Fact or Fiction: Barefoot Running Is Better For Your Health
Fact or Fiction: One of the biggest health trends nowadays is barefoot running. The practice has sparked interest in recent years due to its perceived health benefits. From renowned athletes and influencers to famous actors, barefoot running has grabbed everyone’s attention.
Barefoot running is also part of the organic push and paleo lifestyle. Proponents of barefoot running often proclaim how our ancestors used to run long distances without any protective footwear and that it’s the only right way of running.
There have been many scientific studies on barefoot running as well. On that note, we bring you this fact or fiction article about barefoot running. Read on to find out if barefoot running is actually better for your health than conventional running or if it is just another passing health fad.
Barefoot Running: Definition and History
Throughout human history, humans have survived by migrating. Ancient humans covered long distances on foot to escape predators, carry messages, or for sport. Endurance running is one of the prime traits of human beings. And most of the running was done barefoot.
In Greek legend, it’s believed that Pheidippides, the first marathoner, ran from Athens to Sparta in less than 36 hours barefoot. Many tribes in South America and Africa still run barefoot. It was also preferred by several high-level athletes and long-distance runners, like Olympic gold medalist Abebe Bikila, Bruce Tulloh, and India’s Shivnath Singh.
Barefoot Running: Pros & Cons
There have been several studies and experiments on barefoot running. So far, the results have not been conclusive in determining whether barefoot running is superior to shod (with shoes) running. However, both types of running have some pros and cons.
Pros of Barefoot Running
- Strengthens gait and feet
- Helps treat flat feet
- Reduces common foot injuries in the long run
- Improves posture and running technique
- Increases running economy
Cons of Barefoot Running
- No foot protection
- Increases risk of stress fractures and Achilles tendinitis
- Increases risk of blisters and infections
- Accelerates natural wear and tear of bones
Is barefoot running better for health?
When runners go barefoot, they tend to take shorter strides and land on the ball of the foot. Running barefoot also makes one careful and wary of their technique due to the initial discomfort. If you’re new to running without shoes, it is painful at first, so most runners either go back to shod running or run with proper form, eventually developing better posture, gait, and efficiency. Barefoot running also increases tendon and muscle strength and prevents overuse injuries in the long run.
Should You Run barefoot?
The pros of barefoot running far outweigh the cons, so it can be said that the notion that barefoot running is better for your health is a fact. However, this doesn’t mean that conventional or shod running is bad. People with low mobility and weak legs aren’t advised to run barefoot. And neither should patients with diabetes and nerve diseases.
Barefoot running is also an energy-intensive and stressful process that should only be employed with caution. Studies also indicate that barefoot running is not as effective as shod running for sprinting. As for those runners who are still doubtful but want to run barefoot, they can consider wearing barefoot shoes. These shoes give you the feeling that your feet are touching the ground at every stride but also provide moderate comfort and foot protection. Experts recommend a combination of both barefoot and shod running for optimal running performance.
Our ancestors didn’t have access to protective footwear, nor did they run on hard concrete surfaces. They ran barefoot, not because it was beneficial but because it was necessary and convenient. With the advent of modern footwear, which helps keep the feet safe from bacteria, nails, and other harmful objects, there is little benefit to running barefoot. However, it certainly is a healthier way of running, and fitness enthusiasts should definitely give it a try.
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