Barefoot Running May Reduce Joint Pain
Do thoughts of running on pavement without shoes make you cringe? A study published in January provides evidence that running without shoes may be better for the health of your feet and joints.
Barefoot runners, the study found, have almost no impact collision because of the way their feet strike the ground. Runners who wear modern running shoes, on the other hand, are much more likely to experience heavy impact forces because of their tendency to strike the heel against the ground.
Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University found that barefoot runners tend to land on the front of their foot, distributing the weight between the ball of the foot and the toes. This runs contrary to modern runners who land on their heel because of the raised support of running shoes. By running barefoot, the leg becomes more springy and the collision force is reduced.
Landing on the heel while running can triple the amount of force placed on the foot, and is thought to be responsible for many of the problems associated with long term running, including pain in the knees and ankles, and foot discomfort. This large collision force may occur as many as 1,000 times during a typical mile run.
Running barefoot on hard surfaces seems like it would be painful, but Lieberman stated that after developing calluses, runners should be able to tackle even the hardest surfaces without shoes. Barefoot running places emphasis on different muscles than running with shoes, and attempting to switch too fast can result in additional pain. Any runner can make the switch to barefoot running, but those who have been running in shoes their whole life should ease into the process.