Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is Nearly Barefoot Running Bad?

Saying "Nearly barefoot running is bad for you," or, "Barefoot running is bad for you," or  "Running is bad for you," is like saying fire is bad. It all really depends on how you use it. My preference for running is to wear minimal shoes (unfortunately often called "barefoot shoes"). I wear shoes that give as little cushion and support as I can handle, and rarely go barefoot. When I started running (not long ago) in November of 2010, I just ran in the shoes I had. I had to deal with hip pain and knee pain, but if I did certain stretches I could alleviate those aches. When I started wearing Vibram Fivefingers I stopped having those issues. Personally when I switched shoes, my running form changed instantly. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way for everybody, or even most people. As it turns out, lots of people switch to minimal shoes, or even switch to barefoot running, then go right on slamming their heels into the ground. The only difference is that now they don't have cushioning under their heels to protect them from the impact. That is bad for you.

As a matter of fact, even with cushioned shoes, slamming your heel into the ground is bad for you.

If you run barefoot, pay attention to what your feet are doing. Find the lightest, quietest landing you can and listen to your feet. If it hurts, change what you are doing. 

The problem with being nearly barefoot is that whatever shoes you have on, no matter how minimal, they shield your feet from the ground. They dull the sensitivity of the feet. (That is what shoes were designed for after all.) Dulling the sensitivity of the feet in any way limits the feedback you get and allows you to continue making mistakes in your running form. 

So whatever shoes you are wearing, do your homework, learn about running form, practice safe footfalls, and of course, run like a ninja.