It’s no secret that a more holistic approach to health and wellness has been growing in popularity, but there are some trends that are a little less known—like running barefoot.
Every podiatrist, sports physician, and running magazine bombards you with advertisements about the necessity of corrective footwear. This advertising doesn’t tell you proper technique or how to run, they just tell you what to buy. Corrective footwear is heavily advertised and has been around for decades, but humans have been around much longer.
The problem with the ideal running shoe is that designs are constantly changing, so who’s to say which design is the most beneficial to runners? After all, no two feet are made exactly the same, so how can there be a universal corrective footwear for everyone?
“I can’t prove this, but I believe when my runners train barefoot, they run faster and suffer fewer injuries.”
— Vin Lananna, Director of Track and Field for the University of Oregon and seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year.
There are some sound arguments on both ends of the spectrum, but there is no real answer to the question of: Which is better, running shoes or running barefoot?
Issues With Barefoot Running
- Since most of us have an arch in our foot, it can be harmful to make an immediate switch to flat-footed attire
- There can be serious strain to the calf or achilles if not stretched properly
- Increased risk of stress injuries to foot or shin
- Reduced cushioning can alter your stride pattern, causing pain
- Some runners feel more confident with new running shoes
- The risk of stepping on something sharp during a run
Reasons to Run Barefoot
- There is actually no evidence that suggests that running shoes do anything for your feet
- It’s (literally) grounding to feel the textures of the Earth underneath your feet
- Those who enjoy running barefoot believe that running barefoot helps them get in touch with their core
- Every stride on trails and pavement aligns the foot
- Humans have been running for thousands of years without the latest running shoe—We were born without shoes, so evolutionally speaking, we were built to run barefoot
Thinking about Making the Switch?
If you’d like to make the change to running barefoot, remember to stretch, and make the change gradually, if you’re feeling bold.
While there are no published studies saying that making a rapid transition is bad, experience says otherwise. If one has the desire to reduce the level of shoe support, it should be made gradually and over a period of many months. Second, as one is attempting to make the transition to a minimalist shoe or barefoot running, try walking around in the shoe with reduced structure for a period of time, allowing your foot and muscles a chance to adapt. Earlier running shoes with a thin sole are still considered the best for running since they allow a flat-foot technique while protecting the foot from sharp gravel and other sharp terrain.
Ultimately, it shouldn’t be about running shoes or running barefoot, but rather mastering a running technique so that you can run any way you please.