Tribal Running Takes on New Strides

Barefoot running is discussed at American Podiatric Medical Society Meeting

(RxWiki News) Occasionally, an athlete chooses to take on the track with nude feet. Barefoot running clubs are springing up all over the country. Whether this is advantageous or not is a point to debate for podiatrists.

Paul R. Langer, D.P.M., University of Minnesota Medical School, Twin Cities, MN reports that there are no long-term studies that indicate performance improvement or reduced injury rates associated with running sans shoes. Still, proponents claim many benefits, while detractors warn of risks and injuries.

"Ask a podiatrist if barefoot running is right for you."

According to Dr. Langer, barefoot athletes move differently. Their stride is shorter and knee more bent when the foot hits the pavement. Also, there is more flex in the ankle at impact and they land more towards the front of their foot; either the mid-foot or forefoot. Additionally, their runners' weight is more centered because the foot lands closer to the body.

Those who advocate barefoot running claim these mechanical difference are responsible for less injuries experienced by "barefooters". They also point to improved arch strength and efficiency of movement. The most extreme group of barefoot proponents advocate that shoes are unnecessary and are causal in a high number of running injuries.

David W. Jenkins, D.P.M., Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ reports that opponents point to a lack of scientific evidence of risks or benefits. Basically, there is no proof it is either preferable or not safe, Dr. Jenkins goes on to explain. For the most part, the clinical community is not buying into the idea that barefoot running is better.

To mainstream caregivers think that this type of minimalistic running can cause problems.

The debate rages on. Both Dr. Langer and Dr. Jenkins are personally transitioning to barefoot running and Dr. Jenkins reminds the conference that some high school football teams used to train without shoes once a week. He recommends if anyone is embarking into barefoot running, build up gradually and be particularly careful with the new minimalistic shoes. They can offer a false sense of security.

These comments were made at the 2011 American Podiatric Medical Association National Meeting and are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
August 28, 2011