There is currently a lot of buzz in the air about this new style of shoes, however, the concept is not new. There has always been a “fringe” group of runners who touted barefoot running for years. In fact, there is a whole Barefoot Running subculture and boy are they serious about it. Somehow it is now in the mainstream with new products and more media attention on this type of shoe and running style.
Some people are lucky have great foot mechanics. They are well conditioned, experienced runners and love going in barefoot style shoes and even running “barefoot.” However, there are obvious danger issues purely “barefoot”: glass, twigs, gravel, etc. Also, An unshod, unconditioned foot also doesn’t have the shock absorption that it needs to run long distances on paved surfaces.
For me, the “jury is still out” on this issue. I need to see and hear from more individuals who are in barefoot running shoes. I can certainly see a minimalist sneaker as a competition track shoe where speed and weight is a critical thing. Hence the racing flats. The Nike Free…. comes to mind. Mostly use here is for competition, not distance or endurance training.
The barefoot shoe is certainly only for the absolute best and well conditioned athlete….. not the weekend warriors. Running barefoot may have some benefit in muscle strengthening as the muscles have to ‘tune in’ to the vibrations caused by more obvious impact loading. These shoes must “fit” correctlyt and observe progressive mileage with time, especially if you are used to standard runner shoes. If not….. I think you may easily injure yourself and not realize it until it is too late. If you grew up running barefoot your tissue tolerance would have adapted over time. For someone who has grown up wearing shoes and is a natural heel striker the impact loading will be beyond tissue tolerance level and injury will likely occur. Contact a sports medicine specialist for evaluation if you have any concerns.
Kevin P. Murray, DPM
Stewart M. Chang, DPM