One of the latest trends in runners and joggers alike is to run either barefoot or wearing ‘minimalist’ shoes.  The concept relates to the idea that man was designed to run barefoot long before shoes were invented.  Several well-known runners, including Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila – often considered the greatest Olympic marathoner of all time who ran without shoes for a record of 2 hours 15 minutes.

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Studies have shown running with less weight on your feet improve running efficiency and changes how you strike the ground.  Shoe-runners typically land first on their heels, while barefoot runners strike with the forefoot.

Current consensus suggests that barefoot running may not be best for all runners, and there are several factors to consider to start.  First, start to work on lower body and core strength, and perform weight-bearing strength exercises barefoot.  Go for short interval runs barefoot to get used it.  Go barefoot around the home and toughen up the shoes of your feet. Work on your flexibility and skill – using the forefoot – before increasing your mileage.

Five Fingers Barefoot Running ShoeUsing minimalist running shoes may be a good intermediate step for many.  These shoes provide some protection from injury, dirt, rocks, water and other road hazards.  Many shoe companies like Nike, New Balance, Saucony and Vibram with the FiveFingers shoes have great options available to try and keep your feet safe.

The bottom line is that running barefoot, or almost barefoot, may be a good idea for you, but is not for everyone.  Be sure to strength train to get ready for it.  This type of running may be what the human foot was designed to do and encourages a better more protective style.

If you have questions about running barefoot, please feel free to contact me at Ask Dr. Hacker or through my office at 619-354-7060.

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