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Barefoot Running


By jstookey - Posted on 29 October 2009

I have always enjoyed running. A year ago, someone at work showed me an article from a running magazine that talked about the possible benefits of running on the balls of my feet (landing near the front of your foot) instead landing on my heels like I ordinarily do. I tried running on the balls of my feet, and it felt really awkward at first.

Later in the year, I developed a sore hip while hiking Nye and Street mountains in the Adirondacks after which I started feeling pain in my hip while running, enough to make me nearly stop running. While searching the web trying to learn a little bit about hip pain, I came across some articles about running barefoot. Proponents of barefoot running say mankind has been running since pre-historic days, and we have been running without shoes for most of that time. In 70's, the first running shoes came out, which helped to alter the way people run. Before running shoes, runners typically would land on the balls of their feet (which is the only way you can run barefoot). Running shoes, with a thick heel and thin toe, encourage landing on the heel while running.

I was pretty amazed to learn that it was possible to run long distances barefoot, and I started running barefoot. There were a few good reasons to try it out:

1) If I ran barefoot, I would need to start with low mileage and slowly work my way up, which was just what I needed to get back into running with my hip pain. Running barefoot seemed like a good way to prevent myself from overdoing it and injuring my hip more.

2) I was already interested in running on the balls of my feet instead of my heels, and when running barefoot, that's the only way to run, so by running barefoot, I force myself to run that way exclusively. That way I will be able to get comfortable doing it.

3) Buying running shoes is irritating. They're expensive and it's difficult to find a pair that feels right while running. And when I have a good pair, running becomes impossible without them. "I can't run today because I don't have my running shoes with me". I would be much happier to be able to run in any kind of shoe (or none at all). Running barefoot is similar to running with non-running shoes.

I ran for a while barefoot-only. At this point my hip is feeling mostly better. Winter is coming soon, so I would like to start running with shoes on again. Recently I started mixing it up, and running with running shoes half of the time and without shoes the other half. During the last couple of runs, my feet have been hurting. I'm not sure if it's from running with running shoes, or if it's from running barefoot in colder weather. Today I went to start running with running shoes on, and my heel started hurting almost immediately. It was really frustrating, because I've been taking it very slow, running two miles at a time, and my foot should not be hurting like that. I discovered that I didn't feel the pain if I ran barefoot-style, so I stopped home and took my shoes off and ran barefoot, and I ran 3 slow miles barefoot without any pain. I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to start running with shoes again even if I want to... Either way, I can't believe all the hurts and pains I've been getting from running recently. While biking and swimming there is none of this pain.

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