There have always been runners who have chosen to do so naturally by running barefoot, but a growing number of runners are now making the switch to shoeless running. People who prefer to run barefoot believe that it improves running speed, and the biomechanics of the foot, which also lessens the risk of injury. However, not everyone is so sure about the idea of running barefoot, as there are not many reliable studies that have been done to show the decrease of injury among people running barefoot.
There are some running experts who believe that wearing shoes is not natural and they can cause harm to the foot. Shoes may weaken the muscles in the foot, and atrophy the ligaments, tendons, and arches. They also believe that supportive shoe inserts and additional cushioning that is put in running shoes creates poor foot biomechanics, increasing the risk of injury. However, some people believe that proper shoes can actually improve the biomechanics of the foot, which reduces risk of injury. Some also believe that podiatrists would not need to continue to prescribe orthodics if relieving foot pain was as easy as removing your shoes, which are made with research to benefit you. Unless more studies are done, it is difficult to know if shoes cause more harm than help. Here are the pros and cons to running barefoot.
Another option to running barefoot is finding minimal shoes, which only consist of a foot bed to protect the soles of your feet. There are some arguments as to why this is not only more gentle on your foot, but it also increases the speed of your run. Running without shoes can also increase balance, as it activates all of the muscles in the feet and lower legs to help you become more coordinated.
Any shoes that do not have a heel lift are able to help your Achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles by lengthening them with each stride, which helps to stretch these muscles out and prevent injuries due to tight muscles. Wearing minimal shoes will strengthen the small muscles in your foot. If you are not wearing shoes that are essentially doing half of the work for you, you will use more muscles to push off of each step. This will also benefit the ligaments and tendons.
When running barefoot, you will adapt to the change by landing on the ball of your foot instead of the heel. Human bodies were not designed to land on the heel while running. This strike has been adapted with the use of running shoes, but hundreds of years ago, before running shoes were available, people found the most effective stride to land on the ball of your foot. You can think of landing on the heel as putting brakes on each step. Alternatively, landing in the middle of the foot allows for a smooth stride that does not slow you down.
Cons of Barefoot Running
Going from wearing supportive shoes to all of a sudden running barefoot can put you at risk for injury, due to the shock it will give to your system. There are several cons to beginning to run barefoot if you are used to running with shoes.Firstly, shoes give you protection from the ground, both from the temperature and from any road debris. With shoes, you are able to run with confidence that you will not step on something and cut yourself.Beginning to run barefoot may be a shock to your muscles, which will cause pain in the beginning. This stress can lead to Achilles tendinitis or a calf strain if you are used to running with shoes that have a heel lift.
The bottom of your foot is soft and it is sensitive to stimulants. Running without shoes may increase the pain in your plantar, because you are used to having support in that muscle. If you are susceptible of plantar fasciitis, this is a likely issue.Finally, blisters are a problem for people who switch to minimal shoes. Without calluses or natural protection, the feet will become injured before adapting to the change.
To help decrease the cons of running barefoot shoe manufacturers are creating minimalist shoes so people can have the best of both worlds. These shoes typically look like gloves for the feet and offer protection from the ground, while still letting you get the maximum benefit from exercise.