Over this semester, I have had a few friends trying to convince me that my shoes are bad for my feet. It’s not like I was wearing a raggedy pair of Chucks, Vans, or flip-flops when they were telling me this; I was wearing my nice and comfortable Asics. Sure, they might be a little worn, but they were designed for running. Of course, this would lead me to assume that they are good for my feet. It makes perfect sense, right?
I thought you would agree.
Well, it turns out when they were talking about my shoes, they were actually referring to ALL shoes. I was force-fed the concept of “barefoot running,” which I immediately thought of as a new hipster fad. With all of the heath benefits that were being preached to me (e.g. less headaches, backaches, etc.), I couldn’t help but dive deeper and research this new phenomenon. In the process, my worldviews were tampered with: shoes can be a vice! Someone should let Kelly know about this revelation right away!
Once I learned about what “barefoot running” was, it was suddenly the only thing I saw or heard about anymore. There’s a news report from today that showcases a barefoot runner talking about all of the good things that running barefoot does for him, along with a counter claim against barefoot running from a podiatrist. These two viewpoints epitomize the biggest question with barefoot running: is it good or bad for you?
Research studies that I have found suggest that the impact that your feet absorb when you run are lessened with a good technique through bare feet as opposed to shod feet. Also, the likelihood of injury drops when one runs barefoot (nerds should click here). Of course, these are only but a couple studies conducted on the mechanics of barefoot running. In several articles about this subject, it is emphasized that there are individual differences between feet. This means that barefoot running may not be physically healthy for everybody. As some people need glasses to see, some people need shoes to walk.
Biologically speaking, walking barefoot is a natural thing for human beings to do. With this in mind, one may get the impression that shoes are unnecessary. While being barefoot is natural, concrete roads and sidewalks are not. Bare feet could take a beating on these very hard surfaces. Shoes are designed to correct this, but nothing is designed perfectly. There is a strict policy in gyms that require everybody to wear shoes when exercising. There is also the strong possibility of getting frostbite during the wintertime. Although bare feet seem like a good idea, there are many obstacles that we face on a daily basis that make it easier to just wear shoes.
If you still want to try it out, start off with a lap or two in your backyard or jog a short distance at the park. The key is building up to running a mile, or two, or ten. Through this practice, you naturally learn how to run correctly while building up muscles that were previously deactivated in shoes. If you try to run a 5K while barefoot for the first time, you may decide that it would be your last as you gingerly walk back home on bloody, blistered, and bruised feet.
By the way, if going barefoot seems appealing, but you don’t want to walk or run around in your naked and vulnerable feet, you may want to look into Vibram FiveFingers shoes. It is the closest you can get to being barefoot while still in footwear. If you are worried that these are useless novelty items, there have been research studies conducted on these shoes.
In case anybody was wondering whether I am going to take my friends’ advice and free myself from the evils of shoe-dom, my answer is that I probably am. I love to run recreationally and for my health, and I already am barefoot 6 hours a week during my Judo class, granted that I’m on a mat. It seems really interesting, and I want to try it before I make any further judgments.