Barefoot Running: Is it worth it?

As Physiotherapists we get asked a lot of questions about the best way to run, and one of the most common these days; “Is running barefoot better for me?”

Also called “natural” or “minimalistic” running, barefoot running has increased in popularity and interest in recent years, on the back of a best-selling book “Born to Run”by Christopher McDougall. In the wake of this modern trend, many runners have ditched the shoes and hit the pavement with the belief running barefoot can fix their injuries or have added health benefits.  

For years, the debate has waged between avid runners, shoe companies and medical professions, with fingers pointed at the cause of chronic overuse injuries from running. And although a huge amount of scientific research has investigated the practice of running barefoot,clear consensus regarding its risks or its benefits has not yet been reached at Ormond Physiotherapy.

As more runners and athletes experiment with barefoot running, at Ormond Physiotherapy we are treating more injuries ranging from pulled calf muscles, achilles tendinitis and stress fractures. In particular, those susceptible are people who ramped up their training too fast, or didn’t ease their way from supportive runners to barefoot. It is vital to recognise that losing the shoes is huge change from how many of us are accustomed to running, and significantly changes the way our foot lands on the ground.

The structure of the human foot and lower leg is designed to absorb the shock of landing, and turn the energy into forward motion through the springing action of the foot’s natural arch. However, either through structural differences, or due to years of poor foot and leg postures, abnormal forces are too much for the foot to withstand, and all of a sudden, the strain going through the foot is multiplied. This is magnified when people don’t ease into barefoot running, and is also influenced by fatigue when muscles do not support the foot fully.

Here at Ormond Physiotherapy , we now have the late Gait Scan technology , which is able to measure and assess the biomechanics of the leg through a force-platform. This allows us to see whether supportive footwear, including orthotics, is required to help keep the whole lower limb in proper alignment as you run. Additionally, for those looking to try the change, there are several ways that Ormond Physiotherapy can  help the transitioning process for runners. These can include strengthening the lower limb stabilizing muscles and core, practicing weight-bearing strength exercises barefoot, developing a progressive training program, and improving flexibility.

So if you think you are ready to experiment with this trend, remember to ask yourself ,is your body ready?

Ormond Physiotherapy.