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  • Writer's pictureDr. AJ Gagliardi

Barefoot Running

The topic of bare foot running has been a hot and controversial topic for a long time which was re-ignited by the book Born to Run. This rebirth was precipitated due to this book, speaking of the wonders of running without shoes. I say rebirth because barefoot running is not a new idea. We have done it in the past as cavemen and hunter gatherers. However, the evolution of the running shoe has caught everyone by storm and we could not help but follow Nike to whatever “victory” their famous athletes promised. Nike and others decided the foot was not good enough and have tried to create a shoe for every type of foot. This is good and bad, as you will find out later in our discussion.

The latest evolution of the running shoe, or lack thereof, has landed us with a line of “minimalist” shoes. Shoes that look like feet, and allow our feet to move the way they should. How genius is that? And yes, I am talking about the Vibram 5 finger shoe. New balance has also created the Minimus which is like the prized Vibram, but has a little more structure around the toes.

This leads us into our next discussion of pronation. Pronation is what allows the foot to mold and conform to the surface it is in contact with. Pronation is the flattening out of that arch. THIS IS A GOOD THING!! For a long time it was thought that we needed to stop pronation, but that has been proven wrong. Pronation is the way the foot naturally absorbs shock and tells your brain what it is feeling so you do not end up with stress fractures or a sprained ankle while running on the road or trail. Using your minimalist shoes allows this pronation to happen, which is a great thing for the entire body. That means that everyone should be running in these shoes, right? That is wrong!

There are reasons why our feet just can’t get along with barefoot running. One, we run on hard manmade surfaces like concrete and asphalt. When we were barefoot running in the old days, and I mean OLD days, there was dirt and wet grass to run on and stress fractures were a thing that many did not need to worry about. Secondly, the cavemen did not have shoes on their feet since birth. Being shoed when you are young leads to changes in how the muscles of the lower leg pull on the bones. Because muscle pull and tension dictates how your bone structure forms during your development, this can lead to changes that even barefoot running can’t remedy.

I love the idea of barefoot running, but if you are going to go and pound out 10 miles on unforgiving concrete or asphalt you should think twice about running in a minimalist shoe. I know there are some of you out there reading this and saying, I run every day all day in my Vibrams and I don’t have any problems. Well you are the exception and all other runners hate you. Just kidding of course!

With all that being said, there is a way to find out if your foot will do well with a Vibram or a Minimus shoe. You can have a Gait Analysis done at any soundRUNNER location by Dr. Gagliardi of Southern CT Muscle and Joint Performance, along with instruction on how to properly break in your feet and legs to your new shoe.

Dr. AJ Gagliard, ART


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