People everywhere are making the transition to barefoot running. If it’s not completely barefoot it’s virtually barefoot: Vibram 5 fingers, minimalist shoes, and so on. We are getting further away from the Nike Shocks and closer to going shoeless, the foots natural state (Not to mention Christopher McDougall’s hit seller Born to Run has gotten many of us psyched about it). However, don’t “jump on the bandwagon” just yet because it may not be in your best interest to go from one extreme to the other.
In the case of the human foot – a sensitive, capable, highly mobile appendage packed with innumerable nerve endings, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and fascia that responds and reacts to the environment as you walk and/or run – natural is almost certainly desirable. Although, while barefoot is the natural state, natural is not always synonymous with good. Barefoot running may not be for everyone and for those who are capable of the switch, make it a gradual adaption.
Think of an arm that just had a cast removed…. its skinny, the muscles have atrophied so the connective tissue can’t quite handle the demands of regular use, aaand it reeks, just like our feet after a long day in shoes. So it’s easy to see why strains from barefoot running are a real possibility.
These injuries are now being referred to as the “barefoot running injury epidemic” and the people who fall into this category are often the ones with poor forefoot stability, overpronators, and oversupinators, so they ultimately end up experiencing plantar fasciitis and metatarsal stress fractures. That being said, such injuries are not just from barefoot running though, sometimes it can simply be from the type of shoe and problems can be rooted anywhere from the spine all the way down to the foot.
For those able to ease into to barefoot running:
Strengthen Your Feet
Toe spreads, Toe points, Sand walk
Think about Your Walking Form
Land softly; avoid over striding and harsh, jarring footfalls
Use Linear Progression
When you start walking/running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, swallow your pride and keep it short. Don’t go to failure