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General Health

Are The Best Running Shoes The Ones You Were Born With?

Walk into any sports store or clothing retailer and nine times out of 10, you’ll see a wall lined with colorful (and often expensive) shoes. These so-called ‘high performance’ trainers have become successful because of two simple factors...

Walk into any sports store or clothing retailer and nine times out of 10, you’ll see a wall lined with colorful (and often expensive) shoes. These so-called ‘high performance’ trainers have become successful because of two simple factors:

  1. Aggressive Celebrity-Based Marketing and Hype.
  2. The Western perception that shoes MUST be worn as soon as you leave the house…regardless if you’re running the 1500m at the next Olympics or simply doing the weekly grocery shopping.

Look down at your feet right now. I bet you’re wearing shoes while you’re reading this aren’t you? Sure, so what? They keep your feet warm, protect them from the hot pavement or random sharp objects lying around, and they’re often the central topic of discussion among most fashion gurus.

All this seems innocent right? You bet. However, what if told you that some shoes, particularly sports trainers, can influence our gait (walking/running style) and not necessarily in a positive way…

You may have noticed a growing trend emerging from the running fraternity. Barefoot running has become a relatively small but fiercely committed community of people who have ditched their expensive running shoes and replaced them with the naked biomechanical wonder that is the bare human foot.

Why?

Well, the first reason can be seen in the following article featuring Professor Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University. Our natural running stride involves landing on the ball of each foot or at least the middle of each foot, instead of the heel. This ‘heel-strike’ is experienced by as many as 75 percent of all Americans who regularly run as part of their fitness regime.

For those of us who grew up in Western countries, we’re used to wearing shoes…especially when running. It should therefore come as no surprise that modern running shoes are designed to make heel-striking easy and more comfortable. The padded heel cushions the force of the impact, making heel-striking less punishing.

We’ve become conditioned into thinking that running barefoot is a painful and unnecessary method of torture. However, if you look at the physiological make-up of the human foot you’ll see that it is actually perfectly suited for barefoot running, whereby the landing area of each foot is comprised of a complex myriad of muscles, tendons and ligaments that not only work together in spreading the sudden impact force of each stride…they also make running more efficient and engaging the right leg muscles do work how they should.

Misleading advertising for sports shoes may in fact be increasing the risk and frequency of stress-induced injuries as a result of running. This study looks at the plausible data that argues why advertising of protective devices may lead to a public health hazard and may soon have to be regulated.

Now, barefoot running may sound appealing for those who enjoy ‘legging it’ as opposed to cycling, swimming or other exercise activities. However, if you’re new to this concept, Neil Sharkey, Penn State professor of kinesiology, says that switching over from shoes to barefoot too suddenly may risk both pain and injury.

Runners need to start with small gradual adjustments over a course of a few weeks and months, in order for the the soles of the feet and lower leg muscles to adapt.

Sharkey says: "It's perfectly legitimate to run barefoot where you're certain there isn't anything that could damage your feet.” He suggests running in a safe place where hazards can be easily spotted, such as athletic facilities like a university track or football field.

4 Comments

  • “Well I have been prescribed antibiotics at the end of march for sinusitis and again just recently for a uti.. I am exhausted of taking them and I wanted to know how best can I avoid them? Whats an alternative to taking them – Last year 3 times antibiotics and this year so far two courses of antibiotics- Help!!!!! What am I doing wrong?”

    miss May 04 2011

  • “I’d also like to point out that humans have been wearing some form of protective covering for their feet for thousands of years now. Those nomadic groups that were not part of ‘civilization’ will to this day continue to run barefoot, but they are not running on the hard asphalt and concrete that make up our modern cities and suburbs. Try running barefoot on a nice waterfront, concrete sidewalk barefoot, especially after in the late afternoon after it has warmed up nicely. I didn’t enjoy it.”

    Lance May 06 2011

  • “Hi David and John I’m aware of the Vibram Five Fingers and just got myself a pair a few days ago. The reason I’ve been holding out is because we live close to a golf course and I usually do some barefoot running along the fairways and lush green grass. However, I’m keen to try the Vibrams out on the road and I’ll definitely look at putting a blog entry together about the whole transition and experience if people are interested. Hi Raven and Lance Thanks for your feedback. I’ve been running barefoot for about a month now and although I’ve only been running on the soft grassy fairways of my local golf course (before the players tee-off of course), I’ve definitely felt the transition. My feet and lower legs ached a bit as the muscles adjusted to my new gait but I made sure to take things slow and steady in the beginning. Lance, I totally understand that running barefoot on hard sun-baked concrete isn’t anyone’s idea of fun and thanks for pointing this out. People who would like to try barefoot running should start out slow in the beginning and ideally run on a field/grassy area or look at getting themselves some form of ‘barefoot-feel’ shoes. Raven, I’ll look at putting together a blog entry in the next few weeks discussing my experience of barefoot running (from grass to the road).”

    Xtend-Life Expert May 07 2011

  • “<span id= x_ctl00_ctl00_Content_Holder_Content_Column_Holder_BlogPosts1_ctl00_ctl00_commentsList_ctl00_commentsRepeater_ctl01_anonCommentContainer_ctl00_text >Miss wrote: "Well I have been prescribed antibiotics at the end of march for sinusitis and again just recently for a uti.. I am exhausted of taking them and I wanted to know how best can I avoid them? Whats an alternative to taking them – Last year 3 times antibiotics and this year so far two courses of antibiotics- Help!!!!! What am I doing wrong?" Response: Sorry to hear you are having these issues. The responses i give are born out of persoanl experience and tons of research. Sinus issues: If you are continuing to have sinus problems it is probably because you are being misdiagnosed. You are being prescribed antibiotics for a fungal issue. Sad to say but most doctors hardly ever check for fungal sinus issues when if you research it the most common issue for recurring sinus problewms is a fungus. Depending on how severe this is you should tell your doctor "don’t ask" that you want a fungal medicine like FLUCONAZOLE to rid yourself of this issue.If you are diabetic this may affect your BS check it out. You will notice almost immediate relief. Then do some research on supplements that are antifungal. I personally went through this for 4yrs until i figured it out on my own. UTI issues: My wife suffered from this for 3yrs 5-6 each year. After several screw ups at the doctor’s office (gave her the wrong antibiotics) She had an adverse reaction to another and kept getting them. I did a ton of research and discovered that antibiotics can make it worse because they kill off the good bacteria creating a better environment for e-coli to grow. Most Utis are e-coli overgrowth. Try taking d-mannose it is effective in 80%+ utis do some research and make sure to get powder form. This is a simple sugar that prevents ecoli from attaching and growing so it passes through the urine and you will feel relief within the first 24hrs. Cranberry juice will not help if you are in the middle of a uti. But can be helpful to prevent future problems. Neither one of these solutions will hurt you so please give them a try. Until you begin to question the medical industry you will remain it’s victim. Docotrs are "trained" in medicine not solutions to underlying problems. Good Luck and let us know how it goes ”

    Dave May 06 2011

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