In case you haven’t heard, Austin, Texas is a “Weird” place and we embrace it.  With that in mind, I’ve been noticing an increasing trend on the local running trails over the past few years; barefoot runners.  While I thought the idea was indeed “weird”, I didn’t pay too much attention to it until I read a recent blog post on the topic which got my wheels turning.

Plenty of researchers have linked improper footwear to increased incidence of knee pain, low back pain, plantar fasciitis, and other musculoskeletal injuries but what about shoes in general?  Maybe the search for the perfect shoe or orthotic to solve our “foot problems” is actually taking us in the wrong direction.

Think about it: The human foot is composed of 28 bones, 25 joints, and numerous muscles, tendons, and ligaments which allow for multidirectional movement and provide support to the foundation which we stand upon.  Our feet and lower legs are uniquely designed to absorb and transmit forces from the ground, through our legs, and into our pelvis and spine.  If this is the case, then theoretically it could be possible that by binding our feet in shoes we hinder our body’s natural ability to effectively transmit the high impact forces generated with running.  Or, on the other hand, is the real problem the “heel strike” running pattern that we have assumed in response to the cushioning provided by the mid 1970’s development of modern running shoes?  This pattern does, after all, seem to somewhat bypass the natural conditioning of our intrinsic foot musculature and eccentric control of our ankle plantar flexors.

Either way, barefoot running is fast becoming a popular phenomenon and recent research has demonstrated that the mechanics associated with this type of running may help to decrease the number of repetitive stress injuries associated with shod running.  Given the information I came across, I decided to buy a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (a shoe designed to mimic barefooting while still providing some protection) read up on a few tips to make the transition from “heel striking” to “forefoot or midfoot striking” safely, and investigate the plausibility of these ideas first hand.  Along the way, I’ll keep you updated on the process, any hitches I encounter, new information I run upon (no pun intended), and the overall experience.  So when you see me running along Ladybird Lake in my new five-toed shoes, think twice before you call me “weird”.

This post is by our new blog contributor, Megan Ivy. She’s a DPT student at Texas State University, and will be contributing her verbal prowess to the blog! She might have some sore feet though… ERIC