Chas Madden loves to run but his form causes his calves to tense up and he routinely gets Achilles tendonitis.
A few weeks ago, his doctor suggested he try barefoot running shoes. He opted for the Vibram Five Fingers. It took a little effort to get them on and get used to running without cushioning.
"It's hard, it was not easy I've been running the same way and wearing shoes my whole life," Chas says.
He kept at it and his running form changed.
"It's not so much that you're going barefoot it's the way that you change your gait," says Dr. Nick Campitelli a foot and ankle surgeon and proponent of barefoot running. He does it himself and found it reduced his own pain.
"It strengthened my foot instrinsic musculature to allow me to run properly and it's reduced the pain most importantly to my great toe joint," he says.
Chas noticed a difference too.
"Following a workout there's not that pain that there has been in the past," he says.
Dr. Campitelli says running without the heavy cushioning of a running shoe put less torque force and less stress on the ankle joint, the knee joint and the hip joint. The barefoot shoe forces the runner to adapt to a more correct form. Which means running on the mid foot or forefoot which is what a minimalist shoe is designed to do.
Chas noticed in three weeks of using the shoes his toes seem to be getting stronger and they aren't as squished together as they had been.
"I think this will benefit people who are running abnormally and getting running injuries," says Dr. Campitelli.
The concept is still controversial, but Dr. Campitelli says allowing your foot to do what it was designed to do may help runners stay on their feet with fewer injuries.
He also says if you're going to try barefoot running it's important to start slowly and expect some initial discomfort as your feet get used to the shoes. You should run very small distances to start and then work up to what your currently doing.