To run barefoot or not? Running barefoot involves running without shoes or in a very minimal “sock-like” shoe. Many studies show that barefoot running significantly changes a runners natural foot-strike pattern, resulting in less impact force transferring throughout the body. Barefoot runners tends to land with less impact on the middle of the foot (Mid-foot). Once a shoe is placed on the foot, many runners tend to automatically shift there foot-strike pattern, landing on the heal of the shoe (heal-strike), resulting in a slightly greater impact force.
Will running barefoot decrease my chances of getting injured? There is not evidence that a barefoot runner will experience lower injury rates and more studies need to explore barefoot running on real everyday “hard” training surfaces like the road or trail. Running shoes provide great stability and cushion against hard running surfaces.
As a coach, My advise to help keep you injury free; follow a well-planned training program, choose your training surface wisely, have a coach critique your form, allow your body the proper rest and recovery, and get fitted for the right pair of shoes because there will be times when shoes are 100% necessary.
Take what we know about barefoot (mid-foot) running and apply this with your shoes on. A common problem for many runners is over-striding which results in the “heal strike,” or the lead foot coming out too far in front of the body’s center of gravity. Over-striding results in a choppy running pattern which jostles the body and it’s like running with the brakes on. Focus on running correctly with good straight and relaxed, forward-leaning posture. While leaning forward draw an imaginary line from your belly button to the floor in front of you; Your front foot should not step pass this imaginary line. The front foot would then land mid-foot behind this imaginary line and your running power would come from pushing-off your back foot to propel you forward.
There’s nothing wrong with trying a shoe that’s more minimal or neutral to see if this helps resolve your problem. Most important is to listen to your body but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. We may hear our body saying something, but don’t know what it’s trying to tell us, or what to do about it? In this case – be quick to ask a coach, doctor, or do some additional research.
Here are some additional videos on barefoot running and proper form
Coach Jack Daniels on Barefoot Running
The Barefoot Professor; Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman
How to Avoid Heel Strike: by Chi Running’s Danny Dreyer