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Is the Barefoot Running Trend Right for You?

The Pros and Cons of Buying Vibram Five Fingers or Shelving your Shoes Altogether

© 2010 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A foot massage will give relief from barefoot running

A while back, a friend of mine who’s a pretty accomplished ultramarathoner, turned to me and said, “You know, concrete is the worst thing to happen to runners. Running shoes are the second worst.” Of course, this was years before the current barefoot running trend began attracting advocates.

There are advocates on both sides of the fence of whether it’s a good idea to go au naturale. In the end, it’s a personal decision. Of course, some runners really do need some form of correction due to biomechanics. Runners that know they fall into this category should probably lace up or at least limit their nekkid activities.

Does Shoeless Running Contribute to Injuries?

This is a very murky question, mostly because as mentioned above, individual biomechanics vary so widely. On the one hand, webmd.com states that barefoot affictionados “land on the balls of their feet, or sometimes flat-footed, compared to runners in shoes, who tend to land on their heels first.”

Why does this matter? Webmd goes on to say, “By running on the balls of the feet or the middle of the foot, runners avoid more forceful impacts, equivalent to two to three times of body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.”

Are there detractors of shelving your running shoes? Sure. Matt Fitzgerald at Competitor.com makes a strong case that running shoeless is just asking for plantar fasciitis.

Vibram Five Fingers Corners the Market

Vibram Five Fingers are a middle ground solution between the shod and unshod. They look like a pair of gloves for your feet, slightly goofy in my humble opinion, but at least they save you money in socks and would likely expedite getting through security at the airport. A pair will set you back about $80.

Bryan Walsh took this route and wrote about it on Time.com. He approached it a bit at a time, but eventually gave his Five Fingers a high five and a thumbs up. As he put it, “At first, I felt mostly soreness in my Achilles tendon, because barefoot running forces you to use your calves much more then when running in shoes. But once that soreness passed, I began to like doing it barefoot.”

Barefoot Runners Choose Their Terrain

If you do decide to take the plunge there are a few things to consider. Obviously, the first thing to do is to stick to soft surfaces like grass or well-maintained trails.

More technical trails stand a good chance of tripping you up with roots, humps, and dips. I did a hash run once where a woman braved the briars and brambles barefoot. Yes, she enjoyed the beer at the end of the trail!

In a older edition of Running Times magazine, Roy Benson recommends running on the balls of your feet. This might be too much of a transition for those of us long-time heel-strikers.

It might also open up several new cans of worms from a biomechanical point of view. For this reason, just take it easy and don’t overdo it.

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