Lets talk about barefoot running myths. For a long time there have been a lot of negative Nancy’s that are saying, DO NOT RUN BAREFOOT, IT WILL CAUSE INJURY, blah blah blah! What a load of cobblers. This blog will address some of the myths surrounding barefoot running and tell you why it is good for you. Of course everybody is different so some people won’t like it but it’s called patience and consistency. You will have to transition over a long period (different for everyone) because we have all be use to wearing cushioned shoes all our lives so our feet and legs are weak for this activity. Do some stretches and strength work for the foot, ankle and calves, this will help. And I’m not saying you have to run barefoot, I like wearing minimalist shoes that have a zero heel drop so you are feeling everything under your feet and they have wide toe boxes so your toes are free to move how we like it.
Barefoot Running causes bad knees.
If barefoot running was about having strong knees or joints, then anyone with prosthetic legs or knee replacements, wouldn’t be able to run a single step. Instead, as studies from Dr. Lieberman of Harvard have shown, there’s up to 3 times LESS impact to the body out of a shoe, than in a shoe. Basicallyyyy, stop wearing those big clumpy, chunky things, they’re awful! So in short, barefoot running has been shown to alleviate injuries and strengthen your tendons, ligaments and joints.
You can’t run barefoot if you have flat feet.
Lees and Klemerman have demonstrated that there is no correlation between foot type and running injuries, specifically with a pes planus deformity. During barefoot running, we avoid heel striking and land more on our forefoot or midfoot. Once the forefoot strikes the ground, pronation of the entire foot begins (not isolated pronation of the subtalar joint) and continues until the point where the heel touches the ground. Arch height becomes irrelevant as does the commonly described concept of pronation with the heel striking the ground first. With a forefoot/midfoot strike, pronation is very beneficial and helps to absorb shock.
Don’t run barefoot if you’re overweight.
While this is a common excuse to not run, being overweight is not an excuse to not to run barefoot or in a minimalist shoe. In 2010, Leiberman and co-workers were able to demonstrate that habitually unshod (barefoot) runners were able to generate smaller collision forces than shod (shoe wearers) heel strikers. In other words, by forefoot striking, we decrease the force that transmits through the lower extremity, thereby reducing torque forces to the ankle, knee and hip joints. I can vouge for that, as I had a knee injury from running in cushioned shoes, after transitioning to barefoot, that knee pain disappeared. Clearly, we can see that if people weigh 110 kg, they would be placing more force through their joints by heel striking then by landing on their forefoot. Basically, learn to not heel strike when running, no matter what footwear you have on, this will cause injury regardless.
I can’t run barefoot, long distance.
Yes you can! Anna McNuff ran 2,620 miles across Britain barefoot, there are numerous athletes over the years that have ran record distances barefoot. So with the correct training plan and transitioning process, you can run long distances barefoot, You just have to build up your distance overtime.
You could step on glass.
Well done Sherlock, this is common sense, of course you could step on glass. You could step on glass in cushioned shoes and it could potentially pierce through the shoe. It is GLASS! The moral of the story is, don’t step on glass, simple!
I’ll get a stress fracture running barefoot!
Without a doubt, the most common concern with barefoot or minimalist running is the development of a stress fracture. While there have been documented cases of this in the literature, stress fractures occur as a result of a change in activity without gradual adaptation and are not directly related to the footwear or lack of. We actually should see a decrease in the likelihood of stress fracture given the change in stride and cadence that is required to comfortably run barefoot. Stress fractures occur secondary to overuse without the body having adapted adequately as proven by Wolff’s Law. In fact, Wolff’s law in theory, should see weaker bone trabecular patterns on those wearing cushioned running shoes due to decreased intrinsic muscle strength.
Barefoot running is about learning to run the way our body was intended, using the foot as an ideal shock absorber and not relying on a shoe that compromises the anatomical position of the foot and places you at risk for injury. Using a true minimalist running shoe can achieve this and still protect the foot from the environmental dangers. Check out vivobarefoot, they’re my go to.
Do you run barefoot or are intrigued to try? Let me know in the comments, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Thank you for reading!