There has been a lot of hype lately on the benefits of running barefoot to avoid injuries. Like most things, however, that hype has been reeled back a bit. The thinking behind the shoe-less movement is that sneakers may alter natural running form and that running barefoot may lessen the impact on the leg and foot and build foot strength.
Recent studies have taken more of a critical look at the method. More particularly, researchers are pointing out that the method is not a one size fits all and cures all. Some researchers have pointed out that most of us don’t have the calloused feet of those who have spent most of their lives barefoot and that many running injuries are individual, so they won’t be cured or avoided by a one-size-fits-all approach.
There is also a dearth of research on how one should transition from traditional running to barefoot running. Several runners attempting to make the switch have suffered injury including stress fractures. One thing seems clear, those attempting to transition should make the change gradually, running only short distances, a few hundred feet on a smooth hard surface.
The newer research didn’t address the question of minimalist or barefoot running shoes which have very little cushioning in an attempt to have the best of both worlds, the feel of barefoot running with the protection afforded by shoes. Some researchers believe that these shoes still alter natural gait so they do not serve the same purpose as barefoot running.
In sum, while barefoot running is becoming more popular, the verdict on its safety and efficacy is still out. So, don’t sell your Nike stock just yet.