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The latest craze in running: No shoes

  • Light-weight, sock-like running shoes worn by Stephen Rauch,center, on a noon run with fellow workers Troy Taylor,left and Mark Cole,right,wearing more traditional running shoes Wednesday, October 7 in Petaluma.

Stephen Rauch was waiting for the start of the recent Harvest Fair run in Santa Rosa when a boy standing behind him asked the obvious: "Where are your shoes?"

"It's a long story," the barefoot Rauch replied, in what has become a familiar refrain for the 45-year-old software engineer.

The married father of two is accustomed to getting stared at or even teased when he runs shoeless or in glove-like booties that seem a better fit for frogs.

Thin, Thin Running Shoes

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But funny thing is, the idea is catching on.

Spurred by a bestselling book, more striders on the North Coast and across the nation are hitting the streets and trails without their shoes, and in the process, turning a lot of heads.

These minimalists are kicking decades of running orthodoxy to the curb by arguing that shoes interfere with a person's natural gait and increase the risk of injury, primarily by encouraging runners to strike the ground heel-first.

Lose the shoes, they say, and runners land more softly on the middle or front of their feet, as nature intended it to be.

Needless to say, there are those who consider these arguments heresy, leading to raging debates in running clubs, online chat forums and in the pages of running magazines.

Rauch defended his choice in a lengthy essay in the October newsletter for the Empire Runners Club under the title, "What's up with the Shoes?"

But club president Bob Finlay said Rauch probably won't get many converts, saying club members, who number more than 500, have seen "fads come and go."


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