Q: I've heard running in bare feet is actually good for you. Is this true at all, or should I stick with my regular runners?

A: Barefoot running has evolved into a heated debate within the medical community. The majority of the Podiatric profession disagrees with barefoot running and vehemently discourages this activity. As a practicing Podiatrist, I don't condone any sort of barefoot activities, even within one's own home. I remove countless foreign object inclusions in patient's feet even as miniscule as a pet hair or carpet fiber. Foreign objects become very painful and often become infected. The risk of a foreign object entering the feet increases exponentially outdoors, and that's why shoes were invented, to protect feet from the outdoor elements.

Running, in general, is a very harsh activity both on feet as well as the rest of the lower body. The reason running is so traumatic to the body is due to the excessive pounding and consequential jarring of various joints. Running shoes have come a long way over the last decade and provide additional shock absorption, which is important in reducing the risk of joint trauma. Barefoot running provides zero shock absorption; therefore the body takes the blunt force of impact.

In conclusion, I would never recommend barefoot running to any of my patients and would hope that runners would use common sense, avoiding barefoot activities as a whole. If one chooses to run, I suggest purchasing proper fitting running shoes from stores specializing in this particular activity. Also, runners should avoid any shoes that provide built in motion control, especially if they wear prescription orthotics in their running shoes.

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-Dr. Hartley Miltchin, Podiatrist and past president of the Ontario Podiatric Medical Association, 4430 Bathurst Street, Suite 503, Toronto, Tel: 416-635-8637, www.accentonfeet.com.