Is “barefoot” running really better for your feet?

Even the most specialized sprinters recognize the importance of varying terrain and speed in their exercise routine. However, you would never want to go for a jog on a lakeside path in your track shoes, so what's a runner to do? There have been reports over the past few years that running barefoot, or in barefoot-style shoes, can actually improve your performance when compared to traditional footwear.

The scientific data collected on this issue has been decidedly mixed in its verdicts.

The blog Surprising Science reported that an analysis of studies on the subject offered few answers and perhaps support for both arguments.

Carey Rothschild, a University of Central Florida professor who performed the examination, said in a press release that "The research is really not conclusive on whether one approach is better than the other. There is no perfect recipe."

The professor found that overall, evidence supported the claim by barefoot runners that they landed on their heels less and more frequently impacted the ground with the ball or middle of their foot, which reduces joint stress.

On the other hand, runners attempting to switch could injure themselves in the process, especially if they try to switch to barefoot runs too quickly or strenuously. In another article published by an Arizona NBC affiliate, Cristin VanDriel of Sole Sports, experts in running shoes and their technology, said that wearing sneakers can greatly increase stability and protection for feet. Given that the vast majority of people wear shoes all their lives, running barefoot or with minimalist footwear can shock individuals' systems and result in strains and stress fractures.

As with any exercise choice, it is important to emphasize transition and rest time. Allowing your body to adjust and recuperate can be the difference between injury and increased fitness.

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