You may have heard of Rod Begg, the barefoot runner from Ottawa who dreamed up the Winter Challenge. It’s a virtual marathon, where people from Canada, the United States, and Europe compete by running barefoot when the temperature is less than 5 degrees centigrade and logging their distance online. Sound a little crazy? It’s just part of the minimalist running trend that is gradually gaining traction among runners worldwide.
Remember those carefree days running barefoot through the grass and how good it felt on your toes? That feeling is one of the reasons runners try this style—it really helps them feel the ground. Proponents say the barefoot experience helps you to run more lightly, with less jarring of the foot structures. They also point out that running without shoes decreases trauma to the heel, because runners land on the ball of the foot or the whole foot. They believe this helps build stronger arches and increase flexibility in the tendons of the foot and ankle—both of which increase performance.
Not everyone agrees. Some point out the increased chance of shin splints and knee pain with minimalist running, and that running long distances on your forefoot can pull excessively on your Achilles tendon. There is also the danger of stones, rocks, shards, or splinters damaging the feet.
Unfortunately, not enough research has been done to prove one way or the other—the “evidence” is usually anecdotal. Keep these questions in mind before running without your shoes. Do you have generally healthy feet? Do you overpronate or have structural abnormalities that could become more painful without proper support? Do you have a good flat surface to run on—one without concrete and hazards?
Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic in Collingwood, ON, can help you answer some of those questions. Give Chiropodist Tony Abbott a call at 705-444-9929 for an examination or more information. If you do decide to try minimalist running, make sure you start slowly, and consult us at the first sign of any problems. Happy trails—snow covered or not!
Photo credit: marmit via rgbstock.com