It remains a debate between many avid runners whether running barefoot is more beneficial than with running with shoes.
There is supportive research for both sides. Here, we share some of the more popular pros and cons so that you can make a decision before you hit the pavement - bare sole or not. Ultimately it boils down to these main ideas:
Safety. Interestingly enough, barefoot running could potentially be safer for you in the “long run”. Literally. While marketing boasts shoes that are better for you ergonomically, the truth is, there is no scientific evidence to support claims that specially designed running shoes help prevent injuries.
In fact, no studies to-date prove that shoes can control how much a foot rolls inward or that their elevated cushioned heels help to prevent injuries. In fact, these traits that make runners rush to the local checkout line are actually unnatural and may impair balance, resulting in acute injuries.
Speed. Many runners run for more than clarity – but also competition. That said, speed is of the utmost importance. Barefoot runners reported the following behaviors in their routine routes once without shoes. They noticed that the contact with the ground (in seconds) was shorter than when in shoes. Their stride length was significantly lower, however. What they made up in ground contact was lost in shorter strides. This is likely because of the body’s innate ability and desire to stabilize at closer lengths to enhance balance and reduce risk.
Performance. There is argument over whether or not barefoot running negatively or positively affects your performance – namely oxygen consumption. A recent study showed that because the body is more attuned to the feelings of contact made when barefoot that the energy used is greater and deplete faster than when the feet are “clothed”.
This hyper-vigilant state of mind asks more of the runner intellectually and because of such, oxygen consumption happens at a much faster pace.
For these varying reasons, you still may be at the starting line with whether or not to embark on such a daring dash. If you’re considering it, here are a few pros to giving it a try without your “tennies”
- May strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot and allow one to develop a more natural gait.
- Strengthen the Achilles tendon and calf muscle, reducing painful injuries like straining of the calves.
- Observe a more effective natural running stride as you make a more instinctive landing on your heels
- Improve balance by triggering the smaller muscles within the foot to remain engaged rather than dormant.
If you are thinking about trying it out, ease into it. Remember that there are multiple areas of your foot that have yet to be engaged in such a way. Also, of course, be mindful of the route you’re running as debris can damage your bare feet, impacting you severely. Keep in mind that blisters may form as a natural barrier until your feet become familiar with your new choice of attire – or lack thereof.
Have you tried running barefoot? Yay or nay on this practice?