Running barefoot has gained in popularity during recent years, but is it really safe?
According to advocates, running barefoot is more natural, as the activity allows the runner’s feet to hit the ground on the ball of the foot instead of the heel. Advocates also say that running barefoot helps to reduce ankle and lower leg injury while allowing the athlete to run faster.
But according to critics, running barefoot can be extremely dangers for people with unique feet.
“Barefoot running can put excess stress on your joints and can be potentially dangerous for people with abnormal foot shapes, such as high arches or flat feet, who need the support that running shoes provide,” Rock Positano told Women’s Health magazine in the September 2010 issue. Positano is the director of non-surgical foot and ankle service for Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
In addition to potential problems due to form, barefoot runners should be aware of debris on the ground, as shoes help to protect feet from rocks, glass and other small items.
Barefoot Running Products
Because barefoot running is a trend that is becoming increasingly popular, some manufacturers, such as Vibram, for example, have created shoes that give the runner a better feel for the ground and help the runner to feel as if they are, in fact, barefoot.
Where Did Barefoot Running Begin? Why Run Barefoot?
Barefoot running became popular after Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia ran his way to an Olympic Gold medal without shoes on his feet in 1960.
Bikila didn’t intend to start a trend, nor did he plan to run barefoot. Because he was a last-minute addition to Ethiopia’s Olympic team, Adidas, the Olympic sponsor, did not have shoes that fit Bikila properly. Instead of running in uncomfortable shoes for the entire race, he decided to run the entire 26.2-mile race with no shoes at all. Read more about Abebe Bikila.
Since the 1960 Olympic Games, Bikila’s run has inspired many to run barefoot, and even inspired a type of shoe made by Vibram. But just because the trend is growing in popularity does not mean it is necessarily safe.
Before running barefoot, take necessary precautions. Check with a doctor to ensure you have the proper foot shape to run barefoot, and keep your eyes open for potentially dangerous items in your pathway.
“Ask Women’s Health” September, 2010 Issue of Women’s Health Magazine, page 22.
Rambali, Paul. “Barefoot Runner.” Serpent’s Tail, 2007.