Last year, we talked about the so-called “foot nudist” movement, which encourages people to kick off their shoes and walk barefoot. According to Time magazine, the latest twist in the foot nudist movement is barefoot running! A growing body of research suggests running without shoes or sneakers could actually lead to stronger feet, and fewer chronic injuries.
How? A recent Harvard study found that people who run barefoot tend to land on the middle of their feet, while most shoe-clad runners crash down on their heels and toes. Unfortunately, the human foot has relatively little padding on the heels. So, when you land there, researchers say the shock to your body is equivalent to someone hitting your foot with a hammer! Over time, that extra shock puts more stress on the knees, hips, and back - which can lead to more injuries. In fact, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, running in cushiony shoes can actually do more damage to your posture than walking in high heels! That’s why a growing number of runners are ditching their Nikes, and switching back to running the way nature intended: barefoot. To protect their feet from rocks, glass and acorns on the ground, some runners wear socks with a protective layer of duct tape attached to the bottom. You can also buy a product called the Vibram Five Fingers, which is basically a thin rubber glove that fits over your feet – much like a pair of gloves would fit over your hands.
If you decide to try barefoot running, experts say you should make the transition gradually. That’s because your legs will need time to build up new calluses and muscle, in order to avoid injury. Experienced runners say the first time they tried barefoot running, they felt a lot of soreness in their calves. Podiatrists tell us that’s a good thing, because the soreness will pass as your body adapts to your new running stride. Plus, the more shock your calves absorb, the less stiffness you’ll feel in your knees and back. If you’d like to go further, check out this book: Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall. It chronicles a group of people in Mexico, who routinely run 26-mile “ultra-marathons” barefoot.