Dr. Joe Lennon on "Barefoot" Running

Dr. Joe Lennon on

The running world has gone through many changes in the last 10-20 years. Ideas about gait, footwear, and training are continually being challenged and modified. I am a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician that lectures other chiropractors about sports injuries. I am also an avid trail runner and hiker. So I follow the literature and the trends both professionally and personally. I have for years been an advocate of semi-rigid orthotics for all types of foot and lower extremity problems, and my patients have benefitted from them.

Two of my favorite books are Chi Running by Danny Dreyer (1999) and Born To Run by Christopher McDougall (2009). These books took the running world by storm and helped lead to the barefoot running craze. I changed my stride and gait right away and have never regretted it. Chi running has made me less injury-prone, stronger, and more flexible in my feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

After studying the material in Born To Run, along with so many running colleagues all over the world, I switched to the Five Finger Vibram minimalist shoes for my trail runs. The basic premise was that this type of “barefoot” running helped the runner build up arches and ankles naturally instead of letting their shoes brace them with gels and wedges. The biomechanics of running in these new shoes were a perfect fit for the chi running philosophy. I have always loved running barefoot on the beach. I was enjoying the feeling of the dirt and grass I was now able to run on. I was a total convert. I prepared to tell my patients and the doctors that I lectured to forget about orthotics and just get your patients into minimalist shoes. We were crippling and coddling our patients by bracing them with too much correction!

A funny thing happened to me and the trail running group that I had converted to minimalist shoes. We started getting stubbed toes, foot fractures, and other injuries. Not the first few weeks, but soon into our adventures. The running world started to report the same thing at about the same time. My background in the sports field and biomechanics helped me to then come to the same conclusion that other sports physiologists were realizing. Barefoot running IS good for you, but the Tarahumara and Kenyan runners that could run forever had lived their whole lives barefoot. We can’t expect to run a few hours a week barefoot while spending our days wearing shoes to go to work, to school, to appointments, for shopping and everywhere else we spend our time and get the same beautiful strong arches and ankles that they have spent a whole lifetime shaping.

I was in a quandary. Rigid shoes and bracing orthotics were too much, “barefoot” was too little. What was I to recommend now?

That is when I discovered ALINE orthotics. I encountered them at the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians Convention at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. I was very reluctant at first to be disappointed again by another new gimmick, but I soon realized this was just the product I had been looking for. It had the biomechanical and physiological answers to my dilemma. ALINE had invented an orthotic that was a suspension system instead of a bracing system. These orthotics allow us to strengthen and balance our own feet and ankles as we wear them all day. They use the body’s balancing system to correct improper gait and stance. The insoles don’t fix the problem for us, our physiology does it! We get the benefits of walking barefoot all day while still wearing shoes.

Right away I saw results with patients that I had never experienced with years of using other orthotics. I now have a high quality, therapeutic orthotic to offer my patients that help them restore balance, alignment, motion, strength, and function to their kinetic chain. The insoles are easy to fit and easy to explain to the patient. I am also able to monitor my patient’s progress and make changes to the insoles in my office without having to send them back to a company for changes. They work well for all types of sports activities, but they are just as corrective for non-athletes. A huge portion of my sedentary and elderly patients are fitted with ALINE orthotics. I don’t fashion orthotics for all of my patients, but I can make a good case that all of my patients will benefit from wearing them.