Less is more in running footwear


I recently overheard a locker room conversation about a "barefoot" running shoe. What is it?

Your gym buddies were probably talking about Nike's new "Free" line.

Maybe the company was inspired by famously barefoot Ethiopian running champion Abebe Bikila, or maybe it just decided "less is more." Whatever the reason, Nike has launched a line of shoes designed in the spirit of exercising barefoot.

Shoes like the Free Trainer 5.0 and Free Runner 5.0 have flexible sides and soles, and minimal padding. In fact, wearing them is almost like exercising shoeless, but without the threat of stubbed toes and callusing.

Do the shoes offer enough stability and support for the average athlete? Nike seems to think so. The company claims the shoes, which allow your feet to move more naturally during exercise, actually strengthen them. So, are the days of heavy, air-cushioned shoes over? We'll just have to wait and see.

Is it true that exercise improves your skin and makes it glow?

Yes. Just as sleep, water and a nutrient-rich diet rejuvenate skin, so does regular exercise.

How? First, sweating flushes out dirt and other substances that can clog your pores and cause breakouts. Also, when your heart rate is elevated, your blood vessels dilate, infusing skin with oxygen. Many experts believe this dose of oxygen nourishes skin and helps keep it healthy and glowing.

The one caveat? Wearing tight workout clothes and waiting too long to rinse off after exercising will have the reverse effect on your skin. So hit the showers!

I recently read in your column that massages can be beneficial to your health. For someone like me on a tight budget, where's a good place to go?

Check out massage schools, which offer student trainee massages at seriously discounted rates. Visit the American Massage Therapy Association Web site for a list of schools in your area: www.amtamassage.org.

While a massage institute won't have the bells and whistles - plush robes and aromatherapy, for example - of a spa or massage boutique, chances are you'll get a solid massage for a fraction of the price.

Do you have a fitness question? You can e-mail questions to fitness@baltsun.com, or go online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, Fitness Q&A;, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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