July 25, 2019

It is a logical question to ask when we consider that our ancestors did not use footwear at all, and they spent most hours of each day on their feet, both walking and running. So are we better off ditching our running shoes and using our feet the way nature intended them to be used - bare and free?

Footwear is a modern-day invention. Today’s high-tech shoes, especially those that are made for athletes, are being designed, not just for comfort and style, but also for optimum ergonomic function, using the most current knowledge of human physiology and kinetics available. But do our feet really need all the bells and whistles to run smoothly and with maximum efficiency?

Is Barefoot Running Safe? | Palm Beach Naturals

According to a growing movement of barefoot and minimalist runners, we don’t. They also cite our ancestors’ barefoot practices as evidence that it is safer for us to run with our bare feet or, at the most, with minimalist footwear that mimic being barefoot. Two studies that tackled this issue are worth mentioning because they revealed different results.

An early study out of Harvard, back in 2010, looked at foot strike patterns and how running with shoes as well as running barefoot impacted the feet. Results revealed that barefoot running involved landing with the ball of the foot first, followed by the heels - which is considered the safer way to land. In comparison, wearing cushioned sneakers while running involved landing heel-first.

The second study from 2013, looked at the risk for injury when running with minimalist shoes or barefoot, and when running with regular shoes. After ten weeks, minimalist/barefoot runners were seen to have an increased risk for bone injuries, such as swelling and stress fractures.

Both studies need further corroboration to be conclusive; evidence that says barefoot or minimalist running is safer is mostly anecdotal and based on personal preferences. To ensure safety from injury, any change in running techniques should be done gradually. As with any new physical activity, the muscles of your feet and legs will need some time to adjust; they will be overworked in the beginning. Easing into a new routine is key to minimizing risks and developing efficiency.

Is Barefoot Running Safe? | Palm Beach Naturals

If you’re interested in minimalist or barefoot running, do not push yourself beyond your limits. Stick to a comfortable pace; be good to your feet. You will have to be more aware of where your feet land, as your skin will be more, if not completely, exposed to the ground. You may even have to pick a different route and terrain to run. The beach, a smooth hiking trail, or even a treadmill would be ideal choices.

There is a need for more research to better understand how our feet have evolved since modern humans started wearing footwear, and if we can safely go back to going barefoot when running. It is always best to consult with your doctor first if you are considering running barefoot or with minimalist footwear. And don’t be remiss in proper foot care. After all, we need our feet to take us places.


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