At its core, running doesn’t require a lot of equipment. All you really need is a solid pair of shoes. But elite runner and family physician Dr. Mark Cucuzzella challenges even that assertion, arguing instead that natural running sans shoes offers a better return for the runner. Upon suffering from severe arthritis in his toes after 20 years of competitive running, Dr. Cucuzzella began exploring options that would allow his feet more natural flexibility. By switching to bare feet or minimalist running shoes, he was able to run again with no pain for the first time in years.

A professor of family medicine at West Virginia University and the chief medical consultant for the Air Force Marathon (drawing on his experience as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves), Dr. Cucuzzella strives to promote his message of the benefits of natural running. He also founded the Natural Running Center and Two Rivers Treads for minimalist runners and Freedom’s Run, a national parks-based event series.

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Jimmy Carter