If you were a shod runner for many years, and have recently switched to barefoot running, but now struggle with aches, pains or even injury, the blairing cause here is gait asymmetry .
Injured from Barefoot Running?
Barefoot running is a powerful solution to gain lower limb strength, better neuromuscular function and plantar sensory awareness, so it shouldn’t be criticized as an injurious form of running.
To understand your barefoot-related soreness or injury, you need to realize that your lower legs are weak from having worn running shoes.
- A direct result of having worn running shoes for many years is that it may result in gait asymmetry when running without shoes.
- Unnatural, textured materials (i.e running shoes) reduce plantar sensory feedback, causing you to adopt motor control mechanisms (i.e. heel strike running form) associated with that footwear.
Even so, the foot/ankle complex turns out to be weaker in shod runners as compared with barefoot runners that when shod runners run barefoot, they may show mechanical variability, including gait asymmetry –this is because new muscle groups are now being used that haven’t been strengthened to support barefoot running).
This gait asymmetry will not get worse with barefoot running, it will improve because of the accompanied increase in foot proprioception.
The Take Home Message
It is well-established that the feet need to be continuously flooded with sensory feedback from the natural ground for optimal perceptual-motor awareness and performance. As soon as you run without shoes, your feet are sensitive to the unfamiliarity of the natural ground, but this reaction is the suspension of gaining more neuromuscular control to correct for gait asymmetry.
We know full-well that barefoot running flushes out bad mechanics and the real danger is reverting back to your cushioned running shoes because the direct reaction of doing so is more injury.
If you want an alternative to barefoot running, be sure to check out my reviews on barefoot-like footwear.
To help reduce injury, you can also look at how to land on your forefoot when running barefoot to see if you are running barefooted properly.
More From Run Forefoot:
Hoerzer et al. Footwear decreases gait asymmetry during running. PLOS ONE, 2015, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138631
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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