"I have found in my practice that people even with chronic foot and ankle problems are finding relief when they shed their shoes."
In my practice I see a lot of foot injuries, everything from plantar fasciitis to neuromas, and the thing I have been telling most of them....THROW AWAY YOUR SHOES! Barefoot running or running in minimal footwear seems to be all the craze right now. Even companies like Nike who at one time were putting electronics into their shoes are now selling minimalist footwear. So why should you consider your next pair of shoes to be minimalists or the ones God gave you?
Harvard University’s skeletal biology lab summarized their findings, "Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested."
As many of us know, how we run is more important than what is on our feet. What the researchers at Harvard are showing is that forefoot or midfoot strikes are the best. I have found in my practice that people even with chronic foot and ankle problems are finding relief when they shed their shoes.
So how do you start barefoot running? Here is a list of steps you can begin with:
- Land gently on your forefoot and gradually let the heel come down.
- Transition slowly (don’t go all barefoot all at once, start off running around the block).
- Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon.
- Don’t do anything that causes pain.
- Listen to your body and run totally barefoot to learn good form.
- Buy minimal shoes that lack high heels and stiff soles. (Zero drop)
- Consult a doctor who has knowledge about barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes.
As Christopher McDougall said, "The only people against barefoot running is the ones who haven’t tried it."
Dr. Wayne T. Hansen is a chiropractor at Solutions Clinic in Cottonwood Heights. He can be reached at
See also: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu