If you’re interested in running, you will have heard about the latest trend: barefoot running. As a keen runner and Physio, I’m often asked my view on this fad.
The concept of barefoot running came from research based on the model of Kenyan and Native American runners, who did all of their running barefoot and had a significantly lower injury rate than “conventional” runners.
Some runners have embraced the idea, either going genuinely barefoot or using specially developed shoes – essentially just a shell that covers your foot to stop cuts and grazes but offers no support.
Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Shouldn’t we all be doing this? Why aren’t we?
It’s a great idea in theory. But in my view, for Westerners, and particularly Londoners, it’s a terrible one in practice.
1 London is full of concrete and Tarmac
Two surfaces the Kenyan and Native Americans hardly (if ever) ran on. That’s why conventional running shoes are designed to protect our joints by supporting the natural arch of our feet and cushioning the impact as we run.
2 The body is incredibly adaptive
You’ve worn shoes almost all your life, and your feet have changed as a result – they’ve changed even more significantly if you regularly teeter about in four-inch heels. All of us now stand, walk and run differently because of those changes.
3 These adaptations occurred over time
They’re not going to be reversed overnight. Barefoot running doesn’t just require a fundamental change in running technique, it also requires a fundamental change in our feet.
So if you want to take up barefoot running, here’s my suggestion. Throw away all your shoes, and as of today, go everywhere barefoot. Oh, and avoid concrete and Tarmac.
Alternatively, accept the changes, invest in some decent running shoes and get out there and enjoy yourself.