Have you heard of barefoot running? The movement was set off by the highly popular book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and advises people to run without shoes in order to prevent injuries. Proponents of barefoot running point to our style of running with shoes and without. With shoes, we tend to land on our heel, while those people running without shoes tend to land on the whole foot or the front of the foot. Proponents note that barefoot running may reduce chronic injuries associated with running, such as IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, and shinsplints. It may also make us run faster and longer.

When it comes to barefoot running, though, the jury’s still out. 

The NY Times scrutinized a number of the barefoot running arguments up against recent research on the subject. What they found was that there was little in the way of evidence that barefoot running was safer or made people run better. However, an article in Nature claims that running with shoes can produce more impact on the body that may then lead to foot and leg injuries. Another article by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed that running shoes did increase joint torque on the hips, knees, and ankles.

The best advice, therefore, may come from the Mayo Clinic. As they write:

If you’re happy with your current running shoes, there’s no need to change. If you want to experiment with barefoot running shoes, ease into it. 

If you do decide to try out barefoot running, be aware that you will be changing the way you run. It’s important to ease into this transition, slowly and thoughtfully, to avoid injury. Some people prefer to wear minimalist running shoes (pictured here) that allow runners to protect their feet from trail or road hazards, while still maintaining the lightness of barefoot running. Runner’s World also suggests performing some strengthening exercises with the lower leg in order to transition better into barefoot running.

The simple answer is do what works for you, under the guidance of your physician. 

If you suffer from diabetes, the risks of getting a foot injury may be too great to try out barefoot running. If you already have foot injuries or pain, or have had them in the past, this may also not be a good option. In that case, make sure to talk to your doctor before exploring the world of barefoot running. However, if you’re cleared by your doctor and are intrigued by this system of running, give it a try. Barefoot running can be a healthy alternative to running without shoes. Especially if you take the time to work up to it.

Have you heard of barefoot running? Have you ever tried it? 

Image by Pam loves pie via Flickr


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