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Barefoot Running: Part 1: Anatomy | Boddicker Performance

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Barefoot Running: Part 1: Anatomy

by on Mar 23rd, 2010

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Supporters of the concept of minimalism have portrayed it as “panacea” at best or at minimum a smart decision in the grand scheme of program design at worst.  The opposition to barefoot running simply doesn’t believe that it is a smart idea to part with their high tech running shoes at best or, to an extreme extent, blame footwear choices as the bane of all running injuries?

Who is right?

To understand the give and take associated with running shod or unshod, we must first understand the basic mechanics of the foot.  Once we accomplish this, we will progress into a variety of concepts evaluating the efficacy of either approach across a span of scientific disciplines, cover practical approaches, and some very cool concepts as they relate to running health and performance.


The foot contains 26 bones, is composed of a minimum of 25 component joints, and has three segments for all intensive purposes; the forefoot, midfoot, and rearfoot.

Muscularly, the foot contains four layers of foot intrinsics that lie deep to the plantar fascia that consist of at least twelve muscles that play a role in extension, flexion, adduction, abduction of the toes.  Additionally, these muscles serve to develop or release tone quickly to aid in locomotion.

There are four additional compartments of extrinsic muscles that are capable of producing or reducing movement at the foot and ankle into eversion, inversion, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, and adduction or abduction.  The anterior compartment tontains muscles most often capable of producing dorsiflexion of the ankle mortise to or the toes.  Additionally, its contents may play a role in inversion of the plantar surface.  The lateral compartment contains the peroneus longus and brevis as well as its nerve and blood supplies, and generally exerts an effect on subtalar eversion and plantarflexion of the first ray of metatarsals. The superficial posterior compartment contains the gastroc, plantaris, and soleus that are collectively capable of plantar flexion due to their insertion into the calcaneus.  The ability to invert the foot is also attributed to several muscles’ moment arms in the superficial posterior compartment.  Finally, the deep posterior compartment contains muscles capable plantar flexion, inversion, and flexion of the toes.  All of the prevously mentioned compartments, when functioning well play a role in maintaining or supporting one or more of the arches of the feet.


The foot is composed of four arches.  Most commonly known of them all is the medial longitudinal arch, which should be present in both weight bearing and non-weight bearing postures.  The lateral longitudianal arch is present is visible in unloaded conditions, yet is eliminated upon weight bearing.  Additionally, there are two transverse arches (anterior and posterior) that are located at the ends of the metatarsals.

Together the bones, muscles, ligaments, and the arches that they form help lead to better and more efficient locomotion over a variety of terrain and are capable of responding nearly instantaneously to changes in terrain.

If you have any questions pertaining to the anatomy, I will direct you toward any anatomy or biomechanics textbook.  Tomorrow we will explore the various response of the feet in running.

Best regards,

Carson Boddicker

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