Is It Safe to Run Barefoot?

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Some barefoot runners claim that going barefoot has made running “effortless,” or cured them of lifelong podiatric ailments. Some even claim that it’s sparked a newfound spiritual connection with the Earth. However, the primary claim among them seems to be that running barefoot has in some way re-trained their bodies into correcting sloppy technique brought on by a lifetime of running in traditional sneakers.

Traditional running shoes are thought by many advocates of barefoot running to “baby” one’s muscles, and favor the use of certain ones over others. It’s true that running barefoot exercises the muscles in the calves and surrounding the ankles far more than with shoes. Many believe that runners owe frequent ankle injury to the fact that the muscles in this area become disproportionately weak. Proponents of running barefoot contend that their method exercises one’s muscles in more natural proportions, resulting in a healthier, less injury-prone build.

Not much scientific research has been conducted in the way of testing the claim that running barefoot prevents injury. But there are some tested conclusions as to some other benefits. For example, oxygen is consumed at a slightly lower rate while running barefoot. And that running in sneakers demands a greater overall amount of energy. Both of those facts seem to make for the beginning of a case for running barefoot in competition.

While there have yet to be reported cases involving death or serious injury resulting from running barefoot, there are some minor safety concerns one should take into account before trying it out. The biggest of these is the risk of puncture injury. While running barefoot, you run the risk of accidentally stepping on a sharp object, and puncturing the bottom of the foot. Like any instance when skin is punctured, if left untreated, it could become dangerously infected. The risk is especially high due to the high amount of bacteria and other potentially dangerous microorganisms that feet tend to harbor. So it’s important to ensure that you’re all covered in terms of vaccinations and always treat abrasions, punctures, and cuts with an appropriate antibacterial ointment.

It’s also possible to burn the bottom of one’s feet merely by running on hot pavement. To avoid this, keep on grass as much as possible, or just avoid running around midday. Some swelling occurring after a run is considered normal. However, swelling accompanied by pain of any sort should almost always prompt a visit to a health care provider, as it could be a sign of an injury to one’s tendons and ligaments, or a stress fracture or sprain.

Running barefoot is, for the most part, and if approached with some caution, totally safe. However, to have an extra bit of protection, you can try a barefoot running shoe. Our ancient ancestors walked and ran barefoot for thousands of years without problem. Why not do it now?

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