body's ligaments to stretch. Consequently, during pregnancy the feet grow bigger due to this hormone and the extra weight gained. After pregnancy and when mom's weight is back to pre-pregnancy, her feet remain longer because the stretched ligaments on the bottom of her feet do not shrink back to their prior length. This same ligament-stretching develops with barefoot running, or running with minimalist shoes...as does the likelihood of broken sesamoids bones, broken metatarsals, tibia stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and achilles tendonitis conditions.
Another fallacy I continue to hear attributed to barefoot running is that it strengthens the foot muscles. Have you noticed the marginal size of the best marathoners' lower legs and calves? The running muscles of significance that propel you farther and easier are the glutes, hamstrings, quads and your core muscles. A German physicist who presented with me at the 2009 USA Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's national convention showed a slide of a Great Dane on top of an ox on top of a chicken and said, "the chicken represents our foot." He also described running as a "controlled free fall." At the same convention it was reported that testing showed one of our elite triple jumpers struck the take-off plate with 18 times his body weight, more than 2,000 pounds! This is why the foot needs strong support underneath it. Have you ever noticed how your back feels after sleeping on a soft mattress compared to a firmer one?
Dr. Copeskey takes third place at the 2015 Santa Monica Classic 5K
Should I Run Barefoot, or Not?
The best way to land on your mid foot when running is by wearing orthotics with shoes that provide motion control and stability. It's normal to land on the outside of your foot and that is what barefoot running and orthotics both promote. The bonus is that orthotics also provide a "trampoline effect" that usually increases your stride length from 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Multiply 1/4 inch, times 1200 strides per miles, times 3, 6, or 26 and see the approximate additional distance you gain in a 5K, 10K, or marathon.
Orthotics used in cushioned shoes or even "minimalist" running shoes could provide enough support for their short-term use for speed work and/or racing. I teach my patients that orthopedic science describes the foot as a "rigid lever," the knee as "hinge joint", and the hip as a "ball and socket." Runners need to understand that their body is a machine that needs biomechanical aids to keep it running efficiently and to avoid break downs. So, is it any wonder that 80% of repeat marathoners wear orthotics?
Many doctors I know are enjoying the financial benefit from treating the injuries that have resulted from the barefoot and minimalist shoe approach to aerobic fitness. Just because they are not criticizing the shoe industry does not mean they support or endorse barefoot and/or minimalist shoes..
"NOT", say sports scientists, doctors and real authorities with the most experience in the business of sports and running performance. "Yes", say the non-professionals, ill-informed and inexperienced.
My professional opinion is that the barefoot running phenomenon is definitely a fad, just like the MBT shoes and, soon to follow, the Sketchers Shape-Ups, Reebok Tone-Ups, Vibrams and most recently; Hoka's ultra-cushioned shoes. I'm reminded of the inception of one of the first running sandals 20-years ago by Reebok, called the Amazon, which actually had a sole similar to a good running shoe.
It even had a footbed capable of accommodating a custom or over the counter orthotic. From this type of sandal, we saw the evolution of the Teva sandal that also had the strength of a fair running shoe. Now we have the Vibram shoe, the strength of a ballet slipper.
Shoe companies know how to make very good shoes, but they're in the business of selling shoes, and want to market shoes as "new" and with forward thinking concepts. But the truth is, 15 years ago most running shoes would last 600 miles; today they average 300 miles. If you run every day, your shoes are probably down to 80% of their cushioning and motion-control strength after one month of wear.
The lesson to be learned from these new minimalist shoes is that style trumps function. Are you starting to see the writing on the pavement? This is a media-driven craze generated by a N.Y. Times bestseller that has created significant income for the manufacturers of the minimalist running shoes.
However, when you realize the Tarahumara Indians referenced in "Born to Run" live at an altitude of 10,000 feet you might begin to understand some of the biochemistry that benefits their running. Has anyone heard of altitude training? I continue to wonder, "if these Mexican Indians are so advantaged in distance running, primarily due to their running sandals and forefoot landing technique, why don't they show up at our major global marathons and Olympic races? Another assertion I continue to refute is that early man ran more naturally and better barefoot than we do today wearing shoes. Early man was four feet tall, weighed 75 pounds and lived to age 30. The truth is, the science that has put a man on the moon has allowed us to continue to make a better running shoe than the Reebok Amazon sandal, and definitely better than the Mexican huarache sandal.
Yes, running on your forefeet is a more efficient running technique than landing on your heels. Most of the world's best distance runners exhibit a similar forefoot running style. However, just as 95% of all golfers shoot over 100, elite level distance runners represent less than one-hundredth of one per cent of the people running the planet. They are professionals who run 15 miles a day and weigh 100 to 135 pounds. If you look closely at their foot-strike mechanics, they actually land on their mid foot or simultaneously on both their mid and forefoot.
Dr. Paul R. Copeskey, DC, CCFC
Here is the literal bottom line. Under your foot is a ligament called the plantar fascia. Ligaments are not elastic by nature, so once they are stretched they remain stretched, which most the time is the source of plantar fasciitis pain. This is why a person who dislocates their arm will probably do it again until the ligaments are surgically shortened. As we age and put 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year on our feet, they gradually get longer, even after we stop growing at the age of 20 or so.
Any woman who has been pregnant knows her shoe size may crease up to two sizes. This is because the body releases a hormone called relaxin to allow the pelvic ligaments to elongate for childbirth. That hormone acts indiscriminately and allows all the