Barefoot running: So easy a caveman could do it
Chris McDougall, author of the book "Born to Run."
Ken Bob Saxton, proponent of barefoot running.


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2:23 p.m., May 4, 2010----Attendees at the University of Delaware's Forum and Reunion Weekend will have the chance to learn more about the benefits of barefoot at “Showcases: Discover UD.” The College of Health Sciences (CHS) has invited two pioneers in the barefoot running movement -- Chris McDougall and Ken Bob Saxton -- to do treadmill demonstrations and answer questions.

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According to McDougall, author of Born to Run, the secret to injury-free running isn't the proper shoe, it isn't stretching, and it isn't training mileage. It's skill and technique, as demonstrated by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, super-runners who cover long distances in what McDougall describes as the thinnest of home-made sandals, with zero cushioning, no motion control, and no orthotics.

Irene Davis, professor in UD's Department of Physical Therapy, hopes that lots of people will turn out at the showcase to see the running demos and listen to what McDougall and Saxton have to say.

“I believe we were given everything we need to run without shoes,” she says. “Modern running shoes tend to change the natural mid/forefoot strike pattern to one that may increase injury risk. My hope is that this barefoot running wave helps runners to think differently about footwear and footstrikes, and clinicians to think differently about how foot injuries are treated. I love running barefoot -- it's a kinder, gentler landing and feels great. It takes me back to my barefoot childhood!”

The event will also include a video of slow-motion barefoot running and information sheets on the science of footstrikes and barefoot running as well as training tips for transitioning.

“We hope folks will take their shoes off and try a little barefoot running, too,” says Davis. “For those who are really interested in this topic, we're also planning to hold a barefoot running clinic with Saxton in a nearby park at 5:30 p.m. after the showcases are over.” Those interested in attending the clinic should contact Davis via email at [].

Other CHS activities at the showcase include a heart rate variability demo, where people can attach a biofeedback device to their ears and see how their heart rate transfers to a game, a demo on how the Wii gaming system is being used in nursing homes for research, and a microbiology demo based on samples taken from inside the mouths of willing participants.

In addition, UD's “babies driving robots” project, which focuses on the use of customized power chairs to improve mobility and therefore socialization in infants and toddlers with disabilities, will be showcased.

“We hope to show the general public the exciting work ongoing in our college in a fun and interactive way,” says Rachel Strickland, manager in the CHS dean's office and coordinator of the showcases for the college. “The themes for this year's showcases across the University are 'going green,' 'going global,' and 'giving back.'

“Not surprisingly, since we're the College of Health Sciences, our exhibits and activities have picked up mostly on the giving back aspect. We urge everyone -- not just CHS alumni -- to stop by. All of us can all benefit from learning new things related to our health.”

Even if you're not ready to try barefoot running, you can register for the 2nd annual Blue Hen 5K and help support the UD General Scholarship Fund. This year's race features a new course that will take runners and walkers on a tour of the main UD campus. All participants will receive a special Blue Hen 5K performance T-shirt and post-race refreshments. Awards will be given to the overall male and female, plus the top three in ten-year age groups from 18 and under through 70-plus. Also, the fastest alumni and the runner displaying the most UD spirit win prizes.

The 5K kicks off at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, June 5, on UD's North Green.

The showcases will be held on the North Green from 1-4 p.m., also on Saturday.

For more information about Forum & Reunion Weekend, visit the website.

Article by Diane Kukich