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Is Barefoot Running Better?

Humans ran shoeless for millions of years, but today's runners usually prefer lots of rubber between their feet and the road. That may be changing.

There is some new research that may indicate that cushioned shoes cause most runners to hit the ground harder, landing heel first. As a result, feet, ankles, and knees take a beating. Barefooted runners tend to land on the ball of the foot, or flat-footed. This causes ankles to flex, potentially reducing the force on feet and legs.

So running barefooted or in thin-soled, flexible shoes may offer more protection against injury. Shoe companies now sell a variety of such thinner-soled shoes. One even offers shoes with separate toe compartments.

Don't want to give up cushy shoes? Reduce impact on your foot by landing on the forefoot instead of heel first. 

There are risks to running barefoot. Without good protection for the feet you could develop other injuries, such as puncture wounds. If you decide to run barefoot, walk before running so you can get used to the different manner in which your feet will impact the ground. Finally, if you wear shoe inserts or have any type of foot problems, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes, you will want to check with your doctor before switching from traditional running shoes.