Losing Your "Sole": Is Barefoot Running Right For You?

FRESNO, Calif.

Mike Funk runs about 15 miles every day. But what's even more impressive is he does it without shoes! Mike's been running barefoot for five years. He believes it prevents injuries.

"I run a lot lower to the ground; bend my knees more, shorten my stride," Mike Funk told Ivanhoe.

He says he's able to run longer and farther than he ever did in shoes, but his feet sometimes pay the price.

"Just yesterday, I did an 18 mile run, and I stepped on a tiny, tiny sliver of glass that got in my foot," said Mike Funk.

Physical Therapist Carey Rothschild, who's also a runner, has studied the barefoot trend extensively.

"One of the biggest reasons that people are interested, is that they are hoping it's going to help prevent injury," Physical Therapist Carey Rothschild, told Ivanhoe.

A Harvard study showed that may be the case. Researchers found runners with shoes tend to strike with their heels, while barefoot runners land on their mid-foot, which causes less impact. But Rothschild says scientists don't know if that translates into fewer injuries.

"I think the jury's still out. We don't know for sure," said Carey Rothschild.

Rothschild says it's important to take it slow if you decide to go barefoot. You can start with the popular "minimalist" shoes. Your skin will need at least three to four weeks at 30 minutes a day before it will adapt. Also, stretch your calves often to improve ankle range of motion.

"So gradual, gradual, gradual. That can't be overstated enough," explained Rothschild.

Mike logged over 25 hundred miles last year, all barefoot!

"People will stop and turn around and say, 'Do you need a ride?' And I'm like, 'Do I look like I need a ride?' I'm not carrying a gas can or anything," said Mike Funk.

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine states because of a lack of studies the public should work with their doctor before deciding to incorporate barefoot running into a training program.


Carey E. Rothschild
Office phone 407-823-1439

BACKGROUND: Humans have been accomplished endurance runners for more than a million years. Our endurance running abilities may have evolved to enable our ancestors to engage in persistence hunting long before the comparatively recent invention of projectile technologies used for hunting purposes. And before the mid-1970s all humans ran in either no shoes or very minimal footwear such as sandals, moccasins or thin running flats. People were able to run comfortably and safely when barefoot or in minimal footwear by landing with a flat foot (midfoot strike) or by landing on the ball of the foot before bringing down the heel (forefoot strike). These kinds of foot strikes differ profoundly from heel striking both in terms of how the body is moving and the resulting forces on the body. Most runners who wear standard running shoes usually heel strike, but most barefoot or minimally shod endurance runners forefoot strike and sometimes midfoot strike. (Source: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/1WhyConsiderFootStrike.html )

BAREFOOT VS. RUNNING SHOES: Running barefoot causes less collision force to the feet than running in cushioned shoes. Runners who run without shoes usually land on the balls of their feet, or sometimes flat-footed, compared to runners in shoes, who tend to land on their heels first. Cushioned running shoes may seem comfortable, but may actually contribute to foot injuries. And 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. (Source: http://www.webmd.com)

DISADVANTAGES: There are obvious disadvantages to running barefoot. Thick-soled shoes are much more forgiving when running over glass, sharp objects, ice and so on. Also, if a runner is a heel striker, it takes some time and much work to train the body to forefoot or midfoot strike. Runners may be at greater risk of developing Achilles tendonitis when they switch from heel striking to forefoot or midfoot striking. (Source: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/1WhyConsiderFootStrike.html)

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