Barefoot Running

Patients who run often ask as what shoes are best for them, especially if they notice that they have had some pain with a recent footwear change or as their running style changes and evolves. Some come in with hip pain, others knee or ankle, and for some it is a mixture of all three. One question that does get asked is whether a change to Barefoot running shoes and other Barefoot Inspired Shoes (BFIS), like the Vibram Five Fingers shoes, may help them with either running technique or pain.

The important thing to note about Barefoot shoes is the change that happens in your feet when you do run. Instead of running on and landing through the rear of your foot, Barefoot and BFIS are designed for the runner to run on their toes and through the forefoot. A recent study has shown that this type of running in these Barefoot and BFIS may help to improve loading at the knee, particularly at the patellofemoral joint (between your kneecap and your thigh bone). For runners with pain at this area of their knee during running, especially if performing this up or down hill where the patellofemoral joint is under greater stress, Barefoot and BFIS may help to reduce pressure and force at this joint, decreasing irritation and pain, allowing for more comfortable running. This may also be a useful tool in rehabilitation from this pain in runners who have previously worn conventional running shoes.

However, Barefoot and BFIS do have a downside by increasing the force in your Achilles tendon, increasing the risk of injuries to your Achilles when you run. As such, people with chronic Achilles and calf muscle problems, a change to Barefoot type running may not suit. Therefore, if you have been considering a switch in footwear or have knee or calf/Achilles pain with running, speak to us and we can help you to decide, along with our podiatry partners and expert shoe fitting specialists, to find out whether a change in footwear may be right for you.

Source: Sinclair, J. (2014). Effects of barefoot and barefoot inspired footwear on knee and ankle loading during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(4), 395-399. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2014.02.004