Running in Sandals vs Shoes: Running Sandals Provide Richer, Self-Strengthening Inputs


Hi everyone, it’s Bretta Riches from RunForefoot.com and today I’m going to discuss more proof that cushion traditional running shoes may alter or even impair running mechanics in a way that could result in greater impact loads. A 2014 study published in the journal of sports health and sciences investigated the effects of cushioned running shoes vs thin minimalist running sandals on lower leg mechanics during running in the Tarahumara runners. The Tarahumara runners also known as the Raramuri, are a part of the Tarahumara Indians a tribe that lives in a very remote part of northwestern Mexico. The Tarahumara runners are renowned for their long tradition of running ultra long distances at least 75 kilometers on a regular basis, I might add, and they run over all kinds of uneven rocky, tricky terrain, but they also do so wearing thin flimsy rubber sandals referred to as huaraches sandals. These sandals virtually have no corrective or supportive features, no squishy soft compressible underfoot padding or cushioning. Because of the minimalistic construction of the huaraches, the huaraches may naturally increase nerve stimulation in the foot which links up to the reflexes in the leg, priming the leg to reflexively react and respond with greater mechanical efficiency to avoid harmful impact production therefore the huaraches sandals may provoke safer running mechanics which are less impulsive less forceful which enables the Tarahuamara runners to take on the barriers of endurance running with greater ease with less injury because it becomes clearly evident that these runners must be always working to ensure to deliver useful safe landing strategies during running at the reflexive level to reduce burdensome impact forces. Because of this, the Tarahumara runners are of special interest to many researchers because these runners really represent a major achievement of minimalist running that is running with very minimal protection on the bottom of the feet. From their ability to run incredibly long distances with wearing very little on their feet the Tarahumara runners may serve as a model in terms of displaying more optimal running mechanics from which we can potentially learn from since these runners run impressive distances in sandals and barely get injured at the rate and severity to that of runners who wear traditional type running shoes for running in this way it is strongly believed and accepted by many researchers that running long distances in rubber sandals is not consequential for the Tarahumara runners because their feet specifically are operating at a higher level, both sensory and mechanically, because of the lack of underfoot protection these runners also learn to adaptively and naturally adjust their football patterns and lower leg mechanics during running to essentially lighten the load of running since they run with very little cushioning on their feet they essentially need to make their own mechanical adjustments to make running more comfortable. But what happens to the mechanics of the Tarahumara runners if they run in traditional cushioned running shoes? As I was saying a 2014 study published in the Journal of sport health sciences which I linked below set out to see if traditional running shoes which are thick cushion running shoes would really help the Tarahumara runners run better and enable these runners to make even stronger progress at the endurance level. The study found that the Tarahumara runners who habitually wore regular traditional cushioned running shoes, these runners did not organize their lower leg mechanics in the same order as the Tarahumara runners who habitually ran in sandals. Both groups of runners had way different lower leg mechanics and leg swing emotions or trajectories during running. More specifically the researchers discovered that the Tarahumara runners ran in huarache sandals showed less over-striding during running, meaning that their foot struck the ground during running, their ankle landed below the knee as compared with the Tarahumara runners who ran wearing traditional running shoes these runners of course tended to over stride in traditional running shoes during running. Is over-striding a very bad thing in running? When you over stride during running there are cascade effects in terms of impact generation and the association of over-striding during running and running related injuries are strong. When a runner over strides, the ankle tends to land way ahead of the knee joint when the foot strikes the ground and this positional arrangement of the lower leg during over-striding when running maybe a mechanical hazard because it is linked to high brake forces and a high brake force duration period which means that when you over- stride during running, you may come to a forceful dead stop at each step for a longer period of time which can have profound ripple effects on the body because there seems to be a greater volume of impact and compressive forces on your joints particularly the knee joint if you over stride too much when you run as compared to a runner that doesn’t over stride. Comparatively a runner who doesn’t over-stride during running has reduced distance between the upper body which is where most of the bodies mass is concentrated when you run and initial foot strike position, so it’s a more compact way to run which shaves off the duration of braking and when you don’t over stride during running, the ankle of the landing foot land’s closely to under the knee and the hips ultimately when you don’t over stride during running there is less physical forces that causes you to decelerate or stopped abruptly and thus you have a more continuous flow of forward momentum because you glide better with the ground and this is how the Tarahumara runners who wore the Huarache sandals, these runners ran with less abrupt stoppage compared to the tarahumara runners who ran in traditional running shoes who again tended to over stride with excessive over-striding there may be greater inefficient impact production. A lot of research argues that over-striding during running is not really the most mechanically safe and sustainable way to run to help avoid injury because often when a runner over strides during running they actually typically heel strike so what that means is that they land with their heel first doing so generates a destabilizing spike in impact and may cause more impact to spread over the body which running long distances could translate to muscle injury but that was not the case for the Tarahumara runners who ran in sandals because the lack of underfoot padding helps direct motions in mechanical measures of the leg and feet during running that forces these runners to favor a smoother engagement with the ground. In this way, when there is less underfoot protection the motor cortex in the brain which is the area of the brain that directs movement sets a strategy for a movement of the legs and feet that would act as a natural reflexive form of cushioning, prompting safer mechanical movements, like a shortened stride thereby reducing the brake force period so again, there is less abrupt stop and go of the body with the ground, delivering immediate impact reduction The data clearly demonstrated that the Tarahuhmara runners who ran in sandals tended to run better in terms of executing good mechanics as compared to the Tarahumara runners who ran in traditional cushion running shoes. These good mechanical practices associated with running in minimalistic sandals may be related to injury-free running. Furthermore the findings of the study also revealed that the Tarahumara runners who habitually ran in cushioned running shoes had reduced arch strength, suggesting that cushion running shoes do not always bring your arch health and function to scale and may cause arch weakness to flourish over time. In contrast the data also implies that wearing less external arch support maybe the best door that opens for opportunity to improve arch health, simply because less support on the arch really puts the foot muscles to work, providing a more sufficient strengthening experience where the foot muscles are more reactive and more responsive in a more natural environment. This evidence also bolsters the case that minimalist footwear may help remedy arch weakness or collapsed arches because of the lack of underfoot protection and the absence of arch support, in the Huarache sandals for example, force the feet to work at a higher level. Minimalist running sandals really keep the feet functional. Less protection stimulates the flow of greater muscular engagement within the foot, and overtime the allocation of added mechanical and physical demands on the foot fiercely strengthens and renews arch function and arch height profile as compared with wearing cushioned running shoes with arch support. There is enough data to suggest that minimalist type running shoes may have clinical implications and therefore the principle that less is more in terms of footwear should be applied to runners with flattened or collapsed arches because minimalist running shoes and sandals really sets the strategy for making adaptation of the feet to be stronger for running minimalistic footwear really does increase muscle commands providing richer, self-strengthening inputs that translate into foot strength breakthroughs, not breakdowns which gives you new leverage to avoid injury during running. For more information on minimalist versus traditional running shoes please visit my blog RunForefoot.com and please subscribe to my youtube channel. Thank you so much for listening and watching, have fun out there on the roads bye for now

5 Comments

  • This is great information

  • High pitched sing-songy voice – quite difficult to listen to – sorry to have to say.

  • I tought you was going to appear on your videos running you should make some videos of you running on those sandals your videos are very informative and interesting but some times is annoying to hear talking and talking on all the videos of your channel please no offense is just a suggestion. (Less talking and more videos of you but running) thank you.

  • You should try to make at least 5 minute video of you running with the sandals that will be helpful thank you.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I started running about 2 months ago, and guess what, I run in cheap sandals, £19.00
    I could not run in trainers and I don't know how people do. I would run bare foot, but because of the danger of glass or grit have to run in sandals. It seems more natural to Me. I have tried trainers but did not like them. I read born to run, and guess what, the Tarahumara were running in a race and a company asked them to run in thier trainers.
    At the first stop point, all over the Tarahumara changed back to thier sandals.

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