Barefoot Running: True or False?

Fact or Fad? Barefoot running isn’t new. In fact, an Ethiopian runner won gold in 1960 wearing absolutely nothing on his feet. We’re sure Abebe Bikila wasn’t trying to start a trend, but running sans shoes has become a hot topic of conversation. Pick up the latest running magazines, and you’re sure to find at least one snippet either for or against what is touted as a more “natural” way to run. If you are deciding whether or not to ditch your running shoes, there are some things you should consider.

The Truth about Being Barefoot when Running

  • If you have neuropathy, or any other condition that has decreased the feeling in your feet, barefoot running is not for you. People with diabetes should always wear shoes for protection against injury.
  • Running without shoes does change your gait. You will notice strides that are shorter and your foot will strike at the fore or mid-foot.
  • There are indications of increased running efficiency and less force of impact on the feet.
  • Naturally, bare feet have a better feel for the running surface, which is helpful for positioning of the joints.

False Assumptions about Barefoot Running

  • Many people believe that this type of running decreases injury and gives them better running performance. However, current research does not support these assumptions.
  • In other words, a change in gait, better surface feel, improved efficiency, and less impact do not automatically lead to fewer injuries and better times.
  • On the flipside, running sans shoes doesn’t inevitably lead to more injuries or decreased performance either.

Pass the Test with Help from Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to run barefoot is yours. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we believe that patient education is one of our primary roles. Visiting us for an evaluation of your feet may help you determine if you want to jump on the barefoot bandwagon.

If you do decide to make the leap, it is critical to ease into it. Many injuries that are associated with this activity happen as people get started. While your excitement may push you to do too much too soon, you must make a gradual switch to protect your feet.

Strong lower extremities are important to successful barefoot running, so take time for strength training. Next, walk around without your shoes—sounds simple enough. It might seem natural to go from regular running shoe to minimalist shoe and then to bare feet. However, it is actually best to go bare at the beginning.

Another counterintuitive choice is to select a hard surface. While the feel of grass beneath your feet might bring a smile to your face, weak lower limbs may quickly turn that smile into a grimace. Start off running for short distances and focus on what you’re feeling. This new style will take practice, so allow yourself to think about your gait and the way you are landing.

Don’t Fail Your Feet

As with any new activity, listen to your feet. Call for an appointment with Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS or Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS at the first sign of a problem, or to learn more about making the switch to running with bare feet. Call (512) 328-8900, or schedule a visit online.

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