Barefoot running has been a topic that has come up a lot recently, causing it to become the center of debate. In fact, the topic is so hot that there are now products that cater to barefoot running. This has resulted in nearly every chiropractor being asked what they think about barefoot running.
Let’s look at the feet, which are the most efficient mechanisms of the human body. It is because of this efficiency that the way they are used shouldn’t be changed in a haphazard way. In other words, barefoot running could take a toll on your feet if you’re not already doing it. The knowledge of the biomechanics of the practice is questionable. However, proponents point out that humans walked and ran without shoes for a very long time, stating that going barefoot is natural and can reverse the damage caused by modern running techniques.
What this argument doesn’t take into account is the fact that concrete and asphalt didn’t exist when humans were going barefoot. Plus, there’s the fact that people weren’t exactly running around at 50 or 60 years old, let alone living that long millions of years ago. Today’s chiropractor sees many runners 60+ every day.
Nonetheless, the arguments for barefoot running are compelling. A 2010 study by a Harvard professor suggested that runners who forego the shoes had a foot strike that minimized the impact on the foot compared to those who wear shoes. Every chiropractor knows that a poor foot strike can lead to leg and back issues.
In the study, Adult runners in the U.S. who had always worn shoes and decided to go barefoot and Kenyan runners who never wore shoes and later switched to shoes were looked at. It was found that barefoot runners had a tendency to point their toes upon landing, putting the impact on the front or middle of the foot rather than the heel. This reduced repetitive-stress injuries. The Harvard study also showed that runners use less energy to go the same distance. However, another trial countered the Harvard results, stating that 36 runners in their study showed no pre-existing injuries related to their shoes.
If you decide to switch to barefoot running, you may want to speak to your chiropractor because it isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it comes down to how you run, such as striking the heel too hard on the pavement, rather than what you are wearing when you run.
Image credit: hohlstein