If the Olympic games are inspiring you to get out and run a little more, you may want to leave your shoes in the closet. Barefoot running is gaining popularity because of the benefits it may provide. Susan Joy, MD, treats athletes at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. She says by running barefoot you may be able to train your body to run the way it’s designed.
“You land in such a way that you have what we call a ‘mid-foot strike,’ which is slightly in front of the heel and not up on your toes because that part of your foot is actually designed to absorb some shock. So, if you can train yourself to land in a more forgiving, mid-foot stance, you actually have less force transmission, which may, over time, mean less injuries,” Dr. Joy says.
Dr. Joy says shoe-wearing runners have a tendency to land on their heels, which transfers much more force to their joints. But when you run barefoot, Dr. Joy says research shows the tendency is to develop a mid-foot strike, which takes pressure off the joints and may decrease your injury risk.
She says you don’t have to ditch your shoes altogether, but just a little bit of barefoot training may provide some benefit.
“Some people need the constraint of a certain kind of shoe, but may still benefit from a little bit of barefoot training for 10 or 15 minutes to get a sense of how they should be running, but then go back and get the support of the shoe with the same stride they would use if they were truly running barefoot,” Dr. Joy says.
Dr. Joy adds that some runners even report previous pain subsiding after beginning a barefoot running regimen. She says that if you’re going to try it, be sure you’re running on a safe surface like grass or a soft base running track.