Researchers have highlighted the benefits of barefoot running and the damage that trainer-wearing can cause.
Peter Francis and Grant Schofield explored the prevalence of running injuries and whether ditching our shoes could be the answer to this problem.
They gathered information from evolutionary biology, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics to suggest how runners “innately moderate impact” and offered practical solutions to implementing barefoot running into your training plan.
“Our review suggests that footwear reduces the quality of information being sent to the brain and spinal cord, leading to more blunt running mechanics,” Mr Francis said in an article in The Conversation. “Shoes allow runners to land with a more upright body position and an extended leg, leading to excessive braking forces. These running mechanics seem to play a role in some of the most common running injuries.
“Long-term everyday use of footwear also leads to a weaker foot and often, a collapsed arch. When we start running in shoes, our foot isn’t adapted to cope with these mechanics.”
This damage can be reversed, as demonstrated by a study that found foot muscle size and strength increased after eight weeks of walking in a minimalist shoe.
“Balance activities are also recommended to improve proprioception, which is our awareness of our body’s position and movements,” said Mr Francis. “This type of training aims to prevent or repair injuries. Using equipment like a wobble board will create more unstable or less predictable conditions under foot, which builds lower limb stability and foot strength.
“But the simplest and perhaps most specific form of proprioceptive training for runners is to take off their shoes and walk or run. In fact, barefoot runners appear to report fewer knee injuries and less heel pain compared to runners who use shoes.”
Mr Francis advised those looking to ditch the trainers to start walk barefoot before they run, or try wearing a minimalist shoe if they run in a hotter climate or on rough ground.
He added that other factors, such BMI, previous injuries and a sudden increase in training, also contribute to problems, and so a sensible training plan, conditioning exercises and walking and running barefoot could all contribute to fewer injuries.