Thursday, September 18, 2014

Barefoot Running: The Big Debate

Barefoot running is running without shoes or running in shoes that have very thin soles. This type of running is also known as minimalist running or natural running. There is a big debate in the foot community about whether barefoot running or going barefoot at all is better than wearing shoes.

Against Barefoot Running

Those against barefoot running aren’t sure that this activity is better for you. Podiatrists on this side of the argument claim that running on softer surfaces like natural mud trails and grass provides cushioning similar to shoes. They also argue that most runners run on concrete, which is an unforgiving surface.

Pain is also a major topic that comes up in this argument. It is believed that running without shoes or the support of regular running shoes can cause common foot and ankle ailments. Podiatrists express that when you place additional strain on your Achilles tendon, the result is pain and Achilles tendonitis. Podiatrists also argue that barefoot running is the cause of plantar fasciitis and that running without arch support will most likely lead to pain in the plantar fascia. They do not recommend that people run without proper fitting shoes, especially if you have low or flat arches.

For Barefoot Running

Advocates for barefoot running are on the other side of the coin. Some claim that running shoes are a part of big business and that biased businesses fund their own research to yield results that suggest it is better to run with shoes. By doing this, people continue to believe that they need expensive running shoes with all of the “necessary features.” People then go out and buy the running shoes and businesses continue to make a profit.

Other barefoot runners do not necessarily believe it is all a conspiracy. They simply argue that there are some populations all over the world that suffer from less foot problems and the only difference is that those other populations do not wear shoes. Barefoot runners claim that shoes do not offer support and that they actually weaken the muscles in your feet and ankles. This is because shoes prevent you from learning how to truly use those muscles. Shoes can also cause you to walk with an improper gait for years, which could eventually throw your body’s alignment out of whack.

Barefoot runners believe that shoes do not offer support, but they do believe that shoes offer protection from harmful objects like rocks, glass, nails, twigs, unfavorable weather, hot or cold surfaces, etc. This is the one true benefit of shoes, which is why some runners don’t run barefoot and opt for those minimalist running shoes like the Vibram FiveFingers.

Vibram FiveFingers

Below are other reasons why some believe barefoot running is better for you and your feet:

  • Barefoot runners have lighter footfall. In other words, they tend to strike the ground with the middle or front of their feet instead of their heel. This type of running puts less pressure on your joints and reduces impact injuries.
  • Barefoot runners are able to run faster. Without the weight of shoes, they can increase their speed.
  • Barefoot runners save money by not purchasing expensive running shoes.
  • Running barefoot allows you to feel the ground. Being able to feel the terrain allows you to change your gait so that you can improve the way you run and improve your balance.
  • Runners who run in shoes get the same injuries like plantar fasciitis anyway.
  • This is how we were designed to run. If we are born without shoes, it must mean that our bodies and feet are capable of adapting to walking and running on the earth barefoot.

Barefoot runners believe that if you suffer from any pain like plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, it is because you made the switch to barefoot running too quickly. They suggest that you start walking around barefoot slowly on a soft surface like grass or dirt. Gradually work your way up to running on the soft surface. It helps you learn how to feel your feet so you do not strike the ground with too much force. You have to gradually train your body to make the switch. This means strengthening your feet, ankles, and calves before attempting that 10 mile run.

If you think about it, this is what you should do with any new physical activity. If you are just starting to lift weights, you don’t try to lift 300 lbs over your head on the first day. You could injury yourself. It is the same way with barefoot running. Since you will start to use more of your foot muscles that have been ignored while wearing comfy shoes, you don’t want to over work them or stress them. If you decide that barefoot running is right foot you, take it slow!


Some people are not suited for barefoot running. If you have diabetes or live in a littered area, it is best to not to go barefoot as you could easily injury your feet.

Community Foot Specialists - Podiatrists/Foot & Ankle Surgeons Serving Dayton and Springfield, Ohio Call today to schedule your appointment! (937) 426-9500

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