Does Barefoot Running Cause Injuries?

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For all of the articles that pop up out there about barefoot running and it’s benefits, there are some naysayers out there. Recently, Matt Fitzgerald wrote about the topic on Competitor.com.

The article goes on to raise a pretty hefty case against the barefoot/natural running movement, asserting that we should look beyond just feet when considering the biomechanics of barefoot running, and include potential spinal issues and existing bio-structural problems.

Despite the articles claims’ of a “surge” of barefoot running related injuries, it admits that “what is not known is whether barefoot runners are now disproportionately represented in physical therapy and sports medicine facilities—in other words, whether barefoot runners are more likely to develop overuse injuries than shod runners.” To that end, can any of the doctors and sports therapists interviewed truly claim that there is such a high incidence of injury? To back up this claim, the therapists interviewed point to the rise of plantar fasciitis. I’ve never heard this injury described as uncommon; I suffered from it myself before switching to barefoot running.

The piece goes on to state that not everyone is born to run, despite the claims, and that shoes aid people who might otherwise not be able to pick up the sport. Additionally, “one thing all of the medical professionals I interviewed for this article agree on is that many runners have no business even trying to run barefoot. ‘Runners who have what I call biomechanically disadvantaged feet need shoes, and often orthotics too,’ says Maharam.” Is this just another instance of the running shoe industry trying to over-engineer our natural stride?

Though well-researched and well-written, this article brings up a lot of controversial topics. While the article claims to not be skewed towards anti-barefoot running advocates, it feels as though there is a certain active encouragement to not pursue barefoot running.

It seems logical that some injuries would increase as more people try a new (old?) style of running. If folks are getting heel injuries while running barefoot, they’re not doing it right…

The article may instill fear in those who are just starting out, turning them from the potential path of barefoot or natural running.

Give it a read and let us know – what do you think? Does this change how you look at barefoot-style running?

Read it in full here: http://running.competitor.com/2010/05/features/the-barefoot-running-injury-epidemic_10118


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