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Run Barefoot and Avoid Running Injuries?

The idea of running barefoot seems like some new age, hippie movement to get people to be free in their bare skin. Or some eco-friendly push to persuade people to forgo sneakers so they don't end up in landfills. Although the freedom and environmental arguments for barefoot running are valid, Christopher McDougall, author of the best-selling book Born to Run, believes running without sneakers could be the answer to preventing shin splints, knee pain, and other running injuries.

After suffering many an injury himself, he set out with the question, "Why does my foot hurt?" In his journey to answer that question, he discovered the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons. They run hundreds of miles at a time with only thin, homemade sandals on their feet, and don't suffer any of the injuries that the rest of us runners do. After running with them, he realized the secret was ditching his sneaks, and since then, he's been injury-free. McDougall believes today's high-tech sneakers "warp our natural stride, encourage bad form, and lead to injuries."

Running without the protection of a rugged sole or the soft cushioning makes you change your running form immediately. It reminds you to land gently on the ball of your foot, not strike on your heels. Your posture naturally becomes upright with your head, shoulders, hips, and knees stacked in one line, and your stride becomes shorter. When running with sneakers, you can land with more force and take longer strides, and not pay as much attention to your form, which results in getting hurt.


It may sound painful, but running barefoot on hard, man-made surfaces such as asphalt is "like cream," Chris says, and feels better on your naked feet than grass because it's smooth and predictable. When it comes to rocks, sticks, and pieces of glass he says, "I've got this special equipment I like to use. They're called eyeballs. I see a rock, I just step next to it."

Many runners are ditching their shoes and reaping the benefits. If you're interested, it's recommended to start off with short distances at first to acclimate your shoe-less feet to running free. Tell me, have you or would you ever give barefoot running a try to prevent common running injuries?

Image Source: Getty
nslods nslods 8 years
I would love to try this, or at least try something with shoes that simulate barefoot running. But, I do have one question. What does one do in the winter? That could get just a tad cold!
Elizabeth1981 Elizabeth1981 8 years
What about barefoot treadmill running?
opentypeA opentypeA 8 years
Personally, I'd be worried about my arches more than anything...
runningesq runningesq 8 years
I'm torn about it ... I've never had an injury so I'm thinking I should stick with what works. The book, regardless, is FANTASTIC!! I'm listening to it on audiobook now - while running, natch ;) - and it's AWESEOME. highly reccomend !
beachgrl beachgrl 8 years
i really like this idea...i try to run but can never stick with it because I get knee and leg pains after running only short distances. i live close to the beach so maybe i'd try it there...with flip flops in hand just in case :)
kimsy kimsy 8 years
Haven't tried barefoot running, but I just wanted to say that Born to Run is such a good book (for runners and non-runners). It definitely brings up some interesting points about how we run and about some of the similarities in lifestyle choices among superathletes.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
thanks, chloe bella! I actually went to a legit running store when I got my last pair of sneakers and they do a gait analysis to help figure out what would suit your foot best and said i do a pretty good mid-foot strike. thanks for the update! :)
petites-mains petites-mains 8 years
I live in New York and all I can say is, I would rather die than go barefoot here. Filthy, filthy, filthy. I don't care how carefully you watch the road, there is way too much disgusting and dangerous stuff you could step in.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 8 years
Mamasitamalita- for years the prevailing belief was that there were pros and cons to both midfoot and heel striking and that neither was really better than the other. Now, the consensus seems to be that midfoot striking is better and leads to less injuries. I've been trying to switch, but I'm just so used to landing on my heels!
2muchtv 2muchtv 8 years
I like transition shoes. I still get some of the benefits of barefoot running, but with a little bit of protection.
xtinabeena xtinabeena 8 years
i run barefoot.... but only on grass/turf.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
totally would not do this. I though landing on the ball of your foot was improper form?
darc5204 darc5204 8 years
I'm not convinced yet that it will prevent injury, but I really like the idea of it.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
Get some Vibram 5 Fingers! Hubby used to run barefoot on the beach but wanted to run barefoot around the neighborhood, he found the Vibrams and now he uses those. He runs slower because barefoot running is harder, but he doesn't have any aches or pains that he used to.
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