Kim O'Hara wrote:Two issues could be worth separating:
1. Is toe-strike running better for you than heel-strike running?
My feeling is 'yes' because it stops the horrible jolt of the heel impact travelling all the way up through the knee, hip and spine at every stride.
2. Given the same running technique (i.e. toe-strike or heel-strike), is it better to run barefoot or with shoes?
My feeling is that heel-strike running is clearly worse for you barefoot than shod, because you really need that heel cushion (and even then, you get injured long-term). I'm not at all sure whether toe-strike running is worse for you barefoot or shod.
It's more like ball-to-heel running (same as barefoot walking). The toes are what keep you from rolling over, and when you're well balanced, you're light on your toes. Your foot is naturally angled to allow this to happen. Shoes disrupt this whole mechanism, and to compensate you end up running on your heels, or your toes... which are the two extremes.
There is a balance point between the ball and the heel, which is more or less centered in the arch. When you have your shoes on, you're disconnected from this. Why? Because a shoe fits to your foot (including its arch), and has a flat or rigid outer sole... which essentially turns you flat-footed. The only advantage you have over the actual flat-footed person is that this doesn't cause you any discomfort.
This is the main reason why you don't see practitioners in the martial arts or yoga wear shoes. (Getting the feel of toes would be a minor reason.) This balance point is very crucial. If you don't have any feeling of this, then your body is off-kilter. An experienced martial arts practitioner (like in Aikido, for example) is able to exploit this. When you have a pair of running shoes on, you're pretty much tilted forward. (You probably don't notice because you've become acclimated to it.)
To see this balance point, just stand on a flat ground, don't lock your knees, and then lift your toes. Shift a little bit till the weight are evenly distributed on the ball and the heel. This is your balance point. Ideally you would be balanced on this point all the time, anytime you're on a flat ground. You see the "horse stance" in martial arts... that is to develop your own connection to this point.
Cooran, 6km is pretty long for a first-time barefooted walk.
Just take it easy.