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June 7, 2012
Finding the right running shoe
for your foot can be difficult,
but what if the best shoe is no
Taking your daily jog barefoot may
not be something you're willing to try,
yet barefoot running enthusiasts con-
sider it to be a more natural way of
Followers of the barefoot move-
ment say it reduces the risk of chronic
and repetitive stress injuries by giv-
ing the body more "sensory feedback"
-- basically if you run barefoot and
it hurts you know that you need to
change your technique -- something
you don't necessarily get from wearing
They also argue that it is more effi-
cient to run barefoot as the weight of a
running shoe can slow you down and
There hasn't been a lot of
research to substantiate these claims,
but a recent study by a team at the
University of Colorado and pub-
lished in the online journal Medicine
& Science in Sports & Exercise has
sparked new debate.
The team found it was actually
more efficient to run wearing minimal-
ist running shoes rather than going
Testing a small group of 12 men
with barefoot running experience, the
team concluded that a runner could use
up to 4 per cent more energy running
barefoot versus shod.
So what will be right for you?
Running in a heavy shoe doesn't make
a lot of sense when you're after more
efficiency, however, because every foot
is different, one type of shoe won't
work for everyone. The same goes for
deciding between minimalist shoes or
As PTI CPL Aaron Rawnsley dis-
cussed in the April 12 edition of Navy
News, before choosing the right shoe
(or not, as the case may be) you need to
decide how you run.
Barefoot running seems to encour-
age people to run on the balls or soles
of the feet. This forefoot strike pattern
has been shown to reduce impact-relat-
ed injuries when running.
However, most people will have
developed a rear-foot strike pattern
where their heel hits the ground first
because modern running shoes have a
slightly lifted heel.
This extra cushioning and support
reduces the level of feeling and contact
with the ground.
This means most runners will not
know if their gait needs to be altered
or if they could benefit from adjusting
The benefit of wearing a light-
weight or minimalist shoe, compared
to going barefoot, is that it protects
your feet from harsh surfaces yet still
lets your feet do the work.
Whichever you decide, if your feet
aren't used to not having the support
from a shoe, take it slowly.
Throwing yourself into training in
minimalist shoes or barefoot without
adequate preparation can cause more
problems and changing your gait can
"In my experiences and research
so far on this controversial topic, tran-
sitioning to minimalist footwear is not
for everyone," CPL Rawnsley said.
"The starting point and rate of pro-
gress if conducting this training and
transition is purely individual based.
No set program or timeline can be
applied from one person to the next.
"Slow and steady progression is
the foundation of enjoyable and injury
free minimalist shoe running."
CPL Rawnsley advises prospec-
tive minimalist or barefoot runners to
get a foot analysis done by a profes-
sional and seek guidance from a PTI
"They can monitor the volume of
training, give you guidance on the
types of surfaces to train on and devel-
op a plan that is tailored to suit your
individual needs and outcomes," he
said.Providing there are no issues, CPL
Rawnsley said starting training on a
non-impact surface such as a grassed
football oval was a good idea.
"Commence with walking, doing
small low-intensity sessions to get
your feet used to the difference. You
can progress slowly from there to jog-
ging but always seek expert medical
guidance," he said.
Barefoot training isn't always the right fit, Lauren Norton reports.
SLOW AND STEADY: If you choose to try barefoot or minimalist
training, seek expert guidance and start with low-intensity sessions.
Photo: LAC Bill Solomou
Put your best foot forward
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