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What Expectations Come Laced with Barefoot Running?

 
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I admit it. I am a tenderfoot. I cannot walk outside without shoes on. While we do not wear shoes in our home, I feel very uncomfortable walking outdoors with no footwear on. Every little crack and speck of dirt bothers my feet. Okay. I’m a wimp! I have even been known to wince in pain when I step on an oversized rock while wearing shoes!

As a long distance runner, however, I have seen several fellow runners who enjoy this sport barefooted. As the consummate neat freak, my first reaction is, “Ew! Look how dirty the bottoms of his feet are! I would never let him walk into my home like that!” Then, I wonder how such a person can possibly run about town with no shoes on, yet still have a smile on his face that suggests the ultimate freedom and exhilaration similar to when a dog sticks its head out of the window of a moving car: “This is the life!”

While I am uncertain if I will ever try running barefoot, I wanted to do some research into this matter. Is it good for you? Can you hurt your feet, bones, and joints? Are there any benefits at all? (Will Nike pay me to say “wear running shoes?”) Through my research, I found both pros and cons. This article will point out a few ideas and theories, but in the interest of all, I would suggest you continue your research on this matter and make an informed and educated decision for yourself. This is just a short article, not a thesis dissertation, and the research on running without shoes is plentiful!

Through my studies, I discovered that when you run barefoot, it causes less collision force to your feet than when you run in cushioned shoes. Those who run without shoes typically land on the balls of their feet, or perhaps sometimes flatfooted, compared to those who prefer to run in shoes. Those folks usually land on their heels first.

While cushioned running shoes are comfortable, studies show that they can contribute to foot injuries. Scientists studying this matter have observed that barefoot runners who land on the balls of their feet create smaller collision forces than those who hit with the heel first.

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Hey! If those can further tone my body, I am all over it! Thanks for the insight!

August 2, 2010 - 6:04pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I will have to try those, too. I have seen several people wearing those in races I run! Heck! We were not born with shoes on, were we? And didn't we always do our fastest runs as barefooted toddlers, running from our parents? :)

April 21, 2010 - 2:22pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I think you are on to something. The fastest runners at the 26k run in Chicago are from Kenya and they learn to run barefooted . Now some of the shoe companies are jumping on the band wagon...one being something called Five Fingers? maybe? anyway it is like a glove that molds to the foot...you avoid dirty feet but still get the freedom of barefootedness. I am thinking of trying it. not that I am a runner but so that i could tolerate being barefoot and not getting feet dirty or stubbed toes.

April 21, 2010 - 2:00pm

I have heard of those, too! Like gloves for your feet! I think they are cute! Thanks!

April 21, 2010 - 6:33am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Vibram Five Fingers...almost barefoot...no dirt..:)

April 21, 2010 - 4:33am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I never thought I could run barefoot, or with no arch support and padding. However, after a serious back injury forced me to ditch my Adidas, I only run in "minimal" shoes now. I also only walk in minimal shoes as well. Fortunately, there are a growing number of minimal shoes out there. And the Vivo Barefoot shoes are quite stylish as well. I've collected a number of options on my blog - check them out: http://bit.ly/5Mbg7D

Thanks for the post, and good luck!

April 20, 2010 - 10:26pm

I am going to give it a shot, actually! I just spent $100.00 on a new pair of running shoes for my teenage son, and I thought, "Wow! I can save myself some money and try on the barefoot thing for size!

Thanks for your comment!

Ann

April 20, 2010 - 5:55pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Ann Butenas)

Yes, definitely take it slowly. Your foot muscles, skin on the bottom of your feet, and your calves will need some time to get used to a new way of running (landing on your forefoot really works your muscles differently, yet saves your knees and back). I can't stress how important it is to take it slowly. It will feel so wonderful at first that you'll be very tempted to run far. Yet that will likely result in injury. Work up to it.

(Comments made by poster in earlier post removed by EmpowHER moderator.)

April 23, 2010 - 11:08am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Ann Butenas)

Yes, definitely take it slowly. Your foot muscles, skin on the bottom of your feet, and your calves will need some time to get used to a new way of running (landing on your forefoot really works your muscles differently, yet saves your knees and back). I can't stress how important it is to take it slowly. It will feel so wonderful at first that you'll be very tempted to run far. Yet that will likely result in injury. Work up to it.

I got so sick of hearing about the pain people were in from running too far too soon barefoot that I put together a 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot. You might find it helpful (http://bit.ly/eGgHm).

All the best, and let us know how it goes!

April 20, 2010 - 10:29pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks! I am actually going to give it a shot and then write about it on this site...first hand account! My husband thinks I am nuts, but after all I read about it, more than anything, it gets more thumbs up than thumbs down. Do people stare at you funny? Maybe I should do this on my 4 am runs!

April 21, 2010 - 6:33am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.