“To run is to allow our body to express its very
essence and joy, through movement”

Pete Garbutt
M.Chiro.Sp.Sc., ICCSP, FASMF

Frequently Asked Questions

About the ENHANCE Program - Content and Costs

ENHANCE Running’s Introductory Workshop is a 90 minute investment in your running future. It’s fun, easy and no prior fitness required. During the 90minute session your ENHANCE Running technician will take some video footage of your running for feedback and walk you through 7 simple steps to running more efficiently and safely. Building over the course of the session to give you the tools to run easier with less stress on your body. Classes are limited to 10 people maximum to make sure you get individualised attention to your technique.

ENHANCE Running also offers follow on classes to help refine, reinforce and develop the skills that you pick up in the introductory workshop. The follow on classes are 45min so that they fit into your lunchtime or after work, helping you out with a technique session as a part of your training program.

The ENHANCE Running system has been developed on the best available scientific literature and years of experience and learning. At only $80, it is about the same cost as one visit to your favourite healthcare provider for your latest injury.

Why is running technique important?

With plenty of research starting to emerge on shoe types or lack thereof, what is proving to be the most important part of running is technique. Just because you have taken your shoes off, it doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden have good technique. Whilst most of start with good running technique as children, the passage of time, inactivity, the amount of sitting that we do and footwear, we slowly erode this good technique into something that takes more effort and increases the stress on our bodies. Conversely, learning good technique can help you to reduce the stress on your body and therefore injuries and also make you more efficient, meaning that running becomes easier. In the same that learning to swing your golf club correctly or swim correctly makes those sports infinitely easier and more successful, improving your running technique can have the same effect.

What's the deal with barefoot?

There is a lot of talk about barefoot running lately. Some of the hardline advocates suggest that we should be without shoes all the time, whilst the opponents are still telling us that without correct support, cushioning and motion control our feet are doomed. So what is the deal???

It’s amazing how something so old can be so new. Something that is so natural, perceived as innovative, outlandish and reckless. Often when I ask someone to run without shoes it’s like I’ve told them to do something completely unnatural. So how did we get to here? And is the natural really unnatural?

Barefoot running is something that most of us have done at some point in time. It may have been on a beach, a backyard, or just around home as a child. Culturally we find ourselves going to shoes for the purposes of pretty much any activity outside the house. We do this for protection, comfort, warmth and supposedly support and wellbeing of our feet. We have been conditioned to believe that we must have supportive shoes in order to look after our feet and stop them collapsing. We have been conditioned to believe that without thick foam midsoles, our bodies will suffer terrible injury from impact forces. The follow on from this then, is that our feet become conditioned to rely on these artificial means of support, comfort and cushioning. From this perspective, it needs to be identified up front, that with this specific conditioning, or de-conditioning as you might, it is unreasonable to expect anyone to wake up one day and just throw their shoes away. For those that wish to explore running naturally, unless you have grown up doing it, then you will need to start working on the strength within your feet and legs to cope with it. Our bodies work on a strictly use it or lose it basis. If we don’t use muscles, then they atrophy or shrink. When we do use them, they strengthen. You see this when you go to the gym, and you should not think of your feet any differently. In the same way that you don’t walk into a gym on day 1 and start lifting the heaviest weights in the gym, you shouldn’t expect your feet and legs to cope with a similar change to their usage when you have been using alternate locomotion such as through shoes.

Where's the science?

There is no science to say that barefoot running decreases injuries. There is also no science to say that it causes injuries. Nor is there any research to say that our multibillion dollar shoe industry is able to prevent injuries either. So you could say that we are all on an equal footing. There does however exist science around which theories are based to support either natural running or alternate running. There is also an increasing body of evidence that shows that the biggest impact is through running technique.

Some of the basic facts:

Your brain has an area set aside for information from the feet that is not a lot smaller than the hands or the eyes. This means that our feet are supposed to receive almost as much information as our hands, to tell us about the world around us. If we cover our feet and stop them receiving that information then it is like wearing thick gloves all the time and trying to feel things, or wearing a blindfold and trying to see. The sorts of things that the body does with this information is help control our muscle balance for stability, give feedback for posture, help our body respond appropriately to the ground on which we are standing. The nerves send information at a rapid rate to the brain so that we can react to the specific surface appropriately. The speed that we are talking about here is changes made in about 0.017 of a second! This allows us to dampen forces using muscles rather than taking as much pressure through joints. Again, theoretically, it should also mean that the pressure that the joints do take, they take more evenly. There is certainly research to show that the knees take less compressive loading in a trained barefoot runner.

It is also undisputed through research that the body uses less energy to run without shoes, or with shoes that weigh less. It is worth pointing out though, that neither of these things have been shown to increase injury rates.

What's the difference?

Running barefoot, or in minimalist shoes will generally change the way that most people run. You will find that your feet tend to fall more underneath you rather than out in front. Foot striking will often move from rear foot to mid foot or fore foot. You will usually find that the time that your foot spends on the ground is less and that the rate at which your legs turn over is slightly quicker.

To put it more appropriately, conventional running shoes will encourage you to land more on your heel, spend more time with your foot on the ground, encourage you to land with your foot in front of your body and generally have a slower leg turn over or cadence. Remember, it is the running shoes that are the unnatural addition to our running, not our feet.

Who should run barefoot?

Perhaps you should ask, who should run in shoes, where barefoot is the starting point. Unfortunately for most of us, the decision was made for us at a young age that we would use an alternate method of travel, and learn to rely on shoes. If you have trouble with barefoot or minimalist footwear, then you should have corrective measures prescribed. These might be a specific type of shoe, or orthotic device, or perhaps even exercises, some physical intervention, or some specific training on how to run. This of course is in an ideal world. As it stands, most of us have been conditioned to wear shoes, therefore we need to decide if we can go without them. Running barefoot doesn’t mean that you have to do it all the time. Some people do, and cope very well with it. Others don’t. One of the best ways in which to use barefoot running is as a strength work out for your feet. This means that depending on your training schedule, you would implement 1 or 2 sessions a week with minimalist footwear and consider it like a gym session for your feet.

These sessions would be shorter than normal sessions to start with, and you would build up like you would with any strength program. If you are willing to persevere with a graded build up, it is possible to move to a completely barefoot/minimalist running style. This does take time to develop though and as with any particular style is not for everyone so should be done carefully.

How do I start running barefoot?

The best advice is slowly! As mentioned before, you need to start to condition your feet to being used differently. One of the best ways is to attend a barefoot running technique session where an experienced instructor can help you with some of the ways in which you can start to run barefoot safely. ENHANCE Running offers courses in general running technique as well as introductory courses in barefoot running technique. Once you have done an introductory course there are regular technique classes to keep your ‘foot in’ so to speak and advanced courses for the extra keen.

If you would like to register for an ENHANCE Running workshop, e-mail us at runeasy@enhancerunning.com.au or look on the locate us page.

Where do minimalist shoes fit in?

Minimalist shoes play a couple of different roles in the evolution of good running technique. Research has shown that with certain minimalist shoes you can actually achieve similar foot movement to being barefoot and also similar plantar pressure responses to barefoot. This is the case in what I consider to be the true minimalist shoes which are those without any midsole at all. These shoes can be used to help protect the feet of experienced barefoot/minimalist shoe runners if they are on surfaces that are particularly unfriendly, or the soles of their feet simply aren’t prepared for. These shoes can also be used very carefully by newcomers to the barefoot way of life. This however needs to be done with a much reduced mileage and strength and conditioning program as well as technique instruction.

The semi-minimalist shoes that have a reduced midsole and reduced heel to toe drop make for a good transitional shoe for someone who wants to start getting their foot moving better and stronger, but would like to keep a mileage closer to their current one. These shoes also need to be approached with caution, but are a lot more forgiving for those who have decreased foot strength and motion.