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I fully endorse barefoot and reverse running. Barefoot running has removed all my chronic niggles - ITBS, PTS and shin splints. Reverse running has given me extra speed in my legs. Don't take my word for it - try it. The best barefoot running guide is by a guy called Ken bob. Read it! As for reverse running....here's a few benefits i got from an article in Running and Fitness.
Running backwards gives you a fabulous cardiovascular workout. The exercise brings into play more muscle groups, especially the quadriceps and because the feet hit the ground more quickly than in forward running more energy is expended to propel the body. Research by the University of Oregon showed that you have to maintain only 80 percent of your forward-running speed for the same amount of effort. Whilst other studies have shown that VO2 (oxygen consumption) and heart rate significantly increase during backward running. It is therefore unsurprising when people claim that running backwards for just one lap could be equivalent to up to six laps of forward running. Think of the time you could save! There is more good news for runners struggling to lose weight – backward running apparently burns a third more calories.
Backward running restores a balance to the lower leg muscles. Performing the same action repeatedly i.e. running forwards, without some effort to oppose it, means we are stressing the same area of the body and building up a dangerous imbalance, until it inevitably breaks down. Bear in mind that many runners with chronic knee problems demonstrate over tight hamstrings and weak quadriceps. Therefore, by reversing the action and running backward we are in effect performing a much needed counteraction. In other words, “Running backwards works the calves, shins and muscles of the front thigh (quadriceps) harder than running forwards, which places more emphasis on the back of the thigh (hamstrings). When used in combination with forward running this helps to balance the muscular strength of the legs.” Heidi Mills, BSc (Hons) GSR (www.sportsinjuryclinic.net)
Restoring a balance partly explains why running backwards could reduce the risk of injury. Further reasons are a change in the lower extremity kinetics and the introduction of a toe to heel foot strike. For the majority of forward runners, the heel hits the ground first and the knees act as the reluctant shock absorbers. However, going backwards the force related trauma is minimised. Sort out the imbalance and integrate into our running a more favourable running style and we could be on our way to a less injury prone life.
Backwards running is the perfect knee rehabilitative exercise because it can maintain an athlete’s cardiovascular fitness levels whilst minimising the impact at the knee joint (see above). Furthermore, backward running develops muscles along the sides of the knee and this actually strengthens the knees over time. Other conditions that could respond well to backward running include shin splints and muscle sprains to the lower back, groin and hamstrings
You run with a more erect posture, your shoulders will draw back and your back will be straight. Compare this to the slightly slumped posture and protruding abdomen often observed in runners. Studies have also shown that over time backward running can lead to realigned vertebrae and relieve pressure on the nerves.