"Matherne, a 23-year-old Stamford resident, will find himself on the ground floor of the Empire State Building at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 1, mentally preparing to run 86 flights -- 1,576 stairs -- in the 34th annual Empire State Building Run Up, a New York Road Runners event.
"This runner, though, will hit the road with bare feet.
"Shortly after he began running more than a year ago, Matherne started experiencing knee pain and stress fractures. Matherne ignored the pain initially, but could no longer endure it after running the New Orleans Rock & Roll Marathon. His doctor said the meniscus in his knees could not take the impact of running and advised Matherne to stop.
"His physical therapist suggested he try barefoot running.
'I tried it and pain that almost had me under the knife was completely gone,' he said. 'It was either barefoot or don't run, and I don't quit,' Matherne said."
The obligatory ding-bat podiatrist quote:
"For all the selling points, he admits that 'I'm sure a podiatrist would look at my feet and say, `What's wrong with you?''
"He may be right. Dr. Michael Sabia Jr., a podiatrist from Stamford Podiatry Group, advises against barefoot running. He said it is OK to run barefoot on packed earth, but not on man-made, hard surfaces.
"'The foot really needs help to run around on concrete and hard surfaces . . . it's not designed to do that,' Sabia said. 'You have some yielding that comes with the earth or football field. There is a natural cushioning that say a good running shoe would provide. Obviously asphalt, concrete or steel does not yield.'"
And a nice comment from the NYRR:
"Drea Braxmeier, a spokeswoman for New York Road Runners, said they don't know how many other runners will forgo shoes on race day.
"'We don't discourage it, we don't really encourage it either. It's really up to the runner,' she said. 'We actually have quite a few runners that are starting to run with the Vibram Five Finger shoes . . . but not necessarily barefoot.'
Braxmeier said only a handful of competitors have run barefoot in the NYRR races.