I must confess that I’m not at all swayed and am therefore certainly not tempted to throwing my running shoes into the cupboard and running down the road on virgin skin!
There are of course pros and cons for barefoot running and I respect the arguments from those who argue for and against it, and yes… the splinters in my ass from sitting on the fence on this subject are most definitely uncomfortable.
If you do not know already the main theme of this blog revolves around the subject of shin splints and how they can be treated and eventually eliminated. So it would be unfair, if I did not touch on the subject of barefoot running, especially when there is a school of thought that believes it helps to relieve pains like runner’s knee and our old friend, shin splints.
Please remember that I haven’t tried out running without shoes, and therefore the info I provide here is not from experiences I myself have experienced but is actually a product of my extensive research into the subject using trusted sources.
Does barefoot running mean running barefoot?
I will ignore all the talk about the ‘re-discovering of our roots’ by ditching our shoes. What I’ll share here are 2 distinct ways you can engage in barefoot running.
Firstly, you can truly run barefoot, that’s without wearing any shoes, and then there is minimalist running where you wear shoes that provide hardly any protection and that are not padded.
Why would anyone want to run without shoes?
When we run barefoot, the way we run radically changes. When running whilst wearing running shoes, more of the impact is soaked up by the heel whilst when running barefoot it is the outside of the foot that strikes the ground first.
Some people believe that switching from running shoes to running barefoot greatly benefits the feet and reduces the chance of sustaining injuries like heel strike (plantar fasciitis) and shin splints. However, those against it claim there is no research backing up the claim and common knowledge shows that it is harder to run barefoot than to run in shoes.
This is my opinion so please don’t take this as matter of fact; our ancestors in prehistoric times ran barefoot because there were no shoes back then…this is a fact (unless someone can show me a pair of fossilized Nike!) There is no evidence to suggest that our ancestors struggled when running without shoes or if they were at all required. Furthermore, there is no hard evidence from the companies providing specialist shoes that they offer improvements to our running posture,form and ability. This being the case, I really believe that the ball is in the court of the companies and it is down to them to persuade us all that their product is in fact the better option!
A large majority of injuries, which includes shin splints are the result of bad running techniques with a heel strike being a major culprit. So I would have to say that running without shoes or using minimal footwear certainly reduces your chances of experiencing plantar fasciitis, pronation and of course, shin splints.
Switching from shoes to running in bare feet. Is it easy, or not?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, especially since I know what it takes to be free of shin splints in the the long term. And I’ve never experienced heel pain. So because I am running without pain, I do not need to make this transition. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ as the saying goes. But you might want to try it out and see where it takes you.
Another important thing to consider is that you will experience pain, discomfort and probably injuries when you make this transition. You see, your running style will drastically change and you will be using the muscles in your feet like you never did before.
Think about it for a second, most of us have been wearing shoes since our diaper days. Our feet have remained cushioned and protected by shoes for years and years. If you then choose to change overnight, that absolute shift of your whole body could be too radical and result in injuries.
In conclusion, experiment with barefoot running and know for sure if it is something you want to do for the long term. If yes, slowly switch your running style from shoes to barefoot running, instead of doing it too quickly.