Barefoot Running: Incredible, or Incredibly Dangerous?

Have you ever heard of barefoot running? This new running style has running ditching their elaborately designed neon running shoes for thin, flexible material to sheath their foot. The idea is that the foot and human stride are perfect as they are, without the trappings of modern shoes- devotees to the running style wear a sort of footwear that mimics the experience of running barefoot, without the danger of stepping on debris completely barefoot. Proponents of this running style claim that there are less instances of injuries, and long-distance running ability increases exponentially.

Not too long ago, ultramarathoner Ryan Carter swapped his sneakers for the thinly designed soles of a barefoot running shoe. His first time running, he managed only a third of a mile on grass. However, within three weeks of switching over, he was able to run six miles on the road.

During a routine training run with a friend along an unpaved path, Carter suddenly stopped, unable to take another step. His right foot seared in pain. His friend ran along without him, and Carter made his way to his podiatrist. The diagnosis: astress fracture.

As more avid runners and casual athletes experiment with barefoot running, doctors say they are treating injuries ranging from pulled calf muscles to Achilles tendinitis to metatarsal stress fractures, mainly in people who ramped up too fast. In serious cases, they are laid up for several months.

In some cases, foot specialists are noticing injuries arising from the switch to barefoot, which uses different muscles. Shod runners tend to have a longer stride and land on their heel compared with barefoot runners, who are more likely to have a shorter stride and land on the midfoot or forefoot. Injuries can occur when people transition too fast and put too much pressure on their calf and foot muscles, or don’t shorten their stride and end up landing on their heel with no padding.

Overall, running injuries are quite common. Between 30 to 70 percent of runners suffer from repetitive stress injuries every year and experts can’t agree on how to prevent them. Some runners with chronic problems should i run barefoot runninghave seized on barefoot running as an antidote, claiming it’s more natural. Others have gone so far as to demonize sneakers for their injuries.

“Without any support through the arch, eventually you will likely have foot pain due to lack of shock absorption” says Dr. Anthony Weinert DPM. “That includes those minimalist shoes that are a becoming a trend with runners – there’s little to no arch support. Individuals also run a high risk of getting plantar fasciitis due to extra strain on plantar fascia.”

Dr. Weinert says there’s one group that should ALWAYS avoid barefoot running: diabetics with neuropathy. People with decreased sensation in their feet, a problem common among diabetics, would be less likely to notice injuries, which could lead them to further damaging their feet & ankles.

Have you tried barefoot running?  Are you a barefoot runner experiencing foot and ankle pain?  Schedule an appointmentwith Dr. Weinert to get an assessment of what type of running shoe would work for you. Contact us at 248-362-3338 (Troy) or 586-751-3338 (Warren)  Be sure to request a copy of our FREE book on foot pain prevention and solutions, or visit our website for more information: