A trend within the running community is barefoot or minimalist running. It started around 2009, with the publication of Born to Run, a book about the Tarahumara people of Northwest Mexico, who have an uncanny ability to run for hundreds of miles without rest or injury. The author suggested that people can run better without shoes because they can adapt a more natural running stride, using the balls of their feet instead of their heels to absorb the weight of each step.
Most of us at Running Excels are not minimalist runners, but that doesn’t mean that people should completely swear it off. For some, barefoot running can strengthen the tiny muscles inside the feet, ankles, and lower legs and make you a stronger runner with a better feel of the ground and the impact you are placing on your lower limbs. However, if not transitioned to correctly, barefoot or minimalist running can actually be very dangerous and greatly increase the risk of injuries.
Our recommendation for those who would like to try barefoot or minimalist running is to, first, get your gait checked. A simple gait analysis can show if you really do need the arch support that is not provided when running barefoot. If you do pronate badly, there are lightweight shoe options that can keep you in a minimalist category while still providing you with a little more support.
If, after the gait analysis, we see that you are neutral, we still don’t recommend throwing away your shoes and socks and hitting the trail barefoot immediately. Instead, we recommend transitioning to a lightweight or minimalist shoe and gradually training yourself to get used to it. Wear the minimalist shoes for short runs and gradually increase your time wearing them. The same goes for when you eventually transition from a minimalist shoe to barefoot running. Not everybody can get used to this type of running, and that’s ok. Our feet have been conditioned over hundreds of years to wear shoes. The right shoe isn’t going to hurt you. However, the wrong shoe or lack thereof could; which is why we are here to help you out.