The question is, does barefoot running really offer an advantage over shoes? Bare footers will argue that modern running shoes promote a heel-first stride that makes a runner more vulnerable to injuries. Other research suggests that heavily cushioned shoes actually prevent your foot from sensing the ground and can make you stomp down harder than if you didn’t have all that padding.
Potential Benefits of Barefoot Running:
Barefoot running helps to correct the foot strike on the ground, forcing the runner to hit the pavement mid-foot first. This helps develop a more natural gait and strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot. Furthermore, the foot has a wonderful feedback mechanism: when you’ve worked it out enough for one day, it tells you quickly! Your arches will be sore, your foot will be raw from pavement or you’ll get the dreaded top-of-the-foot pain. When you run barefoot, your body precisely engages your vision, your brain, the soles of your feet and all the muscles, bones, tendons and supporting structures of your feet and legs. If you do anything wrong, the foot will tell you. The foot is the great disciplinarian. You can’t over-pronate, can’t overtrain and can’t overstride when barefoot running.
So, when wearing shoes, a runner is more likely to use an undesirable foot strike motion due to the majority of the padding placed in the rear of the foot. This causes a runner to more likely strike heel first, an undesirable and injury-prone running motion. Furthermore, the argument is wearing shoes can cause the small muscles in our feet to weaken and the tendons, ligaments and natural arches to stop doing their job. It is believed that the result of supportive shoe inserts, orthotics and extra cushioning is poor foot biomechanics and increased risk of foot, leg and knee injuries.
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Potential Harms of Barefoot Running:
Suddenly going barefoot or wearing a minimal shoe can be quite a shock to the foot and require a slow adaptation phase. But that isn’t the only concern about a shoeless workout.
Shoes offer a significant amount of protection from road debris such as glass, nails, rocks and thorns. They also offer insulation in cold weather and protect us from frostbite in ice and snow. Most of us are not used to going barefoot, so a minimalist shoes or bare foot will cause the muscles to initially feel overworked. In some, this can lead to injuries such as Achilles tendinitis or calf strain. Finally, the bottom of the foot for most people is soft and tender. Going without a stiff-soled shoe may initially cause plantar pain and blisters.
So, to go barefoot or not? It is a very individual thing which some people can be very successful with, and others cannot. I have coached many who simply cannot make the transition for one reason or another, and I don’t think there is any reason to force them too. It goes back to the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” If you have no problems and no pain, do you really need to change anything?Connect, share and learn from fellow running enthusiasts at MyRun Australia