Health Beat: Is barefoot running right for you?

Health Beat: Is barefoot running right for you?

Runners, there's a growing trend to help your feet, but you may have to say goodbye to what some consider to be the most important piece of running gear.

A Wake Forest University study finds up to 65 percent of runners suffer an overuse injury each year, so many runners are always looking for ways to stay healthy.

Mike Funk runs about 15 miles every day. What's more impressive is that he does it without shoes!

Funk's been running barefoot for five years.  He believes it prevents injuries.  

"I run a lot lower to the ground, bend my knees more, shorten my stride," said Funk.

Funk said he's able to run longer and farther than he ever did in shoes, but his feet sometimes pay the price. For example, he got a small sliver of glass in his foot.

Physical therapist Carey Rothschild, from the University of Central Florida, who's also a runner, has studied the barefoot trend extensively. 

"One of the biggest reasons that people are interested is that they are hoping it's going to help prevent injury," said Rothschild.

That may just be the case. Harvard researchers found runners with shoes tend to strike with their heels, while barefoot runners land on their mid-foot, which causes less impact. 

Scientists, however, aren't sure if that translates into fewer injuries.

"I think the jury's still out.  We don't know for sure," said Rothschild, adding that it's important to take it slow if you decide to go barefoot. 

Start with "minimalist" shoes.  Also, stretch your calves often to improve ankle range of motion. 

"So gradual, gradual, gradual. That can't be overstated enough," stressed Rothschild.

Funk logged more than 2,500 miles last year, all barefoot! 

"People will stop and turn around and say, ‘Do you need a ride?' and I'm like, ‘Do I look like I need a ride?' I'm not carrying a gas can or anything!"

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends checking with your doctor before deciding to incorporate barefoot running into a training program.

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