Is barefoot beautiful?

It’s becoming more common to see people running with bare feet or wearing super-light shoes.

But should you toe the line?

To find out if this is a more “natural” way to run, Metro contacted Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic and an associate professor in kinesiology at the University of Calgary.

 

He believes at the moment the trend is driven more by marketing than health.

“There is no research to support that running barefoot, or in a minimalist shoe, will improve performance or reduce injury risk,” he says.

Given time, research might reveal benefits. Dan Lieberman from the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University is studying how the naked foot lands during running versus how the shod foot lands, and what impact this has on the body.

He is trying to figure out why humans apparently need fancy shoes to run when they ran without them for eons.

One theory is that some people don’t need elevated and highly cushioned heels because they land on their mid-foot or forefoot rather than their heel.

Ferber estimates that less than 10 per cent of the population has the proper anatomical alignment, adequate ankle stabilizer strength, and calf muscle flexibility to run in a barefoot-style shoe.

“The rest are at risk for injury unless they transition properly,” he says.

If you are interested in switching to barefoot running, Ferber recommends easing into it over four to six weeks and taking a few months to regain your pre-switch mileage.

It’s also important to do gentle calf raises after running to strengthen calves, which will be impacted differently when you run barefoot.

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