5 Barefoot running tips

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PHOENIX -- If you've ever had to buy running shoes, you know how hard it can be to find the right pair, not to mention the pain the wrong pair can cause.

Michael Sandler says forget the running shoes and go barefoot.

"It's lighter. You're able to feel the ground which enables you to get the most responsiveness from the ground," Sandler explained. "That allows you to have the lightest possible strike, which is helpful if you've ever had injuries before because your whole leg and body acts like a spring-like mechanism."

Sandler knows about recovering from injuries. He has a titanium hip, a titanium femur and almost no lateral or medial meniscus. He's had 10 knee operations. He was told he would never be able to run again.

"It was true in a shoe because you hit the ground hard in a shoe," he said. "Out of a shoe, though, everything acts like a spring-like mechanism and I was able to run again."

Sandler and Jessica Lee co-founded the Barefoot Running Club in Boulder, Colo. two summers ago. It was such a success they decided to take it to the next level.

According to Sandler and Lee, barefoot running offers several advantages, including decreased impact, allowing the body to heal from injuries, increased muscle tone, better balance, stronger feet, better posture, increase circulation and blood flow and peace of mind. It's also a great conversation topic.

Sandler shared five tips with Kaley O'Kelley Monday.

1. Start on a smooth, hard surface

2. Go short

3. Rest and recover

4. Stay on your toes

5. Stay tall

While running barefoot might sound painful to those who enjoy running on uneven surfaces like some of the popular bridal paths, Sandler says you don't even feel rocks or pebbles after a two or three weeks.

"You get a thickening of the skin, and the baby fat -- that padding on the bottom of the feet that's been gone since you were a little child -- starts to come back," he explained. "You're able to run over the roughest terrain after about three to six months with no discomfort."

Sandler will appear today at 6:30 p.m. at REI, 1405 W. Southern Ave., Tempe, and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at REI, 12634 N. Paradise Village Parkway. For more information, visit www.runbare.com.