A couple of days ago the Huffington Post had another barefoot article: Running Barefoot: Is it Safe? Should You Try it?. It started out by noting that The Barefoot Runners Society has designated May first as International Barefoot Running Day. The author of the piece, Dr. Neil Blitz, is a doctor of podiatric medicine. It was nice, for a change, to see such a podiatrist with an open mind. His main point?
What’s obvious is that barefoot runners describe an overwhelming positive experience. They are not selling you something but their personal account — and I believe a powerful message. The negative stories are few and far between and only seem to revolve around early stages of running without ‘protection.’ There has yet to be a barefoot running tragedy.
And he ends his piece asking for the experiences of others, which is nice:
One thing the barefoot running movement has accomplished is that it has allowed runners to reexamine the way they run, and perhaps we have just been taught to ‘run wrong.’
What are your thoughts on barefoot running? Tell us why you agree or disagree. If you are a barefoot runner, tell us your experience.
There are a few parts in the middle that I have some issues with, though, and I’m afraid that the reflect the fact that he’s not tried barefoot running (of walking) and end up perpetuating some myths.
Under the heading “Common Barefoot Running Injuries” he mentions, “The main concern is stepping on a sharp object leading to puncture injury, and a specific area of caution from the medical community.” Regular readers here know that such dangers are way over-hyped. There just aren’t that many sharp objects out there capable of puncturing the sole. Furthermore, if there are dangers, they are quite visible in the places that most people run at. But I should add he properly worries about hot pavement (for those who have not gotten used to it) and some swelling that can occur for early barefoot runners.
He is also one of those who is concerned about flat feet. Let me remind folks that flat feet are not a problem among barefoot populations, which strongly suggests that any flat foot problems he sees are caused by shoes in the first place. Now, it probably is that case that folks who do have flat feet have weakened arches from all the “support” (instead of exercise) they’ve gotten over the years, so somebody just starting out who is flat-footed needs to start very slowly while they build up all of the structures of their feet.
All in all, it was a pretty good, and fairly fair, article.
If you go to read the article, take a look at the comments, which are always interesting, and demonstrate just how close-minded many people are. There always seem to be those who are absolutely convinced (without having tried it) that barefoot running is horribly dangerous and spout the usual myths. But then there are the contributions from the barefooting community trying to set them straight (and often the first kind just post back singing la-la-la with their fingers
in their ears).