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Running Barefoot

Posted by bmagnus On October - 7 - 2009

Walk into any sporting goods store and you’ll find dozens of styles of athletic shoes — maybe even hundreds. Yet in direct opposition to that, there’s a movement of people running just as our forebears did millennia ago: with no shoes whatsoever.

Runners amass a surprising number of injuries. Some sources suggest that half to 65% of runners sustain some sort of injury every year! Common injuries range from foot pain to stress fractures. In the end, most of these problems are due to improper form: foot pronation (rolling of the foot), heel strikes, or some other technique issue.  Some shoes claim to reduce the risk of injury, but the studies are almost all conducted by the shoe companies themselves and are rarely subject to outside review. Some critics think the “cure” is part of the problem.

Most experts agree that it is important to have quality shoes that fit properly and have the correct cushioning patterns for the athlete’s foot and activities. Shoes protect the feet from many injuries. There is no question that footwear impacts the way a runner moves. But does it impact movement in a positive way?

That’s where barefoot running comes in. With no correction from the shoes, the runner is forced into a better form. No cushioning mean no way for a foot to pronate. A barefoot runner will only heel-strike a few times before avoiding the pain it brings. While there are pros and cons, proponents believe that the most natural style of running will lead to lower injury rates. They point out that they have less pain than when they wore expensive running shoes. They also cite several athletes who run marathons barefoot, and point out that with practice the can run barefoot just as fast as with shoes.

While ditching the shoes is certainly no cure-all, it’s worth thinking about. For many it may be worth a try.

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