Baby steps to barefoot running

Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:02am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tempted to join the barefoot running craze?

Begin with baby steps, experts say. Turning those tender feet into all-terrain vehicles takes time.

"The question isn't whether you can become barefoot walker or runner. The question is are you patient enough to start slowly," said Michael Sandler, a Colorado-based running and walking expert.

"Your body will become stronger than when you were relying on those crutches we call shoes," he said, "but it's a gradual process."

Sandler, who has coached athletes for nearly 20 years, discovered barefoot running after a skating accident in 2006 left him with a titanium hip and femur and the prediction that he would never run again. Going shoeless, he says, saved his athletic life.

His book, "Barefoot Running," written with his partner Jessica Lee, is a step-by-step guide for easing the burgeoning barefoot and the minimally shod into a more grounded running experience.

"Like growing a tree from the roots up," he said. "Start with barefoot walking, only 100 yards (on the first day) and you're done," he said. "On the second day, rest and recover, then do 200 yards and rest again ..."

The book also contains an array of foot-strengthening exercises, such as standing on and crunching the toes and rolling small balls underfoot.   Continued...

<p>Jamaica's Andrew Gutzmores competes without shoes at the men's 5000 meters final race during the Jamaicam athletics national championship in Kingston June 27, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>