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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 enthusi-
asts consider it to be a more natural
way of running.
Followers of the barefoot move-
ment say it reduces the risk of chron-
ic and repetitive stress injuries by
giving the body more "sensory feed-
back" -- basically if you run barefoot
and it hurts you know that you need
to change your technique -- some-
thing you don't necessarily get from
They also argue that it is more
efficient to run barefoot as the
weight of a running shoe can slow
you down and compromise form.
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 mini-
malist running shoes rather than
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 ener-
gy 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 eve-
ryone. The same goes for deciding
between minimalist shoes or going
As PTI CPL Aaron Rawnsley
discussed in the April 12 edition of
Army, before choosing the right shoe
(or not, as the case may be) you need
to decide how you run.
Barefoot running seems to
encourage people to run on the balls
or soles of the feet. This forefoot
strike pattern has been shown to
reduce impact-related injuries when
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 sup-
port 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 adjust-
ing their technique.
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 with-
out adequate preparation can cause
more problems and changing your
gait can take time.
"In my experiences and research
so far on this controversial topic,
transitioning to minimalist footwear
is not for everyone," CPL Rawnsley
"The starting point and rate of
progress if conducting this training
and transition is purely individual
based. No set program or timeline
can be applied from one person to
"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 pro-
fessional and seek guidance from a
PTI and podiatrist.
"They can monitor the volume
of training, give you guidance on
the types of surfaces to train on and
develop a plan that is tailored to
suit your individual needs and out-
comes," he said.
Providing there are no issues,
CPL Rawnsley said starting train-
ing on a non-impact surface such as
a grassed football oval was a good
"Commence with walking, doing
small low-intensity sessions to get
your feet used to the difference. You
can progress slowly from there to
jogging but always seek expert med-
ical 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 by LAC Bill Solomou
Put your best foot forward
Army June 7, 2012
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