If you abstain from jogging because of the nerve damage it could cause to your feet, a new Mayo Clinic study may force you to find a new excuse.

Researchers interviewed and tested 25 long-distance runners from the Rochester (Minn.) Track Club and found only "trivial" effects on the nerves of their feet and legs. The runners included 21 men and four women who had run an average estimated distance of nearly 20,000 miles in their lifetimes.

The runners' feet were computer-tested for their threshold of sensitivity to touch, vibration and cooling, for nerve conduction and for evidence of peripheral neuropathy -- nerve damage.

Researchers found small differences in nerve conduction and sensation in runners' feet, compared with nonrunners' feet, but concluded that these differences were "unlikely to be of clinical importance." None of the runners had symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

"The trivial subclinical neuropathic deficits we noted are readily offset by the assumed health and recreational benefits of running," reported the Mayo researchers, led by Dr. Peter James Dyck, of the clinic's Peripheral Neuropathy Research Laboratory.

Most of the runners did report having had toe and foot injuries, sometimes with short-lived sensory symptoms. These reports and the test results, the Mayo team concluded, suggest that long-distance running causes multiple small injuries which can lead to measurable differences in nerve conduction and the ability to detect vibration -- but not to nerve damage. --