Barefoot running is an increasingly popular trend, fueled by a popular research article and a bestselling novel. This is leading many people to claim that running shoes are the cause of all injuries that plague runners these days. As a result of this trend, many people are choosing to run without shoes or in near-barefoot shoes (such as the Vibram FiveFingers). Are traditional running shoes to blame for all injuries?
Most claims related to the benefits of barefoot running are based on anecodatal evidence (‘It worked for me, so it must work for everyone!’). The truth is that there have been no scientific studies that show that traditional running shoes directly cause injuries or that barefoot running reduces injuries. Many claim that adapting a different running style, similar to that of barefoot runners, is the better or more ‘natural’ way to run. There is also little evidence that links these different running styles to reduced injury rates.
There are countless factors that can play a role in the development of injuries in runners including: training program and history, cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal strength, and nutrition. The human body, specifically the muscles and the bones, adapts to demands that we impose on it. For this reason, introducing a new set of drastically different mechanical demands to an unprepared body could potentially be very harmful. Everyone’s physiology is different, and it is foolish to claim that one particular running style is the ‘best’ for everyone. Starting any new training program or running style should be done carefully, with a slow buildup of mileage and intensity to help the body adapt to the increased demands of running.
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Cory L. Hofmann, M.S.
Research Project Manager, Cybex Research Institute
Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor.