Barefoot running, also referred to as natural running, is the act of running without footwear or little to no support. This has become a controversial topic lately, and many people are wondering if natural running is beneficial. While running barefoot may seem a little out of the ordinary, many runners are giving it a try. Even though the majority of people still wear shoes when they run, the debate is on.
More Than a Trend
Proponents of barefoot running believe that the practice offers a more natural stride and minimizes the risk of injury; the body was designed that way and is therefore beneficial for the body. They also argue running shoes lead to an abnormal running pattern. And it causes runners to land on their heel. This creates harmful stress on the feet, knees, and legs.
The Case for Running Shoes
Proponents of running shoes point to a number of benefits provided by the protection and support. Running shoes protect runners from:
- puncture wounds
- overuse injuries
- thermal injuries from harsh or extreme weather
Minimalist Running Shoes
Running shoe companies now make minimalist shoes. They are an alternative to barefoot running but offer protection from rocks, dirt, water, rocks and other road hazards.
Risks of Barefoot Running
Barefoot runners may be more prone to long-term injuries, to include:
- plantar fasciitis
- stress fracture
- repetitive stress injury
Experts recommend that those who want to run barefoot should have a full physical examination and coaching from a qualified fitness trainer or running specialist in order to help condition their body to the new style of running.
Running barefoot may work for some individuals. But first consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. It might be a good idea to gradually change your running style. Start with suitable footwear and then slowly scale down to a grip shoe. If you are a would-be barefoot runner, make sure you check expert research on the benefits of the practice before you make a decision.
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> Benefits of Being Barefoot
Get Answers to Your Questions
If you’re considering barefoot or minimalist running, be sure to first talk to one of our certified personal trainers at Great Moves Physical Therapy. We can talk you through all the considerations in order to safely achieve your fitness goals.
Recently edited. Originally published June 2014.