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Barefoot Running: Risks & Benefits

Published March 28, 2016

Barefoot running has become very popular in recent years.  While it is a rather "natural" form of exercise that can be beneficial, there are some inherent risks involved.

Running barefoot, or unshod, increases impact on our feet which can challenge and strengthen the foot and ankle.  It also helps to fortify the legs, thighs, hips, and lower back regions.  Without the assistance of footwear we are obliged to endure higher pressures and stabilize our bodies.  This all can result in increased overall wellness.  

It has been debated that some athletic footwear of modern times is harmful to our feet as they prevent the foot and ankle from strengthening.  Some say they actually cause weakness.  Various athletic shoes have added features such as extra cushioning and shock absorbing materials that provide more support than necessary which creates an artificial running pattern.

Barefoot running certainly has some risks that need to be considered.  As footwear offers protection for our feet, running without shoes increases the chances for puncture wounds due to sharp foreign objects that may be on the running surface.  In addition to wound injuries, ankle sprains are also known to occur due to a lack of biomechanical support.

If one is to consider running barefoot, the journey should be started gradually.  Begin with low mileage and be sure that the running surface is safe (avoid uneven terrains and areas with sharp objects).  Grassy fields can be ideal, but beware of variations on the course.  Running unshod can be very beneficial if done right.  Consider all the risks and always emphasize "safety first."

At Progressive Foot Care we specialize in sports medicine and treat many different types of runners on a regular basis.  Running injury-free is always preferred.  If injured, we will customize a treatment plan for you to get you back into activity as quickly as possible.  
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