How Much Barefoot Running Is Healthy and Beneficial?

Ever since Christopher McDougall's best-selling book Born to Run was published in 2008, the barefoot running movement has kicked into high gear. More and more people are experimenting with barefoot running.

Minimalist shoes are the fastest-growing segment of the running shoe industry; in fact, a major shoe company stopped making motion control shoes.

More: How to Transition to Minimal Shoes and Barefoot Running

And now, more podiatrists are treating repetitive stress injuries than ever before.

The problem with barefoot running is that it's very stressful to the lower legs and feet (this is also a benefit, and we'll get to that soon). When people spend years in constrictive shoes that fundamentally change the shape of their feet and length of their tendons, adapting to barefoot running takes a long time. You can't just throw out your running shoes on day 1.

More: Shin Splints 101: Treatment and Prevention

And if there's one thing runners are good at, it's doing too much, too soon, too fast.

Barefoot Running: A Little Goes a Long Way

Before you start running without shoes, you have to ask yourself: Why do I want to run without shoes?

Here are some possible replies:

  • I want to develop foot and lower-leg strength
  • I heard it was good for injury prevention
  • Barefoot running can reinforce proper running form
  • I want to feel the ground with my feet and join the movement

If you answered #4, then your reason for wanting to run barefoot is a lifestyle reason. There's nothing wrong with that—have fun and be safe.

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