Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?

As many long-time readers remember I really became invested in “barefoot” running with my Vibram FiveFingers back in 2011. I got the point where I could run about 6-miles in the shoes and ran a few barefoot 5Ks with them on. I wondered though, is barefoot running dangerous?

When I first began barefoot running I started very slow and with short distances. My barefoot pace is still not as fast as a shod pace, if you will. But I did enjoy barefoot running. It just feels more fun and natural and is a nice change of pace from what I’m used to.

Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?

Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?

My Experience

That being said I never experienced any known problems as a result of barefoot running. Of course I experienced some ankle and foot tenderness here and there, but nothing to write home about.

I also made a point to adjust my stride to more of a mid-foot strike when running barefoot, which I think was very beneficial in preventing any injuries.

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Barefoot Running

I was taken aback when I read a piece in the New York Times about a study which showed experienced runners suffering from early signs of bone injury in their feet as a result of barefoot running. The article is titled “Barefoot Running Can Cause Injuries, Too” and was published online.

The article goes on to discuss a recent study involving 36 adult “experienced” runners who ran on average 15 to 30 miles a week regularly. (When I was running barefoot a lot, I feel into the 15 to 20 mile a week range myself.)

Half of the runners in the group continued as normal and the other half were given Vibram FiveFingers to run in. Among the barefoot runners, half showed signs of bone injuries following a 10-week period, seemingly as a direct result of their barefoot running, the study indicated. Two of the barefoot runners had full blown stress fractures.

The study was ongoing a the time of the writing. But the discussion is not. More than 200 people have already commented on the piece when it was first writtern. I have a lot of questions too. Did they change their foot strike and technique? Did they understand they would have to reduce their pace as they adjusted?

The barefoot runners were advised in the study to start at only one mile a week in the minimalist shoes, followed by two miles the next week, and so on. When I started, I walked in the shoes first and only about a quarter mile.

Is Barefoot Running Good for You?

Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?

In Conclusion

As I became more comfortable I slowly increased speed and distance and it took me months to get to running 6-miles in them. I have to wonder if these runners did too much too soon.

Have you tried barefoot running? Were you injury-free? Or not?


1 thought on “Is Barefoot Running Dangerous?”

  1. I love running barefoot! I would do it once in a while when doing running form drills and also when playing with my kids. I have a pair of MT10’s and use them once in a blue moon, too. But, after meeting and running with Chris McDougal, I plan on doing it more often. I went on a group run with him- 3 miles in shoes, 3 miles barefoot and was totally fine! That being said, I do run in minimalist style shoes, have a barefoot style form (mid/forefoot, short, fast strides, etc) and that may have helped as well. Most of the 3 was on dirt/ grass, but some was on sidewalk, pavement and rocks (take those slow 🙂 ). Chris said the sidewalk was perfect to run barefoot on since it’s flat, smooth and you can see debris. That surprised me!

    Injuries? Well, I am frequently injured…kinda…turns out my injury and the two setbacks were misdiagnosed and ended up needing hip surgery to repair the real issue. It wasn’t a result of my gait, either. I have a deformed femur ball as well as a calcium/ bone growth that pushed into the femur ball that caused my injury. Once I’m running again, I’ll be barefoot more often!


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