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AKRON, Ohio, May 4, 2011– As the days continue get warmer in Northeast Ohio, more and more people are abandoning their treadmills and taking their runs outside in the fresh air. There also is a growing trend towards running barefoot or with minimal footwear.
One of the main differences between barefoot running and shod running (wearing shoes) – other than the obvious presence or lack of footwear – is how and where the foot strikes the ground. When running in sneakers, the first part of your foot to make contact with the ground is the heel, followed by pressure on the arch and then lift off from the ball of the foot. In contrast, barefoot runners land with their forefoot or midfoot (by the balls and arch of the foot).
“If you’re used to running in tennis shoes, switching to barefoot running will take some re-training of your body,” said Tom Bartsokas, MD, sports medicine physician at Summa Health System. “It’s a different method but one that works very well for some people. I would encourage anyone interested in trying barefoot running to learn about it first or talk to their physician.”
Dr. Bartsokas provides the following tips to those interested in barefoot running:
- Try barefoot running first on a hard but smooth surface, such as a tennis court, track or smooth paved road
- Wear “minimal shoes” – those with low heels, a flexible sole without arch support, and similar thickness of cushioning in the rear foot and the forefoot
- Land with the foot nearly horizontal so the calf muscles don’t have to work too hard
- After the front of the foot lands, let the heel down gradually
- Run lightly, fluidly and with very little vertical movement
- Build up slowly
- Start by walking around barefoot
- During the first week, run no more than one mile every other day
- Increase distance by no more than 10 percent per week
- If muscles remain sore more than one day, do not increase distance
- If shod running frequently, supplement forefoot or midfoot striking with running your normal way before making the transition to barefoot
- Stretch and strengthen calf and hamstring muscles regularly
- Listen to your feet – stop if you develop pain in the arch or the forefoot
As with any methods, there are pros and cons with barefoot running. Runners must be careful of debris that could cause injury, such as glass, rocks and ice. Also, for long-time heel strikers, developing the stronger foot and calf muscles required for barefoot running takes time.
There also has been a good deal of research conducted about the benefits of barefoot running. It is thought to give runners a softer landing, therefore result in less impact on hip joints and knees. According to a study, barefoot runners experience shock at foot strike of 0.5-0.7 times body weight, compared to shod runners who experience shock at heel strike of 1.5-2.0 times body weight. However, no study has shown that heel striking contributes more to injury risk than forefoot striking.
“The long and short of it is, if you’re interested in trying barefoot running, make sure to do it as a well-informed runner,” added Dr. Bartsokas. “The goal is to find out what works for you and do it in a way that keeps you safe and healthy.”
About Summa Health System
Summa Health System is one of the largest integrated healthcare delivery systems in Ohio. Encompassing a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, a multi-specialty physician organization, research and multiple foundations, Summa is nationally renowned for excellence in patient care and for exceptional approaches to healthcare delivery. Summa's clinical services are consistently recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (Magnet status), U.S. News and World Report, Thomson Reuters and The Leapfrog Group. Summa also is a founding partner of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron. For more information, visit www.summahealth.org or find us on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/summahealth and Twitter at www.twitter.com/summahealth.