Are Barefoot Shoes Good For Running?

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Some of them look stupid, yes, but should you run in them?

There’s a big debate in the fitness world about whether or not barefoot shoes are good for your feet. Some people swear by them, while others think they are a waste of money. So, what’s the truth? Are barefoot shoes good for your feet? Let’s take a closer look at this topic.

What is barefoot running?

Barefoot running is a type of running that involves no shoes or minimal shoes. This means that your feet are in direct contact with the ground. Some people believe that this is the way humans were meant to run and that it is better for your feet than running in traditional shoes.

The Advantages of Barefoot Running

There are many potential benefits associated with barefoot running. These include:

  • Strengthening the muscles in your feet and lower legs. Shoes with too much support can make the feet reliant on arch support and cushioning, whereas barefoot shoes technically force your lower body- particularly the shins and arches of the feet- to work harder.
  • Improving your posture and form. When you are not wearing shoes, you are more likely to land on your mid-foot or forefoot, rather than your heel. This can help to improve your posture and running form.
  • Improved your proprioception (sense of where your body is in space). Because barefoot running requires more balance and coordination, it can help to improve these skills and help you feel more “in tune” with your running technique.
  • Some research suggests fewer lower body injuries. One study found that runners who switched to barefoot running had a significantly lower risk of developing runner’s knee, compared to those who continued to run

The Disadvantages of Barefoot Running

For some people, there are also some risks associated with barefoot running.

  • You are more exposed to the elements, whether it’s sharp rocks, cacti, or stubbing your toe on asphalt.
  • If you are new to barefoot running and don’t start slowly, ironically you are at a higher risk of foot and ankle injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and stress fractures of the toes.

What are barefoot shoes?

Barefoot shoes are a type of shoe that is designed to mimic the experience of running barefoot. They are usually very minimalistic, and they often have little or no arch support. Additionally, they tend to be very lightweight and flexible. They are essential on your foot to protect your skin from the elements.

Who Barefoot Shoes Are For

So should we all run out and buy ourselves a pair of barefoot running shoes? Probably not. Instead, it’s important to recognize what style of shoe would best fit your running technique.

You should try barefoot running shoes if…

  • You have no history of foot and ankle injuries
  • You are struggling with knee or shin pain, especially if its caused for stiff ankles that are limiting dorsiflexion
  • You are looking to change your running form from a heel strike to a midfoot strike
  • You want to increase the strength in your feet and lower legs
  • You want to run like our distant relatives from the Paleolithic era (as inspired by the book “Born to Run”)

You should NOT try barefoot running shoes if…

  • You have any history of lower-body injuries, particularly in the foot or ankle
  • You have flat feet or high arches
  • You have hypermobile joints- whether from genetics or pregnancy-related hormone changes
  • You are a heavy runner (over 200 pounds)
  • You are new to running and have a hard time running in a controlled manner (aka- you are a “loud” runner probably because you are out of shape)

How to Get Started with Barefoot Running

If you are interested in trying barefoot running shoes, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, it is important to start slowly. If you are used to running in traditional shoes, your feet and lower legs are likely not used to the extra work they will have to do. Try running for just a few minutes at first, and gradually increase your mileage as your feet adjust to the new shoes.

Additionally, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. When you are running barefoot, you are more susceptible to injury if you step on something sharp. Make sure to run on surfaces that are soft and free of debris.

Finally, be sure to listen to your body. If you start to experience pain, it is important to take a break and rest. It’s probably time to consult a physical therapist (virtually or in person) for some guidance to prevent an unnecessary injury. Running barefoot can be a great way to improve your running form and strength, but it is not worth risking an injury.

What Type of Barefoot Running Shoes are Best for My Feet?

There are a variety of barefoot shoes on the market, and it can be tricky to decide which pair is right for you.

Some things to keep in mind when choosing a pair of barefoot shoes include:

  • The type of terrain you will be running on
  • Your foot type (flat feet or high arches)
  • Your running style
  • How much support you will need

A few popular brands of barefoot shoes include:

  • Vibram FiveFingers
  • New Balance Minimus
  • Merrell Vapor Glove
  • Vivobarefoot

Do some research and find the pair of shoes that best fits your needs!

Should Everyone Be Barefoot Running?

The short answer is no, not everyone should be barefoot running. There are certain people who should avoid it, and there are also some things to keep in mind if you are interested in trying it.

So if you’ve been running in a more traditional shoe style with no problems, don’t feel like you need to go out and buy the latest model of barefoot shoe. As they say, don’t fix what isn’t broken. On the other hand, if you’re up for a little experimenting, you might find that barefoot running is a fun new challenge for you that can take your running game to a new level.

About the Author

JayDee Vykoukal is a doctor of physical therapy, healthy habits coach, and owner of When she's not helping others live their best life, she's off exploring the world and nature with her two girls.

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