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    Posted April 1, 2010 by
    Los Angeles, California
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    Marathon Runners, Barefoot and Running Free.. How safe is it?


    Barefoot running has been growing in popularity.  Whether it is short distances, on treadmills, or Marathons, toes are being exposed. I met Julian Romero last year at the LA marathon and wondered if once again he would be hitting the streets of LA without shoes.. the answer was an unquestionable yes.  I met him prior to the run to see what he had to say about barefoot running; and of course, check out his feet. To my surprise, Julian's feet were in great condition. I was amazed. They were not tattered and calloused like one might expect, but soft! Yes, I touched his feet.  I had to.
    I was there to meet Julian at the end of the LA Marathon. With a smile on his face he crossed the finish line; no cuts or blisters. I began to think there might be something to this Barefoot phenomenon. Running barefoot has mixed reviews. Some runners say that the impact and injury to the body decreases if you run barefoot. One is able to have a more natural step which helps with tendons, ligaments, and has an overall positive effect on the body.
    Many shoe companies have jumped on the bandwagon to create shoes that feel as if you were running barefoot. Lightweight and less padding; the Nike Free Shoes are designed to allow your foot to move more naturally,
    strengthening your feet and reducing injury. New Balance 800 running shoe mimics barefoot running. Vibram Five Fingers is a glove of sorts that fits all five toes. There are many styles and brands of lightweight Barefoot running shoes out there for those who don't want to go completely "al naturale" I have only named a few.


    What would a Doctor say about the health risks of running barefoot. I spoke with Doctor Fred Nicola, Orthopedic Surgeon and team physician for the Oakland Raiders. Dr. Nicola said, "Barefoot running is acceptable when running short distances on dirt, grass, or track. Long distance running, especially on payment, is not good. It can cause long term damage" Long term damage can include;  "plantar fascisitis, ankle  and mid foot arthritis, and serious tendonitis, which can lead to severe foot problems" He also said, "as you get older you loose the natural cushioning on the sole of the foot, and wearing an adequate shoe with support and cushioning will protect the natural foot arches, and protect against damage caused by repetitive impact"

    Dr. Nicola does not agree that it is better for the average runner to go barefoot, but," for some subsets of runners it may be acceptable

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