So what does barefoot running do for you?

In my last post – we looked at what is barefoot running, and is behind the recent renewed interest in running both barefoot and with minimalist shoes.  As pointed out – the biggest benefit comes from changes the bio-mechanical aspect of running; the strike of the foot, the distribution of the force and stress of the strike, and the resulting shock transferred to the other joints (ankle, knees, hips).  In this post we’ll look more specifically at the touted benefits of “barefoot” running.

In general, there tend to be fewer chronic injuries from “barefoot” running  – for purposes of this post I will include minimalist running (running in thin soled or minimal shoes) in the discussion.

It’s helpful first understand the problem that barefoot running is trying to fix.  Shoes are a great way of providing extra support to the bones and structure of our feet, and protecting the soles of our feet from rocks, twigs and sharp objects as well as the abrasion that can come from running on hard or rough surfaces (not to mention keeping your feet clean – especially if you run on horse trails like I do!).  However, running shoes may have introduced a bio-mechanical problem of their own.  As shoe and cushioning technology has advanced, it has naturally (or as a byproduct) sometimes resulted in a heavier or more pronounced heel strike for many runners (this means that they land on their heel first when their foot strikes the ground).

As pointed out in a recent New York Times article, barefoot on cement2“Proponents [of barefoot running] say barefoot running is more natural — humans evolved to run without shoes — and economical. When you lift a shod foot, you have to lift the weight of the shoe, and that requires energy. Added to that effort is the cushioning in shoes, which absorbs energy that should go into propelling you forward.”  Proponents of barefoot running also point out that a mid-foot or forefoot strike more evenly distributes the force of the strike throughout the foot structure instead of directing the force up from the heel to the knee and hip joints.

So this brings us to the questions of whether your foot-strike really does make a difference, can you change it, and if “barefoot” running is the only way to get these benefits – and we’ll look at those in the next post.

Questions or comments?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

What is the deal with barefoot running?

barefoot running on asphaltI get questions about barefoot running all the time.  People wanting to know what all the buzz is about and if it’s just a fad or something they should be doing.  This post provides a brief description of barefoot running, and I will also explain some of the benefits from “barefoot running”.  In some upcoming posts we’ll look at how you can obtain these benefits even if you don’t run barefoot and why you want them.  We’ll also cover the questions of Should I be doing it?  Does this mean I don’t need running shoes any more?  How do I do it?  Is it better for me?  How do I start?

Barefoot running is really what it sounds like – it is running barefoot without running shoes.   If you think about the history of running, barefoot running isn’t really a fad – it’s been around for a  long time, as the running shoes we wear now are a product of the last few decades of advances in running shoe science and design and for much of history, running was either done barefoot, or with the shoe wrapped in some type of animal hide or moccasin.

There is a second and closely related type of running to barefoot running – running in minimalist shoes.  There are numerous types of these from all of the major shoe companies – but the recent wave of attention to minimalist shoes was perhaps brought to most people’s attention by Vibram with the introduction of their quirky looking Vibram FiveFingers® shoes.vibram

So why the interest in and shift back to barefoot or minimalist running?  The biggest benefit that comes from running barefoot and in minimalist shoes is the way it changes the bio-mechanical aspect of running; the strike of the foot, the distribution of the force and stress of the strike, and the resulting shock transferred to the other joints (ankle, knees, hips).    In general, there tend to be fewer chronic injuries with barefoot running, though it does present it’s own set of challenges and opportunities for injury.  To answer the question I always get – does this mean everyone should switch to barefoot running?  Not necessarily  – and even if you do switch, you should do it carefully and over time.  More about that in upcoming posts.

Next up – How does “barefoot” running benefit you and do you need to run “barefoot” to get those benefits.

Questions or comments – use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

what are the best running shoes for someone just getting into running?

I have recently received several questions from people who have just starting running or trying to get into it.  Some of these questions have come from reading the posts here on running, and some from people who know I run and want to try running as a way to lose a little weight, become more fit, and generally get in better shape.  One common question is:  what are the best running shoes?

Everyone’s feet are a little different, and you may have some specific issue with your feet that require special insoles or some special orthotics, but there are a couple of general guidelines that do apply to all new runners.

1.  If possible, have your shoes and feet checked at a runners store.  These people specialize in matching you with the right products and can help you get the right shoes for your feet, weight, stride, etc.  This is absolutely your best bet to get the right shoes for your feet/body/weight/strike etc.  Keep in mind that shoe brands are like other things – everyone has their favorite.  This goes for running and shoe stores as well.  It is a good idea to talk to some other runners about brands before going to get specific recommendations on the type of shoe that is the best fit for you so you can approach this with the focus being on the right fit/support for your feet and body.

2.  Check the soles of your current shoes (even better if you have some running or athletic shoes).
Here’s a very basic guideline:  if your shoes are worn evenly – you have a neutral strike.  If they are more worn on the inside edge of the sole you most likely over-pronate, and if they are more on the outside edge of the sole you most likely under-pronate (supinate).  If you pronate or supinate, you need to target shoes that will address those issues.  There are specific shoes that will address your degree of pronation.  There are also shoes designed for different calibers or runners and different styles of running.  This post will highlight three recommendations for those with a neutral strike. 

3.  Use one of the many tools available on the web to help you measure and analyze several aspects of your feet, legs, body and physiology to find the best type and fit of running shoes.  I’m a big fan of the My Precision Fit site Mizuno has set up at

So here are my top three recommendations for runners looking for a good quality neutral shoe:

Mizuno Wave Ridermizuno-mens-wave-rider-16-f-pri-410511-001F
Mizuno is my favorite brand overall, and is my first recommendation.
The Wave Rider is now in it’s 16th generation and is better than ever if you have a neutral stride and are in the low-mid BMI range. The shoes will wear well, are light, and you should many miles out of them.  For many runners these are their overall go-to shoes for training and racing.  The Wave Rider is my personal favorite and the shoes I wear for almost all of my running.

Nike Air PegasusAirPegasus-29
The Air Pegasus is a time proven favorite of many runners.  With a long history and proven track record of good performance, the Air Pegasus is a solid choice for everyday running and casual racing.  Great wear and a comfortable feel make this a good choice for many runners.  The Air Pegasus is relatively light and yet holds up well.  As with the Wave Rider, you will get many miles out of this shoe.

Brooks Glycerin
The Brooks Glycerin (and the Brooks Ghost) is another good choice for a neutral runner brooks– especially if you tend a little higher on the BMI scale.  Actually, Brooks has always been an excellent choice for a heavier or bigger runner and has engineered their shoes to hold up well to the extra stress from a heavier strike.

Each of the shoe manufacturers above have excellent websites with good descriptions of these models and their other shoes.  If you want to understand more about pronation, under-pronation, and over-pronation (supination), check out this article from Runners World.

I also highly recommend the My Precision Fit site from Mizuno – their goal with that site is “to help you find the running shoe that works in best harmony with your body.”

Questions or comments – please use the reply form below, I’d love to hear from you.

New to running – do you really need running shoes?

People who are new to running often ask me about running shoes: do they really need them and if so – why, and if they do need them – what are the best ones to get for a runner who is just starting out?
Many people figure that if they do need running shoes, they’ll get some after they’ve run for a while and “get good” or are looking to save a little money now and buy some shoes later – after they’ve been running a while. Barefoot or minimalist running shoes will be addressed in a future post.

To get right to the point: you really do need running shoes, and you shouldn’t wait, but should start out with the right shoes. Mizuno Runnng ShoesGenerally speaking – running shoes are important because they provide protection for the soles of your feet, and impact protection by distributing the force of the impact of each step properly across the bones and tissues in your foot. Running shoes will also help cushion your legs and knee and hip joints.

Don’t try to save a little by putting off buying a decent pair of shoes just for running. By having the proper gear (and thus proper protection and cushioning) in place from the start, you might avoid injury or even some of the soreness that might come from getting your body used to running. Anything that lessens your chances of injury or even soreness will help you stick with running long-term.

One “bonus” benefit you’ll get from your investment in some running shoes is that many feel a little extra motivation to keep running in order to make use of the investment they make in those shoes.

Questions or comments? Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

You don’t have to do it all at once

This blog is dedicated to one thing – helping you make little changes to help you move toward a healthier lifestyle one little step at a time. This applies to all areas of health and fitness covered here on Remember that matter how healthy or unhealthy your lifestyle is today, you didn’t get there overnight.

Keep this in mind as you read these posts about diet, lifestyle, and fitness. I receive questions from people who are just getting started at living a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes it may seem daunting or overwhelming when you read posts about running (e.g. best time of day to run, or how to do interval training, etc) and it could be disheartening if you’re just trying to get started on addressing on moving your lifestyle in a healthier direction.

It’s very important to remember that you can’t (and shouldn’t try) to change everything overnight. You might know someone who did that and changed their whole life (seemingly) overnight – diet, fitness, sleep, emotions, etc. While those all are linked and positive changes in one of these areas will help foster positive changes in other parts of your life, rare is the person who can “do it all at once” and sustain those changes.

If you keep this on mind as you read the posts on diet, fitness, and even specific areas like running, it might be easier to find small steps that you can take to incorporate these things into your life.

Coming up: posts on the best running shoes for beginners, the best way to get started with running, how to get started with weight loss, and small dietary steps you can take that can add up to big changes in terms of a healthier lifestyle.

Please keep those questions coming using the reply form below, and take advantage of the ads and partners on the special offers page as they help cover the costs of bringing this blog to you.

Does changing time have your body clock messed up?

Every year the same thing happens in the US – in the autumn people are happy for an extra hour of sleep when the clocks change and every spring it’s a pain when you lose an hour of sleep due to the time change.

The funny thing is, your body tends to still wake you up at the same time in the fall and wants you to sleep until the same time in the spring.  It’s the topic of conversation at home, work, radio and tv shows, etc.  You can do something to help with this and end up getting better sleep.

You can basically do a reset of your body clock and get better overall sleep through the use of melatonin.   This post will highlight the benefit of melatonin in general and how it can help you reset your body clock more quickly, whether it is because of a seasonal time change, or travel to another time zone.

What is melatonin?  Melatonin is a substance that your body naturally produces (in melatonin 5mgthe pineal gland in your brain) to help regulate the sleep/wake cycles.  It is inexpensive, readily available, and effective from any corner drugstore, health food store, or from online sources.  I recommend a dissolvable or sublingual lozenge.  Some people find that a time-release formula works better for through-the-night sleep.

It is best to start with a small dose and work up from there – you may not require much for it to be effective (2, 3 or 5mg).  With drastic time changes, it may take a bit more to help do the initial reset of your body clock.  Many people find that they can back down your dosage once the re-establish healthy sleep patterns.  This can also be a great benefit when traveling, especially if you have changed time zones.

Side effects – typically none, though many people report that they experience more vivid dreams than normal.  Also, make sure you don’t take melatonin during daytime hours as it will make you tired and will tend to throw off your normal body clock.  Also, keep in mind that melatonin is not able to make up for lack of or too little sleep.

For more on sleep, make sure you check out the posts on healthy sleep part1 and healthy sleep part 2.
Do you have questions about melatonin or anything related to a healthy lifestyle?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

So how do you pick out the right running shoes?

What are the best running shoes?

I am often asked some variation of this by people who are new to running, or want to make sure they are wearing the best shoes for their feet.  This is a good question to consider, because there is a plethora of shoes available, for all different types of runners, people we weigh different amounts, people with different feet issues, and for different kinds of running – not to mention all the different brands.

pile of running shoesIs there a best way to pick out the right running shoes for your feet?  Yes – I think the best method is to people you know who have been running for some time, find out their thoughts and experience with different shoes, and then have them direct you to  a good athletic footwear store (running oriented).  A good running store should guide you through a selection practice based on a few key criteria.

They will consider your weight, your running type, the way your feet hit the ground, and they should do a visual review of how you run.  Some stores will have cameras and treadmills that do a very detailed analysis of these factors and some others to come up with a specific recommendation.  Keep in mind that not all stores carry all brands and so their recommendation may be biased toward the brands they carry.

Over the next few posts we’ll look at some of the factors to consider in choosing your running shoe, and how your shoe can affect various aspects of your running and other aspects of your physical health.

We’ll also talk specifically about a few of the brands available.  There are many good brands available and we’ll specifically look at a few of them, though I will tell you right up front that my favorite brand is Mizuno, and I will tell you why.    We’ll also look at what specific to look for in running shoe reviews.

What about running when you have a cold?

I’m asked the question from time to time about running when you have a cold.

Whether or not to run when you feel a cold coming on is something many people have a tough time deciding –  I struggle with as well.  I really enjoy all that I get from running, and I hate to take a day off from working out if I don’t absolutely have to (OK – I’ll also admit that I’m afraid that a day off will undo all of the exercise I have done in the past – but that is a topic for another post).  For purposes of this post, we’ll deal specifically with the case where you have a cold or feel a cold coming on and address illness in general in another post.

This really is a good question to consider, because the aim of exercise is keep you healthy or to you toward better health – so you don’t want to do anything that might either prolong a cold or make you more susceptible to coming down with something else.

To best answer the question, consider whether your cold is contained to your head (stuffy nose, etc.) or whether it has migrated to your neck or chest (sore throat, chest congestion).  A good general rule of thumb is that if it is above your neck, you’re fine to run.  The two exceptions to this are if you have a sinus infection, or if you can feel that your body needs you to rest.  Sometimes it is possible to beat a cold more quickly if you give your body rest; this is why it is important to stay in tune with the signals your body is giving you – it will “tell” you what it needs – you may have to relearn how to listen to the signals it gives you.

Can there be a benefit to running when you have a cold?  Yes – as long as you don’t push yourself too hard, you will give your immune system a boost, and you will also relieve some stuffiness while running (and for a short while afterward) as your body shuttles blood to your muscles and away from your nasal passages.  It can also help you clear your nasal passages of congestion and get some of the junk out of your system.  Just don’t want to push yourself too hard – remember that your body needs extra rest to fight off a cold, and is diverting extra energy to your immune system.  Also, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and stay well hydrated as you always should with a cold (but especially if you decide to run) .

Remember this general rule of thumb:  cold is above your neck – enjoy your run if you feel up to it, but neck or below – you shouldn’t go.  Of course if you feel like it may be flu, or have body aches, or feel like you are on the verge of getting something else, or have symptoms of a sinus infection or some other type of infection –  take the day off and if necessary see your doctor.  Better to take a short break and let your body recover than increase the duration or severity of your cold or leave yourself susceptible to coming down with something else.


Questions or comments – use the reply form below, I’d love to hear from you.

What might limit you from running every day?

In the recent posts we’ve looked at the questions of how often should you run, and should you run every day to meet your health and fitness goals.  Before you decide on your schedule and start hitting the trail or track or wherever it is you decide to run (watch for an upcoming post on where you should run), there are a couple of important factors you should consider regarding your physical condition.

1.     Do you have any current physical conditions or illness that would prevent you from running every day or even regularly?

This would obviously include anything like muscle, heart, lung, joint, tendon or other issues that present physical challenges to regularly running.   Be smart and listen to your body.  Even though running is a great way to consistently burn a lot of calories – it does you no good if you damage your body in the process.

If you have something that hurts (beyond just the soreness that comes from exercising and working muscles image courtesy of kozzi.comthat aren’t conditioned to working out), be smart and back off.  Some people find that running every other day works out just great, but every day tends to bring on joint pain.  Running every other day is great – use the in-between days for some type of weight and resistance exercise (a good option we’ll look at in more detail in an upcoming post).  In an upcoming post we’ll also look at running when you are sick or have a cold.  Of course, it should go without saying that you will want to check with your doctor before jumping into any rigorous physical activity – especially if you have some physical condition or have not been physically fit up to that point.  Which leads to the next factor:

2.     What kind of fitness or physical condition are you in?
If you have not been exercising regularly and/or are more than a few pounds overweight – it would be wise to check with your doctor before jumping into any type of rigorous physical activity. 

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock PhotosYou should also realize that you can’t (it is not wise) to try to go from 0-60 overnight; if you haven’t been exercising, don’t embark on a plan of running 5 miles every day; you’re not conditioned for that.  In addition, if you’re carrying extra weight you will be placing extra stress and pounding on your hips, knees, joints, and extra exertion on your heart and lungs.   As you begin to get more into shape and the pounds begin to drop off you can increase the length, speed, frequency and/or duration of your runs.

Be wise and don’t fall prey to the New Year’s Resolution syndrome:  so many people over commit early on to an unsustainable course of action just to quit a week or two later.  Take small steps that you can stick with and build on your successes.

Questions or comments – use the reply form below.

Can you run every day to meet fitness and health goals?

In the last post, I began looking at the question of how often should you run.

One of the biggest determining factors in how often you run (or do any exercise) has to be your fitness and health goals.   This is because your goals will help keep you on track, drive you toward a measurable result, and encourage you to push on – even when you don’t feel like doing your run.  Short term goals like preparing for an upcoming race can help push you to run more frequently or to do a specific type of running workout.  We’ve already covered some of the benefits that come specifically from running in previous posts. It’s also helpful to also remember that regular exercise itself has so many beneficial effects on your body and overall health.

image courtesy of

In order to reap these benefits, exercise has to be done regularly – and I recommend that it be daily.  Can this daily exercise be running?  Yes, it can be.  Should it be?  That is where personal choice comes in.  If running is something you love, or is something that will help you stay on track with regular daily exercise, then a definite yes.  Can you benefit from adding other types of exercise besides running to your fitness routine to optimize a healthy lifestyle?  This also gets a yes, and we’ll explore this idea further in an upcoming post.  Also in an upcoming post we’ll look at what might preclude you from running every day.

To underscore the benefits of making this regular (and daily), I’ll end this post with a reference to a Duke University Medical Center research study that revealed that regular exercise IS effective in lowering bad cholesterol levels.  This study showed a clear benefit of lowered harmful cholesterol levels in participants who regularly exercised.  It also found that some exercise is better than no exercise, but the biggest impact comes from increasing the amount of exercise – as in doing it daily. It’s worth noting that jogging and brisk walking were the types of exercise used in this study.

Questions or comments?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.