Friday, January 29, 2010

on shoeless joe

some of you may be old enough, or have seen the movie, "Field of Dreams", to remember the name "shoeless" joe. i'm old enough to know the name but not the reason he got this name. however, for almost 20 yrs, the idea that mankind should not be wearing fancy expensive hi-tech shoes for running has been bandied about, based on anthropological conjecture. actually, a study in canada about 20 yrs ago tested the idea of going barefoot for 1 hr/day for subjects who had plantar fasciitis, otherwise known as heel pain. the results showed that indeed the foot "shrunk" in length, presumably due to the small muscles of the arch learning to do their job again. did this resolve the fasciitis? first, i don't recall; second, it was a one month study - if the cause of it was removed, e.g. running, then it will resolve some. only long term relief counts; third, that was not the intent so it didn't matter.

now, i could add personal anecdote - as a martial artist who bounced around barefoot 4 hrs/day x 7/wk, and never had fasciitis until i got older and stopped training and stood around in good athletic shoes with a podiatrist-made orthotic that provided relief during those years when i was also a runner - but i won't. bottom line: the answer to the question - should mankind, or you, run barefoot instead of with fancy shoes?  - is yet to be answered. however, this article points to a study that found that some of the same forces women experience in the knee and foot while wearing high heels are also felt wearing running shoes; in fact, even more in running shoes!

the lead author does not suggest running barefoot - asphalt is not the surface we evolved to move on without protective covering. however, there are shoes - really, foot-gloves - that could protect the plantar surface of the foot that many trainers at my gym, STEPS Inc, wear just for working out. but that's different than running. my answer is - protect your feet, wear shoes; get properly fitted shoes, and then ask the professionals fitter about a cheaper pair if you don't need cadillac support. why the cheaper? for one thing, less support may enhance foot and ankle neuromuscular development. for another, that canadian study suggested it 20 yrs ago, and this one here - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34824451/ns/health-fitness/ - reinforces the idea that maybe just maybe you're spending too much money to be cool rather that to protect your body against wear and tear.  just a thought....

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Dr.Irv