Not everyone in the medical community is opposed to the practice. One proponent is Irene Davis, who is director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Delaware. Although she agreed that more research was needed into whether barefoot running prevents injury, she said that there was also no evidence that -running with shoes prevents -injuries. -Running barefoot forces a change in gait, where the forefoot strikes first instead of the heel. Davis has done research showing that landing on the forefoot has less impact.
Medical directors at the Twin Cities, Boston and New York marathons said they have not seen any injuries more serious than a blister among the small number of runners who go barefoot, noting that they have more serious issues to worry about, like cardiac arrest.
Roeber said he was still seen as an oddity on marathon courses.
“It’s like an alien landed,” he said. “The reaction I get the most is, ‘Oh my God, he doesn’t have shoes on.’”
One of the biggest challenges facing a shoeless marathon runner is where to place the computer chip that records a competitor’s time. Typically, the chips are affixed to shoelaces. Roeber fastens a leather strap around his ankle. Others use dog collars. Angie Bishop of Des Moines, who ran her first -barefoot marathon last month, uses a -shoelace looped around her middle toes like a huarache sandal.
She said her reception as a barefoot runner had changed noticeably compared with a year ago, when she ran a half-marathon.
“This year people were very interested in telling me about their barefoot running experience, or how they’re really curious about it,” she said.
Bishop and others said many of the concerns about barefoot running evaporate once you try it. Sidewalks and roads are not as hazardous as one might imagine, she said, adding that she has learned to jog around debris like glass or twigs. She stepped on a garter snake while running through grass, so she makes a point of running exclusively on concrete or asphalt.
One place Bishop does wear shoes is inside her house: She once hurt her foot stepping on a stegosaurus toy in the middle of the night.
“I have four boys,” she said. “There’s always something on the floor to step on.”