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Running: Is Barefoot Better?

It’s finally summertime, which means that as we spend more time outside, many of us will be leaving our shoes behind in order to enjoy the feel of grass, sand, or pavement beneath out feet. But when it comes to running, is barefoot really better? Since Christopher McDougall’s 2009 book Born to Run brought more attention to the practice, researchers, podiatrists and athletes have all begun to reevaluate conventional running habits. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of running barefoot:

Pros

  1. It’s tried and true—our human ancestors ran barefoot to hunt, escape predators, and improve the speed of communication between villages.
  2. In order to minimize impact on your heel, you tend to run on the balls of your feet while barefoot. Running in this position strengthens the muscles in your calves!
  3. Running barefoot causes you to shorten your strides to reduce contact time with the ground, meaning you will take more steps during the course of your workout. Fitbit users, rejoice!

Cons

  1. You’ll have to be a little more alert on your run—it might be painful to step on small rocks, pieces of wood, or other debris along your route.
  2. The American Diabetes Association cautions diabetics against running barefoot due to their reduced foot sensation and difficulty recovering from skin-penetrating foot injuries.
  3. Finding the correct technique for running barefoot takes time and practice, and doctors have reported higher rates of pulled muscles and stress fractures in runners who transitioned too quickly.

There are both benefits and risks to running barefoot. Whether you have suffered an injury from running barefoot, or you are simply considering this style of running, board-certified podiatrist Ryan L. D’Amico, DPM of Syracuse Podiatry is there to help! Dr. D’Amico treats foot and ankle disorders in patients of all ages in Onondaga County and the larger Central New York area. In addition to sports injuries, Dr. D’Amico has experience treating heel pain, diabetic foot problems, plantar fasciitis, and can even perform ankle surgery. Dr. D’Amico and his friendly staff truly enjoy doing what they do. Please contact us through our website or call our Fayetteville office at (315) 446-3668 to make an appointment!

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