Proprioception (pronounced /ˌproʊpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/pro-pree-o-sep-shən), from Latinproprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.
Runners talk a lot about proprioception. Barefoot and minimalist runners, embroiled in the ongoing debates of whether their chosen paths are beneficial or not, talk about it a whole lot more than others. And it’s an undoubtedly important aspect of running.
However, quite how the feedback the body receives from proprioception should be judged, and how it should be incorporated into knowledge about minimalist and barefoot running is a hot point of debate. Indeed, we might argue that it’s a key point of the debate, as ultimately we can only respond to what our bodies are telling us if we know what it’s saying. So, in my last post when my feet started hurting were they saying:
“This is not good – stop!” OR
“This is unuusual, we’re not ready for this”
I don’t know, and that’s part of the challenge we all face if we’re interested in taking up eventual BF running. However, as I’ve mentioned before, there is a very real possibility/threat that BF runners claim that all of this painful feedback is purely the fact that we’re not used to the style. And they can claim that without really knowing what they’re talking about.
This morning on Facebook, Ross Tucker of The Science Of Sport held a chat on The Sports Science Institute’s facebook page in which he answered some readers’ questions and concerns about the change to barefoot. Training modality, the ‘cash cow’ of barefoot running (did you know that apparently there’s going to be a Born to Run movie)? and some other highly interesting bits and piece that provide threads for further research.
Now my thoughts on the ‘barefoot industry’ and its potential for some to make huge amounts of money can wait for another day, but for now you may be interested to look at the Sports Science Institute’s page and look back over some of the posts and their highly detailed answers. Tucker makes a very good impression, and urges all to keep and open mind and not to listen too much to those barefoot evangelists. And my favourite of his answers is below. It’s a response to the question: “Should I start in a Minimalist shoes rather than a Vibram type shoe?” by a chap called Bakimono Hendrix. Tucker says:
I think that some pure barefoot running is good, because it “forces” you to learn the proper landing and timing sequence. But it’s also riskier, and so my advice is in the first 2 weeks, try pure barefoot, but only because you must run so little. In those first 2 weeks, we’re looking at 3 to 10 minutes of running per session, that’s all. And you can do this in a parking lot, up and down a quiet street with a nice smooth tar surface. Perfect for barefoot running.
By the 3rd or 4th week, you’re probably going to be able to graduate to running further and that’s where you use shoes, more for practical reasons than anything else. I’d say then a pair of Vibrams or minimal shoes is much of a muchness. Preference.
The danger is that in shoes, there is a temptation to ramp up the distance too fast – it’s easy to go from 5 minutes to 30 minutes when you have shoes. When you’re BF (or even in Vibrams), it’s much harder, because your feet hurt! They’re like a handbrake that prevents too much too soon. So you have to be mindful of this, and manage the training increase. But if you’re sensible about it, then you can get away with either.
Obviously, if you go for shoes, then at some stage in future, you’ll have to make another step down (if you want to, of course).
A sensible and intelligent answer that is indicative of the sort of insight and balance Tucker holds. And that’s a credit to him. It’s also the approach I think we should be taking.
Making sensible choices and considered – not overly drastic – changes to running styles our bodies are used to be they ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ just makes sense. While we try to figure out what exactly it is that proprioception and our bodies are telling us, we can at least err on the side of caution and make sure that those messages being sent from our feet at least aren’t of deafening importance, and go untranslated before it’s too late.
Another thing that I wanted to mention today was that if you are in the market for a new pair of running shoes, Sports Shoes has some fine discounts at the moment. I’ve ordered myself a pair of minmalist size 13s (all in the name of research), and so I’d recommend having a browse for some healthy savings. I’ve been told price drops will last until stock is gone, so take that as you will!