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Rhody Health and Fitness: Barefoot Running

By Sarah Mosley
On April 18, 2012


Barefoot running is a trend gaining speed all across the U.S. If you've ever seen somebody running without shoes, you might think it's uncomfortable, unsanitary, or both. There is no right or wrong to whether you run with shoes or without, but the key to finding your own preference lies under the true reason why we wear running shoes. In 1974, Nike introduced the first padded running shoe in the world. These shoes caused people to exert more force in their heel while running instead of the middle of their foot, weakening the tendons and ligaments in their feet. Runners who land on their heels put three times their body weight onto their legs. This can cause Achilles tendon tears, knee injuries and hip injuries.

In fact, Achilles tendon injuries have increased by 10 percent since the 1970s, interestingly when the first padded running shoe was made. Oppositely, barefoot runners don't exert any more body weight onto their legs. This is because barefoot runner's feet are relaxed before hitting the ground, causing them to fall onto the ball of their foot. This distributes the shock evenly and can result in fewer running injuries.

 It's not fair to blame all injuries on running sneakers; running barefoot has its cons. Nobody wants to run on a paved road that can provide obstacles such as nails, glass shards or ice and snow in the winter. And just as it happens when you start wearing new shoes, wearing no shoes will most likely cause painful blisters on the bottom of your feet. Everything takes time and learning to run barefoot is no exception. It's best to start running very short distances barefoot before you ditch your favorite sneakers. You could also meet in the middle - there's a type of shoe that has a thin layer of padding and room for all of your toes. They allow you all the benefits of running barefoot, but give you some protection against the elements.

It seems running with or without shoes can both pose problems. Switching to barefoot running will take time and most likely cause some problems before your feet get used it, so if you're feeling adventurous, you'll also need patience. If running shoes pose no problems to you, there's no evidence significant enough to switch to barefoot. Barefoot or not, running is a great form of exercise, so go out and enjoy it!

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