Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barefootin'

There has been a lot of buzz in recent weeks about barefoot running. The New York Times and the Denver Post each had an article. Then there is piece in Wired. Here’s the intro:

Before the Nikes, before the breathable, antimicrobial running shorts, before the personal fitness coaches, heart rate monitors, wrist-mounted GPS and subscriptions to Runner’s World, you were a runner.


The Hobbled Runner began running (1975) when the only fabrics you were supposed to wear were cotton and wool (winter); nylon was definitely a no-no. Heck, we even wore jock straps (hope those don’t come back in style). Like other runners, I changed with the times, adopting the Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers line of nylon running shorts – and of course the shoes – bigger and better each year. My earliest running shoes are now classics: the Tiger Corsair, and Adidas Rom.

Strong evidence shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Nike founder Bill Bowerman invented them, researchers say. Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.


Now apparently we can turn the clock back. Not just to 1975 – but maybe 1975 B.C. Lots of runners are trying the barefoot method, and shoe manufacturers have gotten into the mix with the Nike Free shoes and the cool Vibram five-finger jobs.

I’m doing my part. I’ve started going barefoot while walking the dog. It’s great in the early morning when the field behind our house is so covered in dew that it soaks through my shoes and socks within minutes. No more annoying wet shoes. Barefoot is comfortable and I find I’m getting better on those few instances where I have to walk on asphalt for a few feet. As a kid we went barefoot all day in the summer. I remember having contests to see who could stand the longest on the black tar roadway before jumping up in nearby yard to OOOH and AAHH on the cool green grass.

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