Weighing the Risks

Barefoot runningWith the return of warmer weather, runners of all kinds are outdoors logging miles. Many people are looking for the best way to get in a good run without suffering injuries. This naturally brings up the barefoot running debate. Supporters say it allows your feet to develop natural strength to prevent problems; however, the style isn’t perfect. Barefoot running risks are real, so if you’re interested in trying the trend, make sure you approach it slowly and carefully.

Running without the support or protection of shoes requires a mid or forefoot landing strike, which absorbs shock well, to avoid trauma to your heel. It also needs strong lower limbs that can handle repeated impacts without help from shoes.

Changing foot strikes can strain your calf, Achilles tendon, and foot muscles, potentially causing Achilles tendon issues and plantar fasciitis. The hard impacts without extra padding can wear and strain your bones and may increase your risk for stress fractures. Bare skin to the road can also increase your odds of incurring blisters and cuts.

The evidence is inconclusive about whether or not this particular style of running prevents injuries. Athletes who use shoes and those who don’t still develop painful problems. This may not be an effective running style if you have flat feet. You should definitely skip it if you have diabetes or any other condition that can cause neuropathy, since you may not be able to feel injuries. If your feet are healthy, though, you have to determine if the barefoot running risks are worth the potential benefits.

If you’re interested in trying barefoot running but are unsure on how to get started, or unsure if your feet can handle the switch, let our team of specialists help you at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Austin, TX. We can evaluate your lower limbs and help you establish a safe plan to transition smoothly. We can also treat any pain or problems that may arise. Use our online contact form or call (512) 328-8900 to reach us for an appointment or more information.

Photo credit: marmit via rgbstock.com

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
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Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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