Barefoot Running Research: Why You Should Run Barefoot (even occasionally)

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Several years ago when I started to see sneakers with webbed feet (Vibram Five Fingers) and hear of people running barefoot, I thought it was ridiculous. Today I have a different perspective, however, because the amount of barefoot running research supporting the benefits of barefoot running is compelling.

The photo comparison below highlights the impact of wearing tight fitting and heavily padded sneakers and shoes. Notice in the photo on the left how the man’s feet have conformed to the shape of his shoes with his toes scrunched together and feet narrowed. The photo to the right of a man who walks barefoot has a “fanning” of the toes. Can you imagine the implications of running, or playing sports with feet like those on the left? Less stability, less strength, less ability to absorb shock – a whole lot of injuries waiting to happen.

Below is an infographic from my friends at XRay Technician Schools that highlights some of the issues of running with sneakers (still a very controversial issue) and describes the benefits of barefoot running. I think by the end of this infographic, you’ll have a greater appreciation for how “freeing your feet” may help improve how your body feels and functions.

Barefoot Running Research

Created by: X Ray Technician Schools

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15 Comments on “Barefoot Running Research: Why You Should Run Barefoot (even occasionally)

  1. Stacy
    November 17, 2011 #

    It should also be pointed out that these will also change the way you do resistance training with your legs. I’ve noticed a big difference when doing squats and lunges. I can go a bit lower but also have to work harder to balance.

    1. Marc Perry
      November 17, 2011 #

      @Stacy – Very cool. Thanks for sharing that insight.

  2. David
    November 22, 2011 #

    @Stacy – When I started lifting weights in my Vibrams, my feet had to work a bit harder to balance too. I think it’s just an initial learning phase while all the little unused muscles in your feet and ankles get back into the swing of things. I feel much more solidly planted now and it’s a small price to pay to move away from those squishy, unstable air/gel/foam/magic-unicorn-dust filled soles.

  3. February 9, 2012 #

    I tried rnnniug bare foot on a few different surfaces and find sandy beaches the most comfortable.

  4. C.M.
    May 29, 2012 #

    it also has to do with your running form not just the shoe that causes injuries.

    1. May 29, 2012 #

      Agreed.

  5. June 16, 2012 #

    The barefoot shoes! Haha these shoes are so intresting and odd, but everyone says it’s comfortable! My friend got hers and she loves them! Funny thing is she even comes in to work wearing them. I’m considering purchasing one soon and test it myself! Anyway thanks for the informative post and I’m loving your site!

    1. June 18, 2012 #

      @Yami Miya – Thanks for the comment. We have a minimalist running shoes post coming up soon, so stay tuned and if you haven’t already, sign up for our weekly newsletter – http://www.builtlean.com/email/

  6. Jason
    June 23, 2012 #

    What era are those pictures from??? Early 1900’s?

    1. June 28, 2012 #

      @Jason – I don’t know, the point of the photo was to show how the foot can conform to the shoe. I’m sure there are a lot of people walking around today with feet like the one in the photo.

  7. Jason
    June 23, 2012 #

    Overall, I would like to see more of a scientific and medical approach. I have friends who run marathons in these shoes, but no one can really substantiate the true pros and cons. Is there any long term research?

    1. June 28, 2012 #

      @Jason – While there is research supporting barefoot running, I like to use my common sense. For example, is barefoot running a smart idea on cement? Probably not. Is wearing barefoot sneaker and running on cement a good idea? Probably not. But is running barefoot, or using barefoot running shoes a good idea if you are one a natural surface and you slowly progress? I think so. In my opinion, this is so obvious to me that the way we are supposed to run is with the balls of our feet, not heel strike, which causes a lot of problem. Aside from the research, anecdotally I’ve heard tons of stories from people about how the barefoot running movement helped them improve in a number of ways from eliminating hip/low back/knee pain to increasing their arch. Ultimately, you should try it for yourself and see if it works for you. It’s like the difference between philosophizing how many teeth a horse has; you can go up to a horse and count them, or you can theorize all day long.

  8. Jason
    June 24, 2012 #

    Here is an article written by a Holistic Podiatrist regarding barefoot shoes. It has a balanced approach and explains his stance from a medical and foot structural perspective.
    http://drrobertkornfeld.com/blog/barefoot-running-shoes-how-effective-are-they/

    1. June 28, 2012 #

      @Jason – Thanks for sharing, Jason.

  9. Priscilla L. Martin
    July 13, 2012 #

    Hello Marc. I really like this article. Thank you for sharing.

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