Tackling The 10 Myths Of Barefoot Running
Good Form Running in association with New Balance provides training to adopt this style of running and we can see that by developing forward momentum, we carry the contralateral limb forward instead of having forefoot propulsion.30 By doing this, we decrease the force present to the forefoot, especially the shear force. Not only is this beneficial for reduction of the shear force but we see a decrease in the ground reactive forces acting on the first metatarsophalangeal joint, which can reduce sesamoiditis.
I run long distance and cannot do that barefoot. What many of us fail to realize is that we have been running for thousands of years and we know that early runners began running either barefoot or with very minimal shoegear such as moccasins.31 In 1960, Abebe Bikila won the Olympic Marathon in a record time of 2:15:16.2 while running barefoot.32 Zola Budd recorded numerous middle distance world records while running barefoot in the 1980s. Ken Saxton (well known among the subculture of barefoot runners) finished 14 marathons in 2006 unshod and has since completed a total of 56 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, all while running barefoot.33
You could step on glass. This is my favorite excuse for not running barefoot. Numerous times, people ask me the question of “what happens if you step on glass?” There is debate on this topic among medical professionals as well as early adopters to this style of running. What is my answer? “Don’t step on glass.” This concept of “barefoot running” is not about what you are wearing on your foot. It is about how you are running and allowing the foot to perform the way it was designed and intended to perform. Once the form is perfected and the runner abandons heel strike (which runners can typically learn on a treadmill barefoot), the next step is to protect the skin of our foot while not compromising the proprioceptive feedback from ground.
There are numerous options available that have recently become known as minimalist shoegear. FiveFingers (Vibram), Minimus (New Balance) and the Trail Glove (Merrell) are just a few of these shoes.
FiveFingers has quickly become the market share leader due to its ability to allow the toes to function individually and allow full range of motion of the forefoot as well as the midfoot and rearfoot joints with a zero drop.34 Nike as well was one of the very first to introduce a less supportive shoe in 2004 known as the Nike Free.35 While this is a very flexible and non-supportive shoe, it does have a considerable amount of cushioning, which can interfere with feedback and increase muscle recruitment to provide control.
Barefoot running is about learning to run the way our body was intended to using the foot as an ideal shock absorber and not relying on a shoe that compromises the anatomical position of the foot and places one at risk for injury. Using a true minimalist running shoe can achieve this and still protect the foot from the environmental dangers.
Dr. Campitelli is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He is board-certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. Dr. Campitelli is in private practice at Northeast Ohio Medical Associates with various offices in Ohio. He is an Adjunct professor at Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine and is a medical Advisor for Vibram USA.