STILL trying to find that perfect pair of runners? Too tight? Not enough cushion in the sole? No bounce? Fear not.
Research has proved that barefoot runners are the most comfortable way to tackle the roads and Ballinrobe-based physical therapist, Angie Hartnett, believes the new craze will soon start to sweep the nation.
In fact, the South African native has decided to organise Ireland’s first ever ‘Barefoot Race’ in Ireland.
The 5km and 10km event will be held in Ballinrobe next Sunday, March 11, and promises to be a thrilling spectacle.
Both barefoot runners and those wanting to wear more traditional footwear are allowed to enter and prizes will be given to the quickest in each category.
It’s not as daft as it sounds either.
“When you tell people about barefoot running, they think you’re half mad,” Angie told The Mayo News. “But it doesn’t hurt your feet and, in fact, there have been loads of studies carried out in the States which proves that it strengthens the muscles in your feet.”
While running barefoot or using minimalist footwear like Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs), a runner lands their feet upon the lateral part of the forefoot, rolling in, allowing the heel to drop, then pushing off with the forefoot and/or lift with the leg.
Running in padded shoes typically alters this pattern, making one more prone to land on one’s heel first and roll onto the forefoot.
The research carried out suggests that barefoot running reduces risk of chronic injuries, notably repetitive stress injuries due to the impact of heel-striking in padded running shoes, in addition to other purported benefits.
Angie Harnett’s physical therapy practice in Ballinrobe has proved very popular, and she has got plenty of positive feedback from the local community ahead of next Sunday’s novel barefoot event.
“I’d expect that there would be at least 100 people entering and maybe even more than that with a bit of luck,“ she explained. “There are a lot of barefoot runners around Ireland and the hope is to get them in the one place and the one time for the race.
“Only time will tell, but there seems to be a very positive reaction. I’d like to think that it will be an annual thing but we won’t know until we see how the first one goes.”
There is plenty of organising to be done. Hartnett must arrange a permit from AI Ireland so that times can be recorded. The chip timing needs to be sorted out then, as must an ambulance as well as the route, refreshments and t-shirts. But this pioneering physical therapist is convinced that it will all be worthwhile.
“Everything has gone to plan so far and I’m really looking forward to the event. I do a lot of barefoot running myself and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I even hope to run the Dublin City marathon later in the year.
“Would you believe there was even a man that did an ultra-marathon in Connemara barefoot so that just proves how easy it is,” she chuckled.
“The main mistake that people make is doing too much too soon. You need to build it up. You can’t expect to go straight out and run 10km barefoot and then complain that you have blisters. Your feet need to get used to the change. But once they do, it will be the most comfortable way of running.”
Those wishing to take part in the race can enter online at www.runireland.com or at www.barefoot.ie