Is barefoot good for you?

Always in Bare Feet? Is that Good for You?

In Wellness by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

There is a lot of discussion among researchers and podiatrists on the effect of going barefoot on a regular basis. In order to establish credible evidence that walking around in bare feet results in higher rates of injury, long-term studies are needed. There are few existing long-term studies, which makes it impossible to determine impact based on currently available data.

Members of populations who walk around in bare feet their entire lives present the best data set for researchers. Dr. Karsten Hollander of the Institute of Human Movement Science at the University of Hamburg is in the process of conducting a study into habitually walking barefoot. The study will focus on a comparison between South African children who use footwear and those who don’t.

Comparing Barefoot with Footwear Injury

It has been established through studies that injury rates follow similar patterns regardless of footwear habits. Long-term studies also show no significant difference in motor skills between shod and barefoot groups. While people who have switched from wearing shoes to going barefoot may experience problems when walking or running, the body will usually adapt to the change.

Bare feet vs shoes

Common injuries from walking barefoot differed from injuries incurred from walking in shoes, for obvious reasons. The feet have less protection from injuries such as cuts, abrasions, and blistering when always in bare feet. Shod individuals suffer more injuries of the knee, plantar fascia, hips, and back. Lower extremity injuries, however, were higher in those who ran in bare feet. Bare feet walking and running may actually strengthen the feet and people should consider the benefits of minimalist footwear, Hollander has suggested.

Adaptation Process

As Hollander has pointed out, most people can adapt to walking and running in bare feet. The process takes time, however, so it is important to make adjustments to compensate for the change when running. There are a number of key changes that runners should make when adapting to barefoot or minimalist running.

Shortening your strike will help your feet adapt to the change. Your feet will need to get used to heel strike without the protection of running shoes. Keeping the knees bent will also help during the transition period from shod to bare feet. The lower legs should remain relaxed during the strike cycle, and posture maintenance is extremely important.

The main takeaway from long-term studies and advocates of minimalist running is that the process of change should be gradual. You are more like to incur injury if you do not allow your feet to adapt to a new style of running. The purpose of the gradual process is to allow the feet to become accustomed to striking harder surfaces with the natural cushioning provided by the feet.

Increased exposure in bare feet will strengthen the feet through time and the body will adapt to the change. It is for this reason that training is better carried out on a hard running surface. The surface should also be hazard free to avoid injury to the feet.

If you are considering taking up minimalist running, you should consult with Step By Step before you begin the training process. We can assess your feet and help you create a training plan that will help you adapt without risk of injury.

Step By Step is a professional family foot care centre that provides treatment and advice on sporting injuries and adjustments in training. Contact Step By Step today for a consultation. We will work with you throughout all your treatments and adjustments, keeping your feet and legs strong and in good health.