The Barefoot Runner

If you go out for a run or a walk today, you probably won’t find it hard to point out that runner wearing the Vibram Five Finger shoes.  In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of popularity with barefoot running and the barefoot running shoe. This rise in popularity seems trendy with books, shoe companies, and even youtube videos jumping on the bandwagon.  But is barefoot running only a trend or could there be some logic behind it?

I have done my own reading on barefoot running because there is a debate and I do receive questions about it’s purpose.  The idea of running on your toes and wearing shoes with very little cushion seems so uncomfortable and when one begins running this way, it can be difficult.  However, the more that I consider this style of running, the more logical it becomes.  Let me begin by saying that I love evolutionary biology.  I am a strong believer that humans, as animals, have evolved to our specific body design for a reason.  We are put together in such a way to give us advantages in some areas, while we are very weak in others.  To put it more simply, I believe in keeping things simple and natural.  In a natural sense, humans aren’t meant to even wear shoes.  The human foot is a sensitive and specifically designed structure that is completely capable of absorbing the impact involved in walking and running.  Not only this, when the foot is put in a fully cushioned and supportive shoe, it will eventually weaken because the small muscles of the foot no longer need to do their job.  Hello flat feet.  Another issue with the thick cushioned shoe is that you can’t feel the impact of ground under your feet when you run.  Your feet feel fine so you can hit harder, but this only creates an even stronger impact that travels up your body affecting the ankles, knees, hips, and back.  Could this be the reason that long-time runners eventually develop arthritis in their joints?


The idea behind barefoot running is two-fold.  One, the foot is not heavily supported and the muscles are forced to strengthen and work for themselves.  Second, the impact when hitting the ground is felt by the foot.  As a result, you will learn to step lighter on the toes, saving impact on your joints.  I do have one final note about barefoot running:  Build up slowly.  I see many people who hurt themselves as they switch over to this running style and it is because they buy the shoes and try to run for a few miles on the first day.  If you do buy some barefoot shoes, walk around in them first.  After doing this for a while, try running a very short distance.  Over time, you can increase your distance slowly.  Your feet and calves are going to need to adapt this new experience and if you don’t prepare them, you may end up in my office.