Shoes not required: An increasing number of runners ditch their sneakers for a new challenge

Running barefoot isn’t just for three-year-olds.

“I think it’s gaining popularity,” said Monique Mokha, associate professor of athletic training and exercise science at NSU and former director of Barry University’s Runner’s Clinic. “It’s another way to challenge yourself and, of course, we in South Florida have perfect weather for it.”

However, Mokha said that barefoot running is more taxing on the calf and foot muscles.

“When you do barefoot running, you land more on the middle or the front portion of your foot,” she said. “On shoes, you land on your heel and roll forward.”

Rashida Allen, senior communication studies major and member of the track and field team, said that she exercises often on the sand but doesn’t normally run barefoot.

“Maybe on turf grass,” she said. “It feels good like a carpet. But my feet feel good in shoes.”

Jennifer Alvarez, freshman athletic training major, often runs to exercise but does not like to dirty her feet.

“I’m always in socks,” she said. “I don’t like being barefoot at all. I even run in shoes on the beach.”

Mokha said that barefoot running is not for everybody. Those who have not run before should not start with barefoot running and avid runners should introduce barefoot running into their training gradually.

“They should be pretty fit, pretty free of injury already and have the running body type,” she said. “So somebody who is 50 pounds overweight is going to be injured.”

Jose Antonio, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science and biology, said that the extra weight of running shoes may contribute to greater energy cost and less efficient running, but that barefoot running may bring other issues that outweigh its benefits.

“Most people do not think of running economy,” he said. “Instead, they are more focused on not tripping over random objects on the ground. The last thing you want to worry about while running is cutting the soles of your feet by stepping on a sharp object.”

Antonio said that he recom-mends that barefoot runners find a safe surface to run on like sand or grass.

“As long as the surface you run on is safe, that is, nothing that will penetrate your skin, it is very safe,” Antonio said.

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