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Zola BuddI remember as a kid watching Zola Budd run without shoes. Now a small study suggests that barefoot running is causing injury concerns. As I prepare for my first full marathon I am intrigued by this as since I adopted a barefoot running style the aches and pains I experienced when I first started running soon disappeared.

The rationale behind barefoot running is to move in a more natural way, with the front of the foot hitting the ground first. I use this running style, but (apart from once or twice on the beach) I still wear running shoes.

Scientists in Taiwan say the way you run is more important than whether you wear running shoes or not, but not all runners manage to adopt this style, putting added strain on muscles, scientific data suggests.

Claims that human feet are naturally designed to run bare on the ground, not in modern cushioned running shoes, have led to many runners trying out barefoot running.

A study, published in Gait & Posture, looked at the effects of different striking patterns for both styles of running, to assess the likely impact on running injuries.

Sports scientists at National Taiwan Normal University tested 12 male runners on a treadmill. After a warm-up they were assessed while running in one of four ways – barefoot landing heel first, barefoot landing forefoot first, and the same styles while wearing trainers.

Tests were carried out to look at their gait, muscle activity and the likely impact on running injuries. The scientists found that runners can gain more shock absorption by changing their striking pattern to a forefoot strike, either in shoes or without.

Runners who are used to wearing shoes may, however, be more susceptible to injuries when they run barefoot if they carry on running with the heel hitting the ground first.

Yo Shih and colleagues write: “Habitually shod runners may be subject to injury more easily when they run barefoot and continue to use their heel strike pattern.”

Alex Bliss, a sports scientist at the University of Brighton, said the study suggested that changing the mechanics of your stride – from heel strike to toe strike – alters the demands placed on the muscles in the calf and shin.

“This would perhaps suggest that foot strike pattern plays a critical role in muscular activation of the lower leg musculature, regardless of footwear or barefoot,” he told BBC News.

“However, the study does have limitations in that it employs small subject numbers of [unreported] cardiovascular fitness and training background, and also comprises of running at a single speed of 9km/h [5mph].”

Cystic Fibrosis A Race We Must Win2013 Miles in 2013

I am doing my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.

The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles and in April I completed 192.1 miles. If you can please spare £7.85 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.

The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page:

2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules

The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:

  1. All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
  2. I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment

To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.