Gotta Run: Final thoughts on Barefoot Running; upcoming Resolution Run 5K

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

Last week’s barefoot running column was a discussion starter. Those who haven’t been running 10 years or more were surprised that there was such a concept. The long-time runners of course knew about the idea, and a few had tried it, just as I had. For final thoughts, I asked Ralph Baker Jr. of Ralph Baker Shoes to chime in. As a seasoned runner and the nearest quality retailer of running shoes, I always value his opinion.

Ralph said, “In theory I think barefoot running makes perfect sense. It allows the foot ‘machine’ to move exactly as nature intended. It naturally causes you to run better. You will not overstride and heel strike when running barefoot because it will hurt. You’ll naturally shorten your stride and land mid-foot while allowing your foot to work as a shock absorber. However, I could not condone running barefoot because we simply need protection between our feet and the ground. If we lived in the Garden of Eden, it would be a different story but all the debris that could become embedded in our feet in the modern world make running barefoot a complete deal breaker for me. There is also the fact that roughly two-thirds of the population have arches that just aren’t optimal for running without some kind of structure on their feet.”

Ralph likes a “less is more” approach in his shoes, and currently runs in Altra or Topo which give many of the advantages of running barefoot while providing necessary protection. The broad toe boxes of these two brands allow the big toe to work as more of a lever during the toe-off gait phase. The big toe is actually connected to the medial arch so allowing that toe to move medially and propel you just makes the foot move more efficiently.

I started my run across the state a few years ago in another brand and a pair of Altras. I dropped the other pair pretty quickly because my feet began to hurt with the high mileage. I ended up using two pair of Altras for about 600 miles of the trip. I learned to appreciate the roomy toebox while averaging over 28 miles a day.

So what to do? Ralph continued, “Everybody wants to say this way or that way is correct in running but Brooks funded the biggest study of its kind on elite runners some years ago and found conclusively that there is no ‘one right way’ to run.”

With Ralph’s final thoughts on barefoot running, I will close out this subject. He said, “Vibram 5 Fingers took the running world by storm about 10 years ago by providing an option to run basically barefoot but still have some protection against rocks, thorns, glass and other assorted debris. In theory it was great, and they sold like crazy, but the reality is that after the dust settled it only worked for a small number of runners and there were a lot of injuries along the way. Most people don’t have the optimum foot structure to run barefoot and/or they weren’t willing to slowly retrain their feet. Either way, Vibram 5 Fingers is barely even a blip on the radar now.”

One of our annual races is the Bradshaw Financial Planning Resolution Run/Walk 5K and the newest edition will happen on Saturday, Jan. 1, at The Forum. Different from other events, this event offers runners and walkers a chance to start or continue a commitment to good cardiovascular health for 2022. Cost is minimal at $10 for those who register early and $15 for race day. Participants get an accurate course and timing with results posted later in the day.

Race director Rayna Gardner said, “We’re excited to have the 2022 kickoff event here again this year and The Forum is offering the month of January free with the purchase of a membership.”

Benefiting Rowan Helping Ministries, start time is 9 a.m. There are no age groups, but the top 10 male and females will get awards. Everyone gets a leftover new race shirt and refreshments afterward. Donations of canned goods and used running shoes will be greatly appreciated.

Look for the Resolution 5K and other upcoming events at .

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