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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Going Barefoot

Published April 22, 2010 1:39 PM by Lisa West

Well, I am running my first half-marathon next week and am at the climax of my training. This weekend I will run 10 miles to cap off an eight-week schedule of running. Two things surprised me during this training: how much I enjoyed running and how much time I dedicated to running each week.

Anyway, an article in my Runner's World magazine about running barefoot caught my attention, and it was also discussed on another PT Website. The concept is simple - with more sensory input and less shoe support, leg muscles will become stronger and more reactive to the environment, creating a stronger, more efficient runner. The Website described that wearing shoes biases a runner toward a heavier heel strike; when we are actually anatomically designed for flat-foot contact. (This is the opposite of what I learned in school, but that is beside the point).

There are thousands of champion runners who have lived off barefoot running, and probably many novice runners who are motivated to try. As with anything new, it is recommended to segue from traditional running to barefoot running slowly. Runners should pay attention to any small pains as they may be an indication of improper form or overuse. And of course, barefoot runners may benefit from an evaluation from a physical therapist to determine the best method of training safely.

Barefoot running doesn't really appeal to me, as a runner. I like having clean feet. I haven't felt much weakness or pain as a result of normal shoe running, so the drive to run barefoot isn't there. I think it would be something interesting to try, so I can relate my experiences to other patients who may want to try barefoot running. Well...what do you think? Have you ever tried running barefoot?

This topic was also discussed in the March 8, 2010, cover story of ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine: http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Archives/Article-Archives/Finishing-Kick.aspx

1 comments

Hi Lisa, read numerous article and forum posts online about barefoot running.  There are studies out there that further support the theory of barefoot running, and I say theory because so far there hasn't been extensive evidence...yet. One helpful website is Harvard's website devoted to such topic:  http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu. The theory to me sounds reasonable, and considering our anatomy, forefoot striking would seem reasonable.  I've tried barefoot running myself, first on the beach, and now on the safety of my sidewalk outside my apartment.  Plus, even with running shoes with the relatively high heel height, I've starting running with a forefoot strike, thus ending the overstride I used to do. My impression of forefoot striking when running is that running now seems more effortless.  You are correct in that one must start progressively in changing form.  Ryan B. University of Florida DPT, c/o 2011

Ryan Balmes April 25, 2010 9:11 AM
Orlando FL

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