It takes time, data collection and processing to make research numbers come together and have verifiable meaning. Is it too early to say that the recent rise in popularity of barefoot running is resulting in an increase in the number of injuries suffered by runners? No doubt that for every advocate out there who wholeheartedly embraces barefoot or minimalist running, there is another who is in pain and seeking treatment for injuries.
Unsure of where the data may point, some podiatrists are already beginning to report an increase of patients who run sans shoes. Complaints primarily include heel pain, being diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. This can become a very painful condition if left untreated. The increase in reported injuries might only be due to the increase in barefoot runners. In other words, perhaps the numbers are not really disproportionate. As the number of barefoot runners climb, so will the number of injuries.
Defenders of barefoot running claim that if adapted slowly and eased into it, it poses no greater risk of injury. They state the blame for injury can be placed solely with the individual’s unwillingness to train and condition their body to accept the new practice. Gradual adoption and adaptation is the key.
There are those who claim to have relieved all of their foot ailments by kicking off their shoes, claiming that shoes were to blame for their woes. There may be small numbers who can rightfully make this claim, but more runners than not fall into the category of over pronators or supinators who benefit from well-constructed shoes. There seems to be consensus amongst medical professionals that most barefoot runners who are suffering injuries have no business running barefoot in the first place due to what is termed biomechanically disadvantaged feet. What that means is they are not one hundred percent fit in the foot to begin with. For this population, foregoing the shoes was pain just waiting to occur. On the other hand if you have a neutral foot and high arch, many health practitioners will say to give barefoot running a try, each to their own. Just remember to proceed with caution, take it slowly. This does not have to represent an all or nothing endeavor. Begin with one or two short runs incorporated into your weekly schedule.
If you have foot or ankle pain and have been barefoot running, call Dr. Brook at (972) 566-7474 or Dr. Northcutt at (972) 943-3323. Don’t delay treatment as heel and arch pain from plantar fasciitis can become chronic and have a dramatic effect on your active life. Dr. Brook is an expert at treating sports injuries. If you have a story about your barefoot running experience and would like to share it with us, we would love to hear from you.