[h2]There’s alot of buzz about running barefoot lately. Is it safe?[/h2]

Is barefoot running safe?

Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, is largely recognized for the popularity of barefoot running and minimalist shoes.

I will begin by saying I have nothing against those who adopt this minimalist approach to running. I have even run barefoot while cooling down after a track session and have worn light weight footwear during races. I would consider myself to have an efficient stride, yet I have never tried to perform the majority of my training with minimalist shoes. Perhaps I haven’t really considered the benefits of minimalist running to be all that important?

Over the last several months I have informally polled almost every runner that strolls into my clinic. More often than not the patient responds, “Why would I ever wear those goofy looking Vibram socks !” Is everyone talking about barefoot running, yet no one is actually doing it?

I do believe that running shoes generally produce as many problems as they prevent, and that many runners have too much support in their shoes. What gets me fired up is when the barefoot runners are so excited about their own personal experience with barefoot running shoes that they are blinded by their enthusiasm and can’t seem to be unbiased about arguments which don’t show barefoot running to be the best thing for runners.

Currently there is no conclusive research that shows barefoot running produces fewer injuries than running in shoes and there is simply no research that shows that running in shoes produces fewer injuries than running barefoot. What we do have are a few scientific studies that have compared the biomechanics of barefoot running versus shod running and these have produced somewhat mixed results. What we do know is that barefoot running decreases oxygen consumption, shortens stride length, increases stride frequency, causes more a forefoot striking pattern, and reduces the impact of the ground reaction force.

Basically, people self-select to run barefoot differently than they run in shoes and this can either be a good thing or a bad thing for each individual. We simply can’t say what the best running style is with 100% accuracy at this stage. Wouldn’t it make sense that if barefoot running was so great, we would see more runners training in barefoot shoes? I don’t know one world class runner that wears barefoot running shoes exclusively.

I believe that running shoe will evolve to better allow the foot to move through it natural range of motion. But I do not imagine that barefoot shoes will ever be a commonplace among serious runners.