Will ditching your running shoes hurt your feet?

Family
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 8:00am

Barefoot running is really taking off in some running communities -- but is it right for you?

More importantly - is it even safe?

"Practically my entire life I've been running," says Mitch Norgart, president of Gulf Coast Runners.

Mitch says it doesn't get better than hitting the beach for a nice long run.

"I don't know what I'd do without it. It helps clear my mind in the morning," Norgart says.

He runs on the beach barefoot.

"Great way to strengthen your foot muscles, your calves, Achilles tendons and it's a natural way of running," he explains. "You run more on the balls of your feet than the heels of your feet."

Barefoot running may work out different parts of your body, but that doesn't mean the practice is for everyone.

"Your casual runner, weekend warrior, somebody who likes to do 5Ks twice a year might not be the best person to jump right into barefoot running because this type of running is very technique dependent," says orthopedist Dr. Jason Nemitz.

A technique Nemitz says can be hard to master.

He says you risk a variety of injuries, including stress fractures, if you don't run the right way.

Still, he's not completely against the idea of barefoot running.

"In the right group of people, people who have good running technique or who are already higher-level runners, I think it's ok to switch over," says Nemitz.

Norgart coaches runners to ease into it and not go "full throttle" right off the bat.

"People get into barefoot running too quickly and too aggressively. You should build your way into it for sure," says Norgart.

So far Norgart says he hasn't run into any problems, but always watches where he steps.

"At 200 plus pounds, when I hit a shell, it usually just sinks into the sand," he laughs.

Norgart says barefoot running doesn't slow you down. Sometimes you can run just as fast as in a pair of shoes - sometimes even faster.

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