Barefoot Running. Is it something you should try?

Barefoot running is a recent, popular trend. There are many advertisments around and everyone knows someone who runs in them and says they are next best thing since sliced bread. Are they right for you? Will they give you all of the benefits that people say they will? It is not so simple a question. At  recent symposium of the AMerican College of Sports Medicine, one of the lectures was called “Barefoot Running, So Easy A Caveman Did It”. A question proposed during this symposium was “Does barefoot running increase or decrease skeletal injury risk?” The answer that followed was that it probably does both.There is a very small segment of runners who do run barefoot, and they tend to be very enthusiastic and vocal about the benefits of running barefoot. There is even a best selling novel titled “Born to Run” which touts the benefits of running barefoot.But within the past few years there has come up a glut of runners who have become more injured after kicking off their shoes and running with no support. Barefoot running cana actually cause some injuries in people.So why is it that some runners do well with barefoot running and some do not. For starters there is a transition when we go from living our entire lives in shoes and then try to run in barefeet. An article in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that if you put young children in shoes their steps become longer and they land with more force on thier heels. When Dr. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology studied children in kenya, he found that the children who lived in the city and wore shoes ran differently then those who lived in the country side and were always in barefeet. The city dwellers landed on thier heels and produced a significant amount of force, or pounding. The rural children who ran barefoot landed closer to their toes while running and generated less force and less pounding.Dr. Lieberman has said though, that just by taking off your shoes doesn’t mean you’ll attain proper barefoot running form. Many runners new to barefoot running still run as if they were in shoes, landing heavily on their heels. This can result in an increase in forces travelling up the leg, affecting the ankle, knee, hips and even into the low back. Most barefoot runners will adjust their stride, Dr. Lieberman has said. But in the interim time, they can be more succeptable to injury.So what is the answer with no concrete evidence for or against running barefoot? If you are not experiencing any injuries or issues with running, then it is best to not change what you are doing. If you are experiencing problems with running or just want to feel what it’s like to run barefoot, then start out slowly. Try to run 1 mile a few times a week in barefeet. Or remove your shoes for the last 1 mile of your run for a few weeks, and see how you feel. But pay attention to your form, and don’t overstride. Lean forward and land lightly.



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