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Barefoot And the Shoe: A Runners Tale  


A few rational thoughts about running form based on video analysis of gait.

Every year at around this time the phone starts ringing with patients who have come down with plantar fasciitis, shin splints, IT-Band syndrome and the like. Myself, I don’t run. I just can’t anymore after an injury that has weakened my calf. But I do have an opinion on the topic after having the same conversation over and over in the office for 19 years and I thought it might be helpful to give all the runners out there something stimulating to think about this spring.

Facts for your consideration….Did you know? 

  1. With regards to human evolution, shoes are a relatively new invention (stay with me)
  1. When humans run barefoot, we don’t have a very long stride length (or at least not as long as we do in shoes) and we don’t slam on to our heels for a start.
  2. In a natural environment the ground is not pavement (hard and perfectly flat without variation).
  3. Good running shoes do allow us to cushion the impact of pavement but allow and encourage us to “over-stride” and alter the normal, natural mechanics of human running which I firmly believe, and have seen over and over, can lead to repetitive strain injury.
  4. If we are on pavement as most of us are, there should be some sort of padding to cushion the blow of your body hitting a ridiculously hard and unnatural surface

So.. What to do, what to do? 

I have been advising people for years that the best exercise in the world is the exercise that you will actually do. If you like running, then run. It seems to me after a lot of thought and analysis that the proper way to run is to run as if you were barefoot but run in sneakers. As with most solutions, the middle road is best. If you have time to go trail running or running on a grass field barefooted (or in those creepy toed shoe things), focus on your natural form, I guarantee it will be different from the form you use when you are hauling down the street in sneakers. Learn this form. Repeat this form. Practice it over and over. Make it part of your running soul. Then the next time you are on the street in your safely padded sneakers make the act of running an opportunity to meditate and focus on retaining that barefoot form.

I have treated “iron men”, marathoners, recreational runners and all the other iterations and this advice has consistently helped them overcome their injuries. In many cases, it has helped them to avoid them in the first place. I love working with athletes and have lots of experience with them, but I would love it even more if I never had another one needlessly limp through the door. 

Peter W. McManus, D.C.

2551 N Clark St. #605

Chicago, IL 60614



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  A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (95)  and   am in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in neurology,  sports   injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of  extremities,standards of care, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments in Boston and have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice. I have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of family practice medical doctors. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies with contemporary cutting edge applications. I am adamant that a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any appropriate musculo-skelatal condition and I am adamantly opposed to high frequency, ongoing care. Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or www.facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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