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Trash Your Running Shoes: Go Barefoot!

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Each year, runners spend $20 billion on running shoes, some that cost as much as $200 a pair. But is buying the most expensive shoe on the shelf really necessary for your feet? Some sneakers might be doing more harm than good.

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For runners like Andrew Zapanta, it's not just about having the stamina or willpower to run long distances. It's all about the shoes.

"I've been set on the same types of shoes for years," Zapanta told Ivanhoe.

Running shoes made for distance, speed, comfort, and arch, many decked out with the latest technologies to help athletes run pain free. Now, a new study from physical therapists, finds that running shoes can put more strain on your joints than running barefoot.

"I think that a moderate amount of barefoot running probably is good; a way to train your body a little bit more efficiently," Jay Dicharry, M.P.T., a physical therapist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., said.

Participants ran on a treadmill equipped with a device called a force plate that measures bodyweight forces on the joints, and the direction of these forces. Infrared motion capture cameras recorded the runner's movements. Researchers found that running in running shoes had caused an increase of over 30 percent to the knee making it prone to osteoarthritis, as compared to running barefoot.

"Running barefoot does some beneficial things for you, it teaches you to decrease your stride length a little bit, teaches you to stride a little closer to your body, and those changes are actually beneficial for running," Dicharry said.

But don't ditch your running shoes altogether, inexperience at barefoot running can cause injury. Instead, researchers suggest taking time to find the right shoe for your running needs.

"There's no bad shoes out there, I think the issue is trying to match the footwear that you need to your body type," Dicharry said.

"I've realized there's no perfect shoe for everyone," Zapanta said.

It's not just running shoes that increase knee joint pressure. In an earlier study, researchers learned walking in high heels increases it by 26 percent. Compare that to the 30 percent increase on knee joints while running in running shoes. To ease the impact, look for stores that offer custom-fit running shoes.

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