Going Shoeless: Barefoot Running — Pros & Cons
This article sums it up nicely.
Article: Going Shoeless: The Pros & Cons of Barefoot Running — By Linsay Way, DC
With the subculture of barefoot runners and the products catering to them growing daily, just about every chiropractor has been asked at one point or another about their opinion regarding barefoot running.
The feet are some of the body’s most beautifully efficient mechanisms, so changing the way they’re used every day shouldn’t be done haphazardly.
Most of the hype put forward by barefoot-running advocates is anecdotal and based on questionable knowledge of biomechanics at best. They point out that humans ran and walked without shoes for millions of years, arguing that going barefoot is natural for humans and can reverse injuries caused by modern running techniques while preventing future problems. But “going Paleo” for the sake of going Paleo isn’t a very strong argument on which to base any patient recommendation. This argument also fails to take into account the fact that asphalt and concrete didn’t exist, as well as the fact that there were very few 50- or 60-year-olds still running around millions of years ago.
Nevertheless, there are compelling arguments for going shoeless or at least wearing the minimal amount of shoe possible. A 2010 study led by Harvard professor of human biology Daniel Lieberman, published in the journal Nature, suggests that runners who don’t wear shoes have a significantly different foot strike that minimizes structural impact compared to those who wear shoes. Lieberman, et al., analyzed the running styles of adult U.S. athletes who had always worn shoes; adult U.S. runners who had grown up wearing shoes, but now run barefoot; Kenyan athletes who had never worn shoes; and Kenyan athletes who had grown up running barefoot, but had switched to running with shoes. They found that the barefoot runners tended to point their toes when landing, putting the impact at the middle or front of the foot instead of on the heel and making the runners less prone to repetitive-stress injuries.
Other research out of Harvard has demonstrated that the foot-strike pattern associated with barefoot runners is significantly more economical for running, meaning runners use less energy to run the same distances as runners wearing traditional shoes and striking with the heel.
On the other hand, a trial published earlier this year in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise raises questions about whether barefoot running is really advantageous or simply contributes to the development of a different set of running injuries. Thirty-six recreational, experienced runners participated in the study. Each participant had, until the beginning of the trial, run between 15 and 30 miles a week wearing normal running shoes. Both groups received a pre-participation MRI of their feet to ensure no pre-existing injuries were present.