Be Careful Before You Run Barefoot on Earth Day

Connecting to the earth with bare feet is a bad planHappy Earth Day, everyone! Today is a great day to do something wonderful for the planet—recycle, leave your car at home, turn off your A/C for a few hours or even just remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Any little change can make a difference if we all do it together.

It’s also a great day to reconnect with our planet—take a walk outside, enjoy a picnic in the park, take advantage of the last of the moderately temperate Houston weather if you have the chance.

All of these are perfect ways to celebrate Earth Day, but here’s one way of connecting to the planet that I must advise caution before trying: barefoot running. Although this trend has become increasingly popular in recent years, due in large part to the publication of Chris McDougall’s treatise, Born to Run, as a Houston podiatrist, I have to say that I don’t believe it is a safe practice for everyone. This is especially true since many don't take the time to learn the right way to run barefoot or in a minimal shoe. For instance, no one who is running barefoot should attempt to run with a heel strike...that's an injury waiting to happen.

Every type of running puts some stress on your knees, ankles and feet, but when you run barefoot (or in five-toed shoes, which is considered the next-best-thing to barefoot running) you may put yourself at increased risk of stress fractures, usually due to poor form, and you may be at a greater risk for others issues, such as plantar warts (warts that develop on the bottom of your feet).

Footwear is, of course, a personal choice, and I would never judge an individual who came to my office with a barefoot-running related injury. If, however, you hope to stay injury free while you train, I would recommend wearing the right footwear every time you pound the pavement (or trails.) For more running-related safety tips or for treatment of an existing running injury, come see Dr. Andrew Schneider at Tanglewood Foot Specialists

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