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New barefoot running trend gains momentum

February 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Many are joining the trend of running barefoot in an effort to strengthen their feet, but some experts are skeptical.Go to any sporting goods store, and you will see an entire wall devoted to running shoes, yet a new trend has some blazing the trail barefoot.

So, should you lace 'em up or not?

Whether they're trying to lose a few or just feeling the need for speed, many are running for their life, but shoeless? What is up with that?

"I feel like my arches hold together better, my feet are stronger, I have better footing and definitely the pain free running is a wonderful thing," said barefoot runner Jeff Levine.

World class runners have braved the pavement barefoot, which for most of us seems painful, yet guys like Jeff feel hoofing it footloose feels better for the body.

"Your feet are doing the job they were born to do. Shoes can protect your feet from the elements, but they tend to cushion your feet and stop it from doing its basic job," said John Whitman, a trainer at Culver City's Focus Self Defense.

Whitman says inserts and thick soled shoes might possibly cause lack of communication between brain and body.

"The theory at least is by running barefoot, all the muscles in the foot are doing their real job. Toes are flexing, your foot is conforming a bit to the ground, and the muscles are all working and it makes your foot and your leg stronger," explained Whitman.

But many suffer from fallen arches, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis and more. So some experts like Dr. Paul Copeskey say barefooting is not such a great idea.

"The amount of forces that are put on the feet is tonnage per mile. So those are forces that are very difficult to negate unless you are putting something underneath the foot to absorb all of that extra load that you're putting on the torso," explained Copeskey.

"It gets me nervous because we know that once the ligaments start stretching in the feet, they continue to be stretched," said Copeskey.

To protect your feet against whatever is on the ground, for about $70, you can get a thin flexible rubber cover with slots for toes that some find a more sanitary way to hit the pavement.

But whether you hit the streets in lightly gloved or bare feet, Whitman says like any new program, take baby steps.

"I don't run 10 miles in my bare feet. I'll run 400 hundred meters, 800 meters multiple times. I'll run maybe two miles," said Whitman. "Just like I'd like to use different grips or different weight movements to get parts of my body strong, sometimes I'll run with shoes often I'll run without them so my feet can do different jobs," explained Whitman.