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Athletic Shoes and Foot Wear for Sports – Try Running Barefoot!

September 1, 2011

The science of putting your feet on the ground has advanced. Are you going around in thick-soled Nikes or Reeboks that make you feel like you’re walking on marshmallows? It turns out they are probably not the best thing for your feet, especially when you’re running.

But it’s not good advice to run out the door in your bare feet just yet. There’s a line of footwear called barefoot shoes, that protect your feet but provide the biomechanical advantage of having natural contact between your foot and the ground.

The research has been around for over a decade, but like many things that are controversial and threaten the establishment it’s just now getting recognition. You’ve seen the Olympic marathon runners and track stars. They’re running in shoes that look more like slippers, and well-known international athletes have successfully competed barefoot, such as Zola Budd from South Africa and Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia.

Gymnasts have been shown to have some of the highest impact pressures on the feet of any sport. It’s true, I was one, and all we wore in competition were those little slippers. Often in practice, we preferred bare feet!

Go to a major sports outlet, the kind that supplies competitive athletes, and walk around the footwear section. You’ll see at least a few barefoot shoes. I found mine at Sports Authority, retailing at $110 but on sale for $39, and of good quality (made in Japan not China). It took me a
few runs on the treadmill to adapt, but now I can’t imagine running in the old loafers.

You need to build up to it. By gradually increasing how long you go barefoot each time, the bottoms of the feet thicken and the muscles and ligaments get stronger. Because the proprioceptors (those little nerve endings in your feet) can better tell your brain how your foot is contacting the ground, there will be fewer injuries. Ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb decrease. Running in barefoot shoes or bare feet is even shown to save energy!

SPRINTER’S SHOE- where did that heel cushion go?

If you’re running outside, you may have to worry   about  puncture wounds, bruising, or overuse injury during the adaptation period. As I
run on a treadmill I didn’t need to be concerned. Shoes play a protective role in some situations of course, so use your judgment.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2014 2:59 am

    Great Post! I’ve had great luck with the sprints, awesome power lifting shoes, and the only thing I’ll take to the gym.
    the advantage of crossfit shoes

  2. August 27, 2012 12:02 pm

    The idea is that your running route is realtively safe and that youre watching the ground ahead of you. Even a thick soled shoe wont prevent a sharp object from penetrating though, especially under the toes where the material is thin. Its always a risk, we just do our best

  3. Robert permalink
    August 26, 2012 9:13 pm

    If you can’t wear these “barefoot” shoes in the streets without risking puncturing your foot, then what’s the point of wearing them? I can easily walk/run on a treadmill fully barefoot anyway.

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