Monday, April 16, 2012

Barefoot Running: Good or Bad?

     Ok, there is something you need to know about me: I love new technology. It doesn’t matter what it is. A new iPad? Sign me up! Electric cars? Sounds great! There’s a refrigerator that can keep track of when your milk expires?! Tell me more! 

How about a new type of shoe that is shaped exactly like your foot? More like a foot glove than a shoe really.

Ok. You’ve got my attention.

     That’s right, I’m referring to the new phenomenon commonly called “barefoot” running. It’s a trend that has been growing more and more thanks to shoes like Vibram Fivefingers. So why would you want to wear shoes that, let’s be honest, just look so weird? Well some researchers feel that running “barefoot” with these shoes will improve your running experience and help you avoid injury.

     Researchers say that we run differently when we run in shoes than we do when we run barefoot. Some believe that running barefoot is actually better for us, mainly because when you run barefoot you naturally land on the forefoot instead of the heel. By landing on this part of your foot you spread the impact out through the arch of your foot. When you run with shoes on, the impact is absorbed by the shoe and then goes up through your legs and knees which can cause injury.

     The question is, is it true? Are these shoes really better for us? Well, let’s just say that if you asked that question of a magic 8 ball you’d get a definitive “Ask again later.” Shoe companies, researchers, doctors, no one seems to agree. As I mentioned earlier, there is research out there with claims of how these barefoot shoes are better than regular shoes. However, opponents say that more long-term research is necessary before we can make a final judgment.

     So if you are a runner that has suffered from injuries in the past, trying out these new shoes may help; but you are trying them at your own risk. In addition, proponents of barefoot shoes do warn that the first few weeks are probably going to hurt while your feet and legs get used to the new running motion. As with any decision of this type, it is best to talk to your doctor and/or podiatrist before you decide to go “barefoot.”

by Shawn McNally

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