"Barefoot" Running Gains Chicago Followers

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009  |  Updated 9:00 AM CDT
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Thanks to a trickle of new less-is-more shoes and a popular new book on running sans kicks, barefoot running -- and almost-barefoot running -- is on the rise in Chicago.

Among the new products is Nike Free, a technology the shoe giant announced in 2005 that's intended (or at least marketed) to simulate barefoot running by constricting the foot less.

Also recently popular is Vibram FiveFingers, a mostly-rubber "foot glove" marketed to give runners the barefoot advantage.

Vibram's sales have been "phenomenal," said Peter Hanig, president of Chicago-based Hanig's Shoes, to the Sun-Times.

"I'm seeing people wear them every day," he said. "The barefoot running thing is starting to take hold."

Runners are also flocking to a recently released, non-Springsteen-affiliated book called "Born to Run."

The book, by Christopher McDougall, proceeds from the question "why does my foot hurt?" to an exploration of Mexico's Copper Canyon, where McDougall discovers the Tarahumara Indians, who run ultra-long distances throughout their entire, and very long, lives.

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