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Keeping Stride with Barefoot Running: June 28, 2012

Avid runners and casual athletes alike are going bare…as in barefoot running.  Minimal-style shoes are making it easy to try out natural running, but it may not be for everyone. 

Dan Whaley was not only born to run…

“I started in 6th grade running track and field.”

He likes to run the way he was born, or close to it.

“By the time I got to high school I had moved into more of the elite level amongst all the high school runners,” says Whaley.

Now Dan sells barefoot-style or minimal running shoes that are all the rage.

“With these, the five fingers force you to run on your forefoot. You do not strike on your heel at all and it’s very fluid. It’s a constant motion; your momentum is just solid all the way through,” says Whaley.

With more people experimenting with barely-there shoes, doctors are seeing more injuries. From pulled muscles to stress fractures, they usually stem from making the switch too quickly.

“I wouldn’t say you need to chuck your shoes out and go for a 30 minute run barefoot today,” says Dr. Kath Kinross, a doctor of physical therapy with Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Kinross says to take it slow.  You have to walk before you can run, so to speak.

“The next time you go to the beach, the first five minutes try a run without the shoes, the next time you go try ten minutes and kind of build up gradually that way and then maybe try taking it to a firmer surface like the edge of a golf course,” says Dr. Kinross.

Today’s running shoes are cushioned to protect the feet and help the heel striking, minimizing runners’ discomfort. Going barefoot or minimal strips those benefits.

“You’ve really got to kind of weigh up the pros and the cons and for those of us who are not elite athletes.  There are some significant cons that we really need to take into consideration,” says Dr. Kinross.

If you’re running to enjoy good health, you’ll want to be cautious to see what’s right for you and not get carries away by the fad.