Since the release of Christopher McDougalls popular book Born To Run, there has been a wave of interest in the barefoot/minimalist running philosophy both nationally and locally.
Those advocating this philosophy contend that it is a more injury-free form of running because it utilizes the natural biomechanics of our feet, forcing us to strike the ground with the forefoot or full foot as opposed to the heel, encouraged by the design of many running shoes.
Here in Durango, I have noticed an increase in the number of runners using minimalist running shoes and the Vibram FiveFingers, a type of foot-covering that resembles a thick glove.
Durangoan Steve Pease started running in the Vibram FiveFingers last spring and after getting used to them, he began using them for every run.
I ran in them mostly on the River Trail and the west side of the mountain park, Pease. said.
After running on a very rocky trail and bruising the bottoms of his feet, Pease opted to purchase minimalist running shoes for those occasions.
Many of us can understand the reasoning and logic of the barefoot running philosophy, but should everyone put it to practice?
When we look at the people in history who have run barefoot successfully, they spent most of their childhood barefoot in almost all cases.
The Tarahumara of the Sierra Madre in Mexico have a lifestyle that requires them to run hundreds of miles per week in very rugged mountainous terrain often wearing only very primitive sandals for foot protection.
Zola Budd, the 1985 and 1986 world cross country champion, won these events running barefoot.
Interesting to note that she spent most of her childhood in South Africa barefoot.
Could this mean that some people, who are used to being barefoot a lot, might have more success with this than those of us who have spent our entire lives wearing shoes?
Gerry Geraghty took up barefoot running in 1981 after reading an article by the Stanford track and cross country coach.
I would run barefoot once a week on the golf course for about 45 minutes, Geraghty said.
The coach said this would improve my speed and strengthen the tendons and muscles in my feet.
Recently Geraghty has taken up some barefoot running again in conjunction with his track workouts, doing short sprints on the grass.
Hes convinced that it has improved his speed. But he said he doesnt feel the need to train that way exclusively.
It appears there are advantages to the minimalist running theory. Running barefoot regularly on a soft surface would offer the opportunity of utilizing muscles and tendons that are inhibited in our shod feet.
Switching to a minimalist running shoe, one that doesnt elevate the heel or otherwise alter the natural variability of the foot, could be the best choice for our shoe-heavy culture.
The research on this is still fairly new consequently many professionals advise that runners use caution and take a conservative approach, initially building foot strength over weeks or months.
Begin by running only on soft surfaces for short periods of time or try a minimalist running shoe before moving to a totally barefoot approach.
While around home, use every opportunity to walk around barefoot and toughen up your feet before moving outdoors.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com