Posted on April 12 2018

 barefoot running

Over the past 5 years, there’s become an increased interest in barefoot running. I regularly field questions on the topic from curious patients. There are different schools of thought on the topic. In fact, it can cause heated debates between minimalist runners and their shoe-wearing counterparts.

Folks who support the minimalist (barefoot) approach, site its historical value. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that supportive running shoes really became mainstream. Prior to that, runners ran barefoot or with shoes offering minimal support. Those in favor of the movement feel that barefoot running may reduce the risk of repetitive use injuries, as well as citing the mechanical benefits of a more natural forefoot strike vs. heel strike when running. And, in terms of racing, studies have shown a correlation between minimal footwear weight and improved running efficiency resulting in decreased race times.

On the other side of the proverbial track are those who feel that barefoot running is simply a fad that it is likely to increase the risk of injury. This group believes that wearing supportive running shoes is safer and helps develop a more consistent athlete. In addition, they’ll argue that there is no scientific proof that running barefoot is safer or more efficient than running with a well fitted running shoe

To Wear Or Not To Wear Shoes – That Is The Question…

When asked my opinion on the topic, I stand firmly in the middle. My take on barefoot running is — it depends…  There are some solid merits for using this technique for training. Some runners are more appropriate candidates than others.

The bottom line? I feel that barefoot/minimalist running is a valid training technique. However, it’s not for everyone.  If you have questions as to whether you should attempt barefoot running or not, it would be advisable to consult with a Physical Therapist. Your PT can provide a biomechanical analysis of your unique gait and foot strike to determine if barefoot running is an appropriate training technique for you.

Safe Training Trumps All

If you decide to try barefoot running, here are some important tips to help keep you safe:

    1. Spend time strengthening your lower body and core
    2. Practice weight-bearing strength exercises barefoot
    3. Walk or use the elliptical with a minimalist shoe (or barefoot)
    4. Begin incorporating barefoot walking around the house to build your endurance
    5. Learn to run barefoot (NOTE: this is where a PT can really come in handy)
    6. Be patient. You will be using different muscle groups which can increase injury risk if you work them too much, too soon. Take it slow and employ the best technique for your body. Again, a PT can help.

    If you want to try the barefoot approach, you don’t have to do it with exposed toes. Many shoe manufacturers make minimalist footwear which can provide the benefits of barefoot running, while protecting you from rocks, glass, dirt and other road hazards. Some popular manufacturers include: Nike, New Balance, Saucony and Vibram’s FiveFingers shoe.

    Barefoot running is becoming a popular adjunct cross-training option. However, it’s not for everyone. Your safety is my main concern. If barefoot running is on your bucket list, let’s work together to identify a safe regime for your particular body mechanics. If the minimalist approach is right for you, I can help set realistic goals with safe tips on how to avoid injuries.


    Related Posts


    Leave a comment

    All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

    Recent Posts