Some people will walk miles without shoes. Others need their sneakers just to get out of the door. For minimalist runners looking to get in touch with their feet and the earth running barefoot sounds like a great idea. But is it really good for your feet and the rest of your body?
All-Natural Running Shoes
Bare feet have been the most available running shoes since the dawn of man. Most lately minimalist footwear has become a trend with lighter materials and shoes designed to include the toes. The claim is that less weight on your feet helps you run faster and better yet there isn’t a lot of data to back that up. While our ancestors could walk and run great distances with bare feet they also lived in a world with less asphalt and concrete sidewalks.
The Vibram 5-Finger Controversy
Recent running-shoe fashion has given us lightweight running shoes with toes that aren’t too pleasing to the eye. While some manufacturers claimed that their shoes came with several health benefits they were anecdotal at best. Several athletes have even gone barefoot and say that it has helped increase their speed. While these are desirable results there isn’t anything concrete that lends them credence. Other claims of barefoot running include improved balance and strength, a natural running style and other positive benefits of running sans shoes.
That Pesky Lack of Evidence
Humans are curious creatures and before we commit to doing anything new or slightly different we want to make sure it will work. If you’re considering barefoot running you’ll find a host of people touting benefits but not so much scientific evidence to back it up. Someone may tell you that running barefoot feels better on injured knees while others may say that they can run faster for longer. When you weigh the supposed pros against the cons such as more susceptible to injury, running with shoes doesn’t seem so bad.
Form Versus Fashion
While running barefoot seems like something worthwhile to try you may want to focus more on how you run rather than what you run in. If you decide you start running barefoot you may need to learn how to run all over again. Running with shoes uses a heel-first action when you take steps and make strides while running barefoot requires a toe-first stride to prevent foot injury from stepping on objects such as pebbles.
Either Way Injuries Can Still Happen
Runners are all too familiar with that nagging thought that one serious injury could put them off running forever. Barefoot or not injuries are going to happen. Running with ill-fitting shoes can lead to strained muscles while running without shoes can result in injuries sustained from stepping on objects. Some people may worry that running without shoes will cause injury because of the lack of cushion from footwear. No matter what you put on your feet to run injury is always a risk.
If you’ve never tried running barefoot before it might be worth a shot just to see what the differences are. You can always put your shoes back on if you don’t like it. The best person to help you decide if barefoot running is really better for you may be your doctor or a podiatrist with more insight.