Barefoot running has existed since man first roamed the planet. Despite this, the topic has garnered a great deal of press recently. There is, however, a case to be made that shod running is the more unusual pastime having only been in vogue for a matter of a few centuries and, as for trainers, they have only existed for decades. Barefoot running as a training concept, and even a way of life, has entered the public consciousness over the last few years not least thanks to Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. There are now countless websites, books, clubs and training camps dedicated to barefoot running.
Fit For Sport’s patient Andrew Saville running an Ultramarathon barefoot
Undoubtedly, barefoot running can offer numerous biomechanical benefits and there are plenty of accounts suggesting it solves all manner of chronic injuries. In support of this, Fit For Sport has had considerable success introducing barefoot running to interested patients for whom it was deemed appropriate. However, there are associated risks such as stress fractures and Achilles injuries if progressions are made too quickly so professional advice is recommended.
Trainer manufacturers have been the target of much barefoot press accusing them of over cushioning a runner’s foot, decreasing its proprioceptive feedback and altering natural gait. However, things are changing and most large trainer companies are now producing some kind of lightweight trainers that offer an alternative to the chunky cushioned heels that appear to encourage runners to use heavy heel strikes. There are also Vibram Five Fingers for those interested in something closer to running without shoes and of course there is always the option of doing exactly that and ditching shoes altogether.
Here are some links to sources that will help you make up your own mind;