Barefoot running is running while barefoot, without wearing any shoes on the feet. Running in thin-soled, flexible shoes is related but differs in some ways. Minimalist-style running is comparable to barefoot running in that the shoe gear aims at protecting the bottoms of the foot only but mimics running barefoot. This is accomplished by having minimal to no heel drop in the shoe and no arch or structural support. Running in traditional shoes is quite different and contrasted with barefoot running by having shock absorption in a well-cushioned heel and often a built-in arch support.

Proponents for barefoot running would state that:

  • Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.
  • Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis because there is a difference in the heel of the shoe compared to the toes.
  • Running in shoes appears to increase chronic injuries of the lower limb, such as IT band tendonitis and hip and knee arthritis. It modifies the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures because the foot strike is in front of the body’s center of gravity, whereas with barefoot running “style,” the body position is more vertical or upright.

Common injuries associated with barefoot running:

  • Achilles strain or tendonitis, metatarsal fractures, metatarsalgia
  • Blisters, abrasions, friction injuries, foreign bodies