Barefoot running could be the way to beat running-related injuries

A Wake Forest University Study found that up to 65 percent of runners suffer an overuse injury each year, and more and more are looking for new ways to avoid this type of ache and pain.

There is now a growing trend that may have runners throwing away what many consider to be the most important gear they wear—their sneakers.

Mike Funk runs about 15 miles every day, and he does it barefoot. For the past five years Mike has run without shoes and he believes it prevents injuries.

"I run a lot lower to the ground, bend my knees more, shorten my stride,” says Mike.

He also says he is able to run longer and farther than he ever did when he ran in shoes, but his feet sometimes pay the price of running unprotected.

"A tiny, tiny sliver of glass that got into my foot."

Physical therapist at the University of Central Florida, Casey Rothschild, is a runner himself and has studied the barefoot trend extensively.

According to Rothschild, "One of the biggest reasons that people are interested is that they are hoping it's going to help prevent injury."

Another study conducted by Harvard University showed that many people try barefoot running hoping that it will prevent injury. Researchers found that runners with shoes tend to strike with their heals, while barefoot runners land on their mid-food.

But Rothschild says scientists don’t know if the different stride translates into fewer injuries.

"I think the jury's still out. We don't know for sure."

Rothschild notes that it is important for runners to take it slow if they decide to go barefoot. He says a person should start with the popular “minimalist” shoes. Making the full transition to run-sneakerless is a gradual process. Skin needs at least three to four weeks at 30 minutes a day before it will fully adapt.

"So gradual, gradual, gradual. That can't be overstated enough,” added Rothschild.

Mike has logged over 250 miles barefoot running, "People will stop and turn around and say, 'Do you need a ride?' And I'm like, 'Do I look like I need a ride?' I'm not carrying a gas can or anything!"

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