Sore feet from forefoot running could mean your cushioned athletic footwear is diminishing your foot strength. According to studies by Robbins et al., cushioned athletic footwear have made our feet intolerant to impact and when impact exceeds a certain mechanical threshold during hard training sessions, the feet become sore or injured.
The solution is to go barefoot more often and to reduce the amount of cushioning in your shoes. Why? Barefoot running encompasses a broad array of strengthening abilities, including less plantar strain, better arch function and improved toe splay.
The Feet Are Unused in Cushioned Athletic Footwear
Earlier work found that recreational runners who ran in cushioned athletic footwear had higher levels of plantar fascia strain –an indication that the connective tissues as well as the medial longitudinal arch were having difficulty absorbing and deflecting impact from running.
Left unchecked, this impact intolerance of the feet can lead to lower extremity injuries, including plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles injury, and tibial stress fractures. Thankfully, the damage incurred by cushioned athletic footwear is reversible.
- Robbins and Hanna demonstrated that barefoot activity improved the downward deflection of the medial arch on loading.
- The researchers concluded that cushioned athletic footwear interferes with arch function because shoe design is based on the premise that the ‘delicate’ foot is an inflexible lever that needs constant protection inside a sealed chamber.
Talk to Other Barefoot Runners
A legion of anecdotal reports from runners who permanently ditched their cushioned athletic footwear to run barefoot or in pure minimalist footwear markedly show less symptoms of collapsed arches, foot pain, plantar fasciitis and they run better overall!
- Such findings suggest that certain subgroups of proprioreceptors thrive on sensory stimuli in order to maintain foot strength and can only be maximized under barefoot or pure minimalist shod conditions.
The burning question however, is going barefoot or pure minimalist safe for everyone? The answer is, of course, yes.
- Statistically, runners who use cushioned athletic footwear are more likely than barefoot runners to get injured.
- Shod runners are more likely to differ in their biomechanics and joint kinematics as compared with barefoot runners
- Cushioned athletic footwear are an emerging risk factor for knee osteoarthritis as well as more severe stress fractures of the foot, such as a stress fracture of the second metatarsal head.
- These injury trends do not improve through the use of footwear advertised as more advanced and contain state of the art technology.
Therefore, what most determines biomechanics and injury risk is foot conditions: shoes vs barefoot. Because most runners are susceptible to the adverse effects of cushioned athletic footwear, the findings do warrant more research on the proprioceptive side-effects of athletic footwear.
All in all, foot pain is deeply rooted in poor foot strength. Foot strength is deeply rooted in the level of activated proprioceptors. Your foot health is as good as its going to get in cushioned athletic footwear. Going barefoot defines the transition from weak to strong feet, and the longer you are barefoot, the greater the extensive changes in foot health that occur.
More From Run Forefoot:
Robbins, SE and Hanna, AM. Running related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 1987; 19(2):148-156.
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.