Barefoot Running: Pros And Cons

Barefoot running have been part of the subculture. This is actually based on a questionable knowledge. Barefoot runners believe that going barefoot is natural for human because human ran and walked without shoes for millions of years. They state that being shoeless can also reverse injuries caused by modern running technique while at the same time preventing problems in the future. However, this Paleo-based lifestyle is not enough to recommend patients to do so because million years ago human did not face asphalt and concrete streets. Another point is that in that time, you will not find 50- or 60-year-old people who are still running.

A study by a Harvard professor showed that barefoot runners have a significantly different foot strike that minimizes structural impact if compared to runners who worn shoes. Another research conducted by Lieberman, et al., tried to analyze the adult US athletes’ running style by involving Kenyan athletes who had grown up running barefoot, but had switched to running with shoes; Kenyan athletes who had never worn shoes; adult U.S. runners who had grown up wearing shoes; and adult U.S. athletes who had always worn shoes as the participants. The research showed that when landing, the toes of the barefoot runners are pointed, which will cause the impact to be put at the middle or front of the foot instead of on the heel, making the runners less prone to repetitive-stress injuries.

Another Harvard research showed that barefoot runners use less energy when running the same distances as runners wearing traditional shoes and striking with the heel.

Another research was done to question the true benefit of foot running. The participants were recreational, experienced runners who had run between 15 and 30 miles a week wearing normal running shoes until the beginning of the trial. To ensure there were no pre-existing injuries, all participants received a pre-participation MRI.

Half participants as control group kept their running with the same shoes, and the other half of them were given barefoot-style shoes. They had to follow the duration based on the study.

The follow-up MRI studies 10 weeks later showed no participants experienced injuries or tissue changes in the lower leg’s structure. But those wearing barefoot-style shoes experienced increased bone-marrow edema in the tarsals and metatarsal bones.

The radiologist showed that the control group indicated slight edema (level 1), while the majority barefoot group indicated level-2 edema, with 3 of them experienced level-3 edema and 2 displayed full stress fractures in the calcaneus or metatarsals with associated level-4 edema.

Changing to barefoot does not always cause injuries. However, the transition period must be given much attention. Though distance barefoot running is natural for our ancestors, modern people never experience this kind of thing. If you’re grown up wearing shoes while running, you will need to make the transition as slowly as possible to give your muscles and bones time to make the change.