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Barefoot Running: Is It Good For Me?

Barefoot Running: Is It Good For Me?
Barefoot Running: Is It Good For Me?

Barefoot Running The Not So New Running Craze

Barefoot running is as it suggests running without shoes or running in thin-soled shoes for example Vibram Five-fingers or the New Balance minimus. Running barefoot is considered to be the natural way of running and has become very popular in the past few years as people are throwing away their classic running shoes for the minimalist approach.
Advocates of barefoot running put up the argument that for years we have been running in traditional running shoes, shoes engineered to help the runner. Yet despite all these technological advances, the gel, the cushioning, the support and all the millions of dollars spent by consumers on running shoes, the number of injuries among the running population continues to rise. All whilst these large corporations line their pockets. Pro-barefoot running enthusiasts claim that minimalist running can correct running form, encouraging a forefoot strike as apposed to a heel strike which results in fewer injuries.

Benefits Of Barefoot Running Are Yet To Be Scientifically Proven

Encouraging the runner to strike on their forefoot by removing their traditional running shoes which through all the added cushioning has evolved runners to strike with more of a heel strike. Barefoot running can reduce the number of common injuries associated with running by restoring the bodies natural running gait and strengthening the lower limbs and feet.
These are claims of the barefoot approach however research is yet to conclusively reach any consensus on the benefits of the barefoot running. So despite the claims around barefoot running strengthening the muscles in your legs and feet and improving your running form helping reduce many common running injuries such as shin splints, ITB syndrome, plantafascititis, runners knee… There isn’t actually the evidence to back up this claim.

Should I Run Barefoot Or In Normal Running Shoes?

Barefoot running is somewhat a controversial topic in the running community and can split people down the middle runners and practitioners alike.
I myself am a bit more of a fence sitter. There is no doubt for me that barefoot running is not suitable for all runners and there is no single footwear approach that is right for all runners.
Just because you read the book “Born To Run” or because your running partner or your mates girlfriends brothers boss is a barefoot runner and claims it cured their Achilles problem that doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Running with less weight on your feet can improve your running efficiency and decrease your running times but barefoot running forces the foot to impact the ground differently and exerting different forces on the foot can be a precursor to injury.

Barefoot Running: A Variable Change Like Any Other

Just as with changing your training surface, mileage or speed, changing your footwear is another variable and significant changes introduced incorrectly regardless of their potential longer term benefit can be an added injury risk to your training.
Introducing barefoot running inappropriately can risk puncture wounds and infections as well as many potential injuries. Any significant change in running footwear barefoot or otherwise needs to be done in a sensible, structured and gradual way ideally following professional advice.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on Barefoot Running: Is It Good For Me? should consult his or her general practitioner, podiatrist, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.

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