You may have heard about or even seen people running barefoot outside, on sidewalks, the road or even on trails. They may have had completely bare feet, or strange looking shoes that fit glove-like around each individual toe. This phenomenon of “barefoot” running is looked on by many as a return to the way our bodies were meant to run, therefore suffering fewer injuries and performing better and longer in races.
But, is barefoot running safe? While there are some benefits to it, like strengthening muscles and using less energy, there are some significant risks.
- Increased risk of puncture. While running barefoot there are high chances that you will puncture your foot with a sharp object lying in your path. Even a small puncture in your foot could lead to a larger health problem like tetanus or other infections.
- Blisters. Beginner barefoot runners are also at a high risk of developing blisters on the bottoms of their feet that were once protected by wearing shoes. Eventually callouses will form, but at first the blisters will be painful and also prone to infection should they burst.
- Ligament injury, stress fractures, burns and numbness. Running barefoot puts you at a greater risk for ligament injury, stress fractures, and burns from hot pavement or numbness from cold. Numbness can lead to developing serious puncture wounds which aren’t felt until after numbness has ceased.
If you are planning on becoming a barefoot runner, it’s important to know what to look out for, and extremely important to train properly – running in shoes gives you a heel strike, and running barefoot requires a midfoot strike. This change can be difficult to master right away. Practice on a treadmill first, wear “barefoot” shoes and check your feet after each run to ensure nothing has punctured the skin.