab research shows the system returns up to 28 percent more energy and reduces impact up to 44 percent when compared training and racing shoes offered by leading running brands.
Practicing natural running form can be simple, but it may take time to unlearn old habits and learn proper technique. But it also requires having the appropriate footwear to allow your body to run the way it was designed to run. Once you learn to run naturally, you’ll put yourself in position to run faster and healthier for the rest of your life.