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Shoes On or Shoes Off? Are You Ready To Run Barefoot?

For many years, there has been debate if running barefoot is truly a good practice for runners. Some world-class runners, like Abebe Bikila, Bruce Tulloh, and Zola Budd, have won on marathons, earning gold medals, while running without shoes on.

Numerous studies and researches were also conducted to prove that barefoot running is the best way to go. One of the studies was led by Dr. Griffith Pugh and Bruce Tulloh in 1961. Their scientific research revealed that barefoot running gives a 100m advantage in a 10,000m race and that barefoot runners can accelerate more quickly than runners with shoes. Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run—the book that has inspired runners to try barefoot running, claims that our ancestors have survived running and hunting for years without shoes.

Contrary to this, common sense dictates that wearing shoes will protect our feet from harmful objects we may come across with while running such as broken glass, nails, or anything that may wound our feet. Dr. Matthew Silvis, M.D., a sports physician at Penn State, has reportedly observed that the number of injuries have significantly increased in runners opting to try barefoot or minimalist running.

While Dr. Griffith Pugh and Bruce Tulloh’s discovered that barefoot running increases speed, some experts on running argue that wearing shoes, especially heavier ones, will improve leg strength. Alf Shrubb from England, who holds multiple world records, used heavy shoes for training in the 1900s.

With many runners claiming that barefoot running is better than shod running while several others believe otherwise, it’s fairly difficult to know which one to follow. However, for runners who intend to transition from running with shoes on to running barefoot, podiatrists advise to take one step at a time and do so gradually to avoid injuries.

Overuse injuries are common in runners new to barefoot running that, even Daniel Lieberman, Ph.D., the evolutionary biologist from Harvard who helped propagate barefoot running, advised that: “Running is a complex skill that you can’t learn how to do just by taking off your shoes.”

Although switching from shod running to barefoot running isn’t easy, there are still ways to minimize the risks of getting injured and even make the transition much easier.
You may start by walking barefoot to get to experience how it feels. Barefoot-Running Legend Ted McDonald advised runners transitioning to barefoot running not to focus on speed yet and wait for their feet and bodies to ‘tune in’ to barefoot running. He even admitted that the transition to barefoot may take years.

It is also better to start barefoot running on flat grounds instead of going uphill. Running uphill barefoot puts more strain on your feet, legs and muscles—which may lead to injuries.
Also, make sure that you land midfoot or forefoot in every stride, a research from Harvard University discovered that runners who use heels in landing experience more injuries than those runners who use their forefoot or midfoot to land.

In short, the option to run or not to run barefoot will still depend on the runner. If you feel that you can do it and you’re comfortable running without shoes, then why not?
Barefoot or shod, with or without shoes, it is inevitable to experience injuries while running. Still, with proper precaution, these injuries can be avoided. Learning proper running techniques and applying can be a lot of help in injury prevention.

How to Deal With Post-Running Pains

Muscle soreness and body pains are just normal after effects of running. The higher the intensity of your work out, the greater pain you feel. According to surveys, one of the main reasons non-runners don’t like running is because of sore muscles you get after engaging in the exercise.

Even though it is a given fact that muscle aches and soreness come with vigorous workouts such as running, it doesn’t mean that you just have to suffer from the pains. Some runners turn to over-the-counter pain relievers, massages, alternating between hot tubs and ice baths to get rid of the body aches running causes. Luckily, there are other ways that can help lessen and ease the pain.

Some pre-running habits can be done to lessen the pain you will have to endure after every run. One of them is drinking coffee before running. Caffeine does not only boost running performance and gives energy. A research conducted at the University of Illinois revealed that caffeine blocks adenosine—this is a brain chemical that processes pain. The research also revealed that drinking coffee before running (or any other exercise) reduces the soreness felt in the muscles after working out. Drinking energy drinks before and during running can also decrease the intensity of pain felt after running. When you drink energy drinks before or while running, you fuel your muscles with the carbohydrate level they need, thus the muscles don’t have to use their own proteins much sooner. Including amino-acids, healthy fats, and protein to your diet (especially the one you’ll have before and after running) also decreases post-running muscle soreness. Taking in supplements can also be beneficial in easing the pain after running.

A muscle-building supplement known as creatine is proven to reduce some painful aftermath of running such as muscle cell damage and inflammation. Another way of reducing muscle soreness after running is by not overdoing the workout. Take things one step at a time and gradually increase the intensity to allow your muscles to get used to the exercise. Stretching and warming up before running also helps a lot. Warming up prepares the muscles and makes it more flexible as well. Doing cool down stretches after every run also helps in lessening muscle pains.

Getting enough rest after running is still very important. Give your sore muscles time to heal. Performing light exercises such as brisk walking can still be done while waiting for your muscles to fully recover. Although muscle soreness and muscle pain are to be expected after running, it is essential for you to watch out for signs and symptoms that the pains may be caused by an underlying problem.

If you experience sharp, severe, sudden pain while running, you should stop at once to prevent an injury. You should also see a doctor immediately. Muscle aches and pains are an inevitable part not only in running, but in every form of workout. Just keep in mind to not push yourself beyond your limits. Taking good care of your muscles and your body will go a long way.