Ask a podiatrist: Is barefoot running safe?

Last Modified: 11/22/2021


This post was written by Ashley M. Bojrab, DPM, FACFAS, ABPM, CWS, PPG – Podiatry.

Since the early 2000s, barefoot running has been gaining popularity. The belief is that natural running can offer health benefits and, while there are some strong arguments to support it, it might not be as beneficial as what some believe.

What is barefoot running?

Essentially, barefoot running is running without footwear. However, with modern technology, there is now footwear that helps simulate running barefoot while giving some protection to the bottom of the foot to prevent puncture wounds. 

Why would you choose barefoot running?

Shoes have often been blamed for runners’ aches and pain and therefore has led runners to try barefoot running. Some believe that there are health advantages to running barefoot, such as that it activates smaller muscles in the feet, ankles and legs, thus improving balance.

Additionally, many believe that running without shoe gear helps with foot strike, encouraging the runner to land on the front part or ball of the foot, letting the athlete adjust to the ground. Typically, when a runner wears shoe gear, they land with their heel on the ground, which causes increased stress to the heel. It’s also more affordable, as proper shoe gear can be very pricey.

Should I run barefoot?

Although the idea of barefoot running seems appealing, it’s not for everyone. The American Podiatric Medical Association has shared that there is not enough evidence to support barefoot running to be advantageous. I would recommend discussing your interest with a podiatrist or medical professional before barefoot running. I would not encourage barefoot running if you have decreased feeling in your feet due to diabetes or other underlying conditions.

Why should I wear shoes?

Running with shoe gear on your feet has many benefits. Obviously, it protects the feet from natural harm and prevents something puncturing the foot, scratches, bruises and other issues. But shoe gear can also help cushion the foot and give support where needed.

If you decide to try running without shoes, do it wisely. Start slow and consult your medical team.  

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