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new balance discount A Closer Look At Barefoot Training We spend most of our waking day in shoes. We put on dress shoes in the morning for work, then switch to running shoes for workouts in the gym. Since the introduction of the modern athletic shoe in 1972, manufacturers have spent countless time and expense on advancing its design. They restrict natural movement, allowing certain muscles to weaken. In fact, heel strikes cause repetitive impact forces by as much as three times the body weight with each stride. "I think [shoe manufacturers] realize that perhaps they were headed in the wrong direction with the heavy cushioning and thick heels," he said. Should You Choose Your Surfaces Carefully? Many runners prefer to train on natural surfaces. They say they believe these surfaces reduce the stress on their joints and allow them to run longer distances. But is it the surfaces or the shoes that affect the runner? When a runner trains wearing shoes, he will typically run using the inefficient heel strike gait mechanics. The heel strike creates stress that the runner absorbs with every stride. Those who run barefoot or in minimalist footwear, however, tend to have a midfoot strike the heel and ball hit the ground simultaneously or a forefoot strike the ball of the foot strikes the ground first. These gaits are more natural and can even come down in such a way that nearly no collision force is generated, making the running surface irrelevant. Better Performance Through Natural Movement "Barefoot or minimal footwear training provides the feet a much finer feedback from the ground, which optimizes movement efficiency," said Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat, a natural training movement. "It also keeps them strong and healthy." For the last several years the fitness industry has been erring on the side of caution, with more stable shoes and high ankle taping. But this may be doing more harm than good. The rigidness and protection the tape and inflexible shoes provide actually prevents the feet and ankles from doing what they were designed to do move, adjust, compensate, and most important, provide feedback on how the body should respond to the surfaces the feet encounter. This could be why the rate of ankle sprains and knee injuries for athletes in various sports has increased rather than decreased, despite the abundant options in athletic shoes. A September 2010 article by Laura Miler in "Becker's National Orthopedic and Spine Review" noted that "sportsrelated foot and ankle injuries are increasing among athletes," In fact, several studies have shown that those who wear highpriced, highperformance athletic shoes are actually more likely to suffer an injury. Developing the strength of your feet and ankles will improve their overall dexterity and reactivity. Your balance, proprioception and quality of movement are also enhanced, and this benefits realworld activities, as well as training in the gym and for sports performance. A number of footwear manufacturers are finally taking note and producing products designed for barefootstyle training. More flexible, with thin soles that have a "zero" drop from the heel to the toe, Maxwell says these "new minimalist shoes hit the mark." Their level bottoms promote a more neutral midfoot to forefoot ground strike when running, rather than the heel strike that running shoes tend to encourage. Athletic shoes, like plaster casts for broken bones, immobilize and support. But just like what happens when wearing a cast, certain muscles will atrophy and weaken, so incorporating minimalist or barefoot training into your workout is something you should do gradually. Start by doing your warmups in socks or bare feet if your gym permits it. This will give you a good introduction to the application and how it feels. Take it slowly and transition over a period of several months. In the beginning, you will probably feel some discomfort. As you reawaken the muscles in your feet, ankles and calves, they may feel stiff and sore, and this is normal. It is not normal, though, to feel pain in your joints, bones or softtissue. This could indicate an injury. So if you experience aches of that sort, stop immediately and allow your body to rest and heal. As you build to more advanced movements like pogo jumps, lunges, deadlifts, squats, stepups, squattostand and Spiderman crawls, you'll notice they feel amazing performed barefoot. Training in this way promotes and develops the reactivity and stability of your feet, as well as the mobility of your ankles. A word of caution, though: If you have diabetes or any other condition that can cause a loss of sensation in your feet, keep your shoes on. Feedback from the feet is vital in barefoot and minimalist training. Your body depends on this feedback to know how to adjust the movement you're engaging in or if you need to stop it immediately. Numb feet cannot provide this feedback and can be severely damaged. For most others, though, barefoot training is safe. It offers a new and exhilarating experience and promotes healthier body movements. More than a fad, barefoot or minimalist training allows your feet and their related muscles to move in the way they were designed to move. I'm not a runner but I changed to Merrell's barefoot line for everyday. The black and brown leather (Tough Glove) are great for work wear and are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I also have a pair of Trail Gloves for working out and I have found them to be much more stable when doing squats. With 400+ pounds on your shoulders any extra stability is awesome. The soles are 12mm thicker than 5 fingers but other than that it is the same sole as the Vibram 5 fingers but you can wear normal socks. No funky odors like I've heard about from VFF's either. Best of all I can wear them to work and they look like regular shoes. I gave up wearing shoes during my workouts many years ago, even though it was against the conventional wisdome of the time. I found I could jump higher, run faster, and was more nimble without the big, clunky "supportive" shoes that were always considered necessary. When I work out outside, unless I'm on grass, I wear a pair of very minimal Merrills that are like a foot glove. Nice to hear I've been a trendsetter all along, and that the experts finally saw the light ;) I dont run completely barefoot, I live in New York City (nuff said). But I purchased a pair of New Balance Minimus to get back into running, and I love them. I feel as if my movements are more natural, and not to mention they dont weigh your feet down. As others mentioned, there will be periods of soreness and/or blisters, blisters contributed to not lacing up properly and not wearing socks, but it will fade and your feet and legs will get stronger. I started by wearing them to walk around for the first month or so,I walk ALOT, then I kicked it into gear and ran and continue to run at least in 4 miles intervals. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web sitemany of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.