What is the deal with barefoot running?

barefoot running on asphaltI get questions about barefoot running all the time.  People wanting to know what all the buzz is about and if it’s just a fad or something they should be doing.  This post provides a brief description of barefoot running, and I will also explain some of the benefits from “barefoot running”.  In some upcoming posts we’ll look at how you can obtain these benefits even if you don’t run barefoot and why you want them.  We’ll also cover the questions of Should I be doing it?  Does this mean I don’t need running shoes any more?  How do I do it?  Is it better for me?  How do I start?

Barefoot running is really what it sounds like – it is running barefoot without running shoes.   If you think about the history of running, barefoot running isn’t really a fad – it’s been around for a  long time, as the running shoes we wear now are a product of the last few decades of advances in running shoe science and design and for much of history, running was either done barefoot, or with the shoe wrapped in some type of animal hide or moccasin.

There is a second and closely related type of running to barefoot running – running in minimalist shoes.  There are numerous types of these from all of the major shoe companies – but the recent wave of attention to minimalist shoes was perhaps brought to most people’s attention by Vibram with the introduction of their quirky looking Vibram FiveFingers® shoes.vibram

So why the interest in and shift back to barefoot or minimalist running?  The biggest benefit that comes from running barefoot and in minimalist shoes is the way it changes the bio-mechanical aspect of running; the strike of the foot, the distribution of the force and stress of the strike, and the resulting shock transferred to the other joints (ankle, knees, hips).    In general, there tend to be fewer chronic injuries with barefoot running, though it does present it’s own set of challenges and opportunities for injury.  To answer the question I always get – does this mean everyone should switch to barefoot running?  Not necessarily  – and even if you do switch, you should do it carefully and over time.  More about that in upcoming posts.

Next up – How does “barefoot” running benefit you and do you need to run “barefoot” to get those benefits.

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