Barefoot Running Debate: Podiatrist/Runner Outlook

Running barefoot? “If you took the world’s population and had people run barefoot to catch their food, most would starve.” Whether you decide barefoot running is beneficial or not is up to you—but it is always best to know the facts, especially when it comes to your body.

Avid runners want to be the first to advance in the science of running, but when it comes to drastic change or potential risk of injury, many become more skeptical than ambitious. Barefoot running still remains the minority choice for runners, but has given voice to strong opinion leaders surrounding the choice.

Barefoot running wasn’t a topic of conversation or all over web-based opinion boards thousands of years ago, but this was also before roads and running shoes were created. Humans ran barefoot to catch their own food and to survive, but now we run for leisure, recreation and competition. So the debate between barefoot running and the ideal running shoe is an interesting one. Due to the fact research is lacking, going barefoot has become a passion for many, and a passion many are strongly against. The debate boils down to some important points:

  • Wearing running shoes allows runners to strike the ground with their heel first
  • Most barefoot runners strike the ground with the fore-foot
  • Dangers like glass, twigs, and other items found on the ground can cause injury also
  • The ground you run on may not be clean or sanitary-causing other foot issues
  • Your skin on your feet is not built to be tough (initially) because we sheltered our feet with shoes
  • A slow adoption of barefoot running is best if you are going to try it out—most injuries happen to those that want to become an overnight barefoot runner
  • 90% of all injuries from barefoot running are plantar fasciitis which is pain in the heel—but all runners get injuries, shoes or not
  • Everyone has a different foot shape, which means your foot may not react the same when choosing barefoot running or choosing to buy new running shoes
  • Think about support for not only your feet—don’t forget about your knees, spine, and hips

So even if you have been using running shoes for years and want to try out barefoot running or barefoot running shoes, you may have to adjust your running style to get the full effect. Maybe it will come naturally to you, but be cautious as this is a different movement that your feet may not adjust to right away to. Many avid runners like to say they were “born to run” and maybe they were blessed with feet to run barefoot, but then running shoes were made for everyone else to give running a try too.

Dr. Mark Spier, a runner himself, serves the Baltimore Metropolitan area for all of its podiatry needs with two convenient locations in Reisterstown and Columbia. His practice offers care for a full range of foot ailments, from sports injuries to general podiatric needs. If you are having foot or heel pain, or have a question about a running injury, please be sure to call Dr. Spier to schedule an appointment, or visit

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