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Barefoot Running from the NY Times Well Blog

Posted on September 06 2009

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 24:  Runners compete d...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Over the past several months, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times Well Blog has written a series of great articles on running as she prepares to run her first marathon this Fall (she’s training for the NYC Marathon in November). If you’re not familiar with Parker-Pope’s Well Blog, here’s the description from the Well Blog Website:

Healthy living doesn’t happen at the doctor’s office. The road to better health is paved with the small decisions we make every day. It’s about the choices we make when we buy groceries, drive our cars and hang out with our kids. Join columnist Tara Parker-Pope as she sifts through medical research and expert opinions for practical advice to help readers take control of their health and live well every day.”

In Parker-Pope’s September 1st, 2009, entry, she asks a simple question: “Have You Run Barefoot?” What I like about this post is that she doesn’t get into an analysis of the pros and cons of barefoot running in any level of detail, but rather refers to several recent articles on the subject. Among the articles she references are a recent article from the NY Times and Amy Cortese titled “Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants” and a 2006 Wall Street Journal article Parker-Pope wrote herself titled “Is Barefoot Better.

Plantar fasciitisImage via Wikipedia

More importantly, she opens the floor to her readers and requests comments from anyone who has tried barefoot or minimalist running (e.g., those of us running in Vibram Fivefingers and the like). In my opinion, so many people have a preconceived notion that barefoot or minimalist running is bound to result in horrific injury (even medical doctors – see Dr. Maharam’s comments in Amy Cortese’s article referenced above), that allowing those of us doing it to express our experiences in a high-exposure forum like the NY Times Well Blog is a great way to get the word out. Although our collective experience is anecdotal, there are enough people out there who have seen improvement in foot injuries (e.g., plantar fasciitis – read the comments following Parker-Pope’s article) when switching to a barefoot or minimalist style that a greater degree of scienitific scrutiny is certainly warranted. After all, a recent published review article by CE Richards and colleagues in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that scientific studies supporting the utility of “traditional” running shoes in preventing injury are lacking (the article is here: “Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?“). Given this, it would appear that support for the use of modern, high-tech running shoes is anecdotal as well.

So, if you’re a barefoot or minimalist runner, I recommend that you head over to the NY Times Well Blog article on Barefoot Running and leave a comment about your experience. Until the scientific community weighs in in more detail, your voices are all that we have! And to Ms. Parker-Pope – thanks for your excellent series of articles on running, and I hope that you take Chris McDougall up on his offer of a barefoot run (comment #50) – we’d love to hear what you think!

For me, I’m currently delving into the scientific literature on barefoot running, and continuing my personal experiment with Vibram Fivefingers. You can read more of my posts on mimimalist running here:

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