Running “Naked”

No I’m not talking about running in the nude.  I’m talking about running with nothing on your feet, or as many have dubbed it “Barefoot Running”.  If you take a stroll down the Westside Highway path, you’ll find plenty of them — runners with either minimalist shoes or those weird Vibram 5-finger rubber sneakers which kind of make you look like an alien attached to a human body.

At first I thought that this was just some sort of new fitness fad that would be here today and gone tomorrow — I have been running in my Asics Cumuluses for over 4 years and the thought of messing with that in any way just seems like a recipe for disaster and even worse – injury.  And plus – we’ve grown up all our lives wearing sneakers or shoes, so wouldn’t changing that cause more harm than good??

But all that was before my sister handed me a little book called “Born to Run”.  This book details how its author, Christopher McDougall, went on a quest to figure out how to fix his injured feet and still be able to run.  Along the way he learned about an ancient Indian tribe called the Tarahumara, ultra-runners who would run hundreds of miles day after day wearing nothing but barely there leather sandals and eating nothing but cornmeal.  And they never get hurt.  And they do it several times a week.  Oh and also they run until their 80s and 90s.  Huh?

So does this barefoot running stuff really keep you from getting injured?  Could it be better for you then sneakers??  The jury is still out on this one.  According to a recent article in the New York Times:

“…it would seem as if running barefoot should certainly be better for the body, because less pounding should mean less wear and tear. But…Just taking off your shoes does not mean you’ll immediately attain proper barefoot running form. Many newbie barefoot runners continue to stride as if they were in shoes, landing heavily on their heels.

The result can be an uptick in the forces moving through the leg, Dr. Warren pointed out, since you’re creating as much force with each stride as before, but no longer have the cushioning of the shoe to help dissipate it. Most barefoot runners eventually adjust their stride, he and the other presenters agreed, landing closer to the front of their feet — since landing hard on a bare heel hurts — but in the interim, he said, “barefoot running might increase injury risk.”

So the Gotham Skinny verdict is:  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!  If you’re running and you haven’t had injuries, there’s no need to change things.  But if you do have consistent injuries, it might be worth looking into.  Just make sure you take your time and ease into it slowly, wearing normal shoes for most of your run and then switching them out at the last mile to barefoot running shoes (gradually increasing your mileage over time).  Make sure to pay attention to form and take shorter strides, landing lightly.  And as my favorite cross country coach always told us: RUN GOOD.

Stay posted for some delish and healthy 4th of July cocktail recipes……

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