Do you have sore feet from running? Wearing cushioned running shoes with arch support causes unnatural interference to your foot’s regular function. Turns out, the ineffectiveness of thick, cushioned running shoes in preventing injury may stem from negative changes they evoke on foot structure and function.
You can nix foot pain issues by not wearing cushioned running shoes! Especially kids as wearing overly protective athletic footwear at an early age, or at any age for that matter, significantly weakens the feet and ankles.
Research has shown that when the feet don’t work for themselves and are under-stimulated, this is a key reason for foot muscle atrophy, leading to chronic discomfort.
- “With increasingly supportive footwear, we have conditioned our feet to be lazy, reveals Dr. Irene Davis, professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard University, and this fact has been proven and cannot be argued.
Why You Have Sore Feet From Running
Thick cushioned running shoes literally do all the work for our feet, and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
It is well documented that wearing thick cushioned running shoes at an early age and on weakens the feet as most running shoes have stability elements and padding that inhibit the natural movement and functions of the feet.
- According to Robbins and Henna (1987), the feet are treated as a delicate and rigid object placed in a high impact environment, however the basic assumption used in running shoe design are incorrect.
Most running shoes today do nothing but weaken the foot muscles to the point where the feet are unable to deflect loading and absorb impact in the way they are designed to. And, running related injury rates are extremely high in habitual shod populations and are extremely low in habitual barefoot populations.
Sadly, our natural foot strength is grossly underestimated. Our feet are stronger than we think. Early humans ran barefoot to hunt and thus survive. If they couldn’t run, they didn’t eat.
Kenya and Ethiopia produce the top runners in the world and most of these runners spent their earlier years running barefoot.
Running barefoot during the physical stages of development in childhood and adolescence, allows for exceptionally strong legs and feet and efficient biomechanics.
- past studies showed walking and running barefoot, especially on uneven surfaces significantly improved foot strength
- continuous wear of narrow-pointed footwear causes bunions and weak metatarsal heads, increasing the risk of a stress fracture
More Reasons to go Barefoot
Worried it’s too late to get stronger feet? Don’t be! It is never too late to reverse the damages caused by thick cushioned running shoes.
Going barefoot essentially makes your feet ageless. Walking barefoot around your house, or in the backyard as often as you can, improves arch strength and also strengthens the metatarsal heads which in turn, shields the lower leg from injury during running.
Walking and running barefoot on harder surfaces also improves knee-joint health and function.
- a 2006 study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that knee stiffness increased in runners who wore thick cushioned running shoes or who ran on a soft surface compared to runners who ran barefoot or in minimalist footwear on harder surfaces. The problem with high knee stiffness is that it increases loads on the joints.
In the human foot, the sensory receptor’s method of processing surface hardness differs considerably when barefoot verses in shoes.
- barefoot walking and running improves coordinated efforts of the central nervous system, such as autonomic adjustments in knee stiffness, to maximize safer landings.
On that note, growing up barefoot gives East African runners an advantage over habitually shod runners because the feet of East African runners are stronger and better able to absorb impact and control excessive pronation when running.
Also, most East African runners are forefoot strikers because they grew up running barefoot for many years.
Minimalist Shoes Increase Foot Strength Too
Aside from walking or running barefoot, researchers discovered that minimalist shoes strengthens the foot-ankle complex within a short time.
Overall, a strong foot is more flexible, better able to control excessive pronation and lowering of the arch, and more importantly, resistant to injury.
More to Explore at Run Forefoot:
- Benefits of Minimalist Running Shoes
- Toe Spring and Running Injuries
- How to Swing Your Arms When You Run
- Best Shoes for Forefoot Runners
Run Forefoot, Because You’re Faster than you Think!
Bishop et al. Athletic footwear , legs stiffness, and knee kinematics. J Athl Train, 2006; 41(4):387-392.
Robbins SE and Hanna, AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1987; 19(2):148-156.
Willems et al. Gait-related risk factors for exercise-related lower-leg pain during shod running. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2007; 39(2):330-9.
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.