With the annual New York City Marathon just days away, the topic naturally turns to the method, means and manor with which runners from every corner of the globe will grapple with the daunting 26.2 miles run in the shadows of Manhattan’s sky scrapers. Being such a storied and anticipated event, the NYC Marathon is ripe with tall tales and anecdotes as to how seemingly ordinary people can endure such a massive physical feat. The running community is constantly ablaze with discussions as to the best and most effective way to train and stay healthy during long distance training.
Among these training strategies is one that has picked up a surprising amount of momentum in recent years; barefoot running. Proponents of the strategy feel that barefoot running is the healthier alternative to running with normal shoes because it lessens the frequency of musculoskeletal injuries in the foot. The physiological reasons are often equated to a biological or evolutionary construction of the foot that makes it more conducive for running without obstruction.
Data on musculoskeletal injury frequency comparing those running barefoot and those running in shoes is somewhat murky however, because barefoot runners tend to run fewer miles on average than those with shoes. What has become clear is that barefoot runners are much more likely to sustain non-musculoskeletal injuries such as cuts, blisters stubbed toes and bruises. Many podiatrists have determined that the envisioned benefits of running barefoot are far outweighed by the likely injuries from subjecting your unprotected feet to broken glass, rocks and debris on the pavement.
While injuries suffered barefoot tend to be more superficial, the heightened frequency of the injuries and the impact they have on training schedules and effectiveness seems to supersede anything to be gained from its intended benefits.
If you do suffer from musculoskeletal pain, it can be the result of a foot alignment issue. Asking a podiatrist to evaluate the alignment and mechanics of your feet and legs will help narrow the cause of the problem and determine whether or not you will benefit from a custom orthotic insert. It is also important to note that to avoid injury, long distance goals should be met through gradual increases over time accompanied by a thorough stretching routine before and after each workout.