Barefoot/Minimalist Running Debunked

by thefootmechanic

Barefoot and minimalist running styles are dangerous for your feet. In fact, they fail to recognize the most primitive biomechanics of running or the deleterious effects of this type of running style on the human foot. Simply stated, longitudinal studies outline the foot must start in a rigid position (closed-packed or supinated) position. It then must transition into a malleable (loose-packed or pronated) position in order to adapt to the ground surface. Finally, its 3rd phase is to re-transition into a rigid (closed-packed or supinated) position in order to gain a rigid lever for push off. The 26 bones in the foot are intimately and precisely positioned to go through these phases (heel strike, mid stance and push-off) in order to prevent injury. By altering the mechanics of walking/running by using toe-running or midfoot striking a person sets themselves up to what we call “retro loading” which puts extreme non-biomechanical forces across the bones of the midfoot (tarsal bones). This can cause, but is not limited to, acute pain, plantar fasciitis, early arthritic changes, stress reactions and even stress fractures. This doesn’t even mention the adverse effects which may occur up what we call the kinetic chain (ankle, shin, knee, hip and low back). The evolution of the human running shoe is not a manifestation of the shoe companies’ attempt to sell more shoes. Rather, the running shoe is a product of evolution based on longitudinal studies of human biomechanics. If they were not we would all still be running barefoot. It seems that this whole “barefoot” running craze/phase is attempting to de-evolve the human foot back centuries. The only reason there are so many advocates for this type of running style is the mere fact that it is so relatively new we do not yet have longer-term longitudinal studies proving the aforementioned osteoarthritic/stress reaction/stress fracture data. However, if you browse around the Internet you will certainly find anecdotal testimonials as to such. I would refer you to the following two articles:

Barefoot Running Problems – Men’s Health

Dr. Brett Purdom, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS
Owner of The Foot Mechanic™