by Jon Vredenburg
If you have been running lately, chances are you may have noticed something missing from some runners: shoes. The popularity of a Paleo lifestyle has helped to fuel the barefoot running phenomenon. Proponents of this technique, who are rarely licensed medical professionals, state that shoes only serve to weaken and disrupt the natural mechanics of the foot. Dr. Andrew Bartell maintains that foot physiology is not that straightforward. “It is all based on the foot type,” he states. “If you have a high-arching foot, it[barefoot running] can be very problematic.” He adds that runners with a normal arch on their foot should not experience too many problems with barefoot running, but if the foot is limited in flexibility barefoot running will only lead to more problems.
Minimalist footwear is another option for those not quite ready to put their feet forward without some type of covering. These shoes, as their names implies, provide little more than a covering for the foot. The shoes lack cushioning at the heel and do not provide arch support. For this reason, your arch type has to be scrutinized before trying minimalist footwear. While hard surfaces may be painful at first, the mechanics of your run can adapt to decrease the stiffness of your calves when striking the pavement
It is also important to have full sensory function of your foot before barefoot running. If you have lost sensation in your feet, you may not notice if you step on a piece of glass or a rock. The same risk also applies, if your feet are cold and numb due to colder weather. In these two scenarios, shoe coverings would be warranted regardless of your foot type.
Before you consider throwing away your running shoes though, it is a good idea to have your feet checked by a podiatrist. “If you are not evaluated for the proper foot type, you are setting yourself up for failure,” states Dr. Bartell. While there are anecdotal reports of fewer injuries with barefoot running, there has been little scientific research to qualify those assumptions. Barefoot running can benefit the right person, with a normal arch, running in the right race at the right distance. Road races and distances greater than 10K mean that a runner could be better served by wearing shoes. “For the average weekend warrior, personally, I suggest going with a structured and stabilized running shoe,” adds Dr. Bartell.
For additional information about minimalist running, visit North Florida Foot and Ankle Center of Jacksonville’s website, nffac.com, to learn more about their services or call 904-236-5023 to schedule an appointment.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
by North Florida Foot & Ankle Center
Runners enjoy new and different types of trails so they can enjoy the view while getting exercise. Some runners prefer trails with soft surfaces like grass, dirt or sand while others prefer to run on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. For those who enjoy more controlled trails or do not have time to go out for a run, treadmills and tracks help facilitate their exercise needs.
But do you know what type of trail is the healthiest for your feet? Everyone’s feet are different, so it is important to choose the best surface for you personally. The podiatrists at North Florida Foot and Ankle Center of Jacksonville support runners and want to keep their feet and ankles in the best shape possible. Below are some pros and cons for each type of running surface.
- Pro: Has a softer impact on legs, but actually makes you work harder to get up to the same pace that runners might more easily reach on harder surfaces. Grass trails usually provide more open spaces so you do not have to stay confined to a predetermined path.
- Con: Most grass surfaces are uneven and can be hazardous to runners, especially to those who have preexisting ankle problems. When grass is wet it can be slippery and might require spikes to be able to run for a long distance.
- Pro: Lower impact on feet and legs depending on how flat the surface is, and provides good friction for downhill running. Excellent scenery – old fields and back country trails or paths cut through trees offer endless views while running!
- Con: Densely packed dirt trails can have a harder impact on the body. Muddy trails are dangerous to run through, especially if you are inexperienced with that sort of terrain, and can result in a twisted ankle or even more serious injuries.
- Pro: Running on the beach at low tide is beautiful and picturesque, especially during the sunrise or sunset of each day. Low tide is an ideal time for running as the waves will not be crashing in your way and the sand will be firm but still soft. Also, because the sand is so soft, it is working the muscles more efficiently which builds strength.
- Con: Holes and uneven surfaces can be a danger to the health of runner’s ankles and feet. Timing- be sure to check the tides so the ocean won’t be an obstacle for your run.
- Pro: Running on asphalt provides a sturdy support for feet and ankles, and can be beneficial to those with Achilles tendon issues. The flat surface makes obstacles easier to discern and to maneuver around. If you plan of running a marathon, training on the same type of surface will help you prepare and get to your best time.
- Con: The hard impact of the feet and ankles on asphalt can be detrimental to some runners. Cars are a serious danger to runners who like to get their miles in by running down the road. If you do run on the road, please make sure to always wear light colored or bright colored clothing so you are visible to motorists.
- Pro: There are sidewalks throughout most cities in the United States. For many, these are the easiest or closest running paths to access so they can get their exercise in; sidewalks are open all hours and often lit by streetlights in the early morning and evening hour to promote safety.
- Con: One the hardest materials for runners. Most podiatrists recommend limited time on sidewalks to avoid excess damage or stress to joints and muscles. Some sidewalks abruptly end or are broken and can be cumbersome for runners to navigate.
- Pro: Treadmills provide shelter from the elements so running is possible no matter the storms that brew outdoors. Runners can enjoy a climate controlled environment either at the gym or at home. For the multitasking runner, treadmills provide the option to watch TV or even read a book while running. The soft deck material is low impact on joints and muscles.
- Con: Running in place on a treadmill in the gym or in your home means you miss out on seeing new locations and experiencing your environment as you exercise. At the gym, you may have to wait for a treadmill to become available. At home, you may be distracted or tempted to shorten your run time due to household responsibilities.
- Pro: The man-made material provides runner’s a low impact run. Tracks provide a location that is set aside especially for running which increases the safety factor.
- Cons: Those with calf sprains should not run on tracks as the repetitive circular running can shorten the muscles and weaken the legs. Tracks, while practical and reliable, can also be crowded with other runners or walkers.
For any concerns you might have with your feet and ankles, visit North Florida Foot and Ankle Center of Jacksonville’s website, nffac.com, to learn more about their services or call 904-236-5023 to schedule an appointment.
By Kelsie Sandage
Arches help determine which type of foot you have. Your foot type impacts everything from how you run to which shoes you should buy to common foot conditions that might affect you. The podiatric physicians at North Florida Foot & Ankle Center recommend the wet foot test to determine what kind of arch you have. This simple and painless test will tell you whether you have high arches, mid-height (normal) arches or flat arches.
The Wet Foot Test
• Lay a paper bag, cardboard or construction paper flat on the ground. Tip: Use something that is not white since your foot’s outline will not show up well on a white background.
• Wet one foot at a time and step on the material.
• Make sure to test both feet because the arches can be different on each individual foot.
• Compare your footprint with the diagram below.
North Florida Foot & Ankle Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. and until 7:00p.m. on Tuesdays for your convenience. Visit nffac.com to learn more about their services, location and to make an appointment to discuss the results of your test or any other matter concerning your foot and ankle health.