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The Pros and Cons of Barefoot Running Shoes

January is the prime time for fitness fads as people resolve to get in better shape and lose weight for the year ahead.  The latest fad for runners?  Barefoot running, a fitness style that lets your body adapt to your natural gait instead of conforming to your running shoes.

Barefoot running shoes have been gaining popularity in recent months, as they are designed to re-create a the natural sensation of running “barefoot” on man-made surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

The Pros:

Robert A. Kornfeld, Founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine, wrote for the Huffington Post that barefoot running shoe manufacturers believe that “the human foot, unimpeded by synthetic surfaces and restrictive running shoes, should function at its best.”

While people have been wearing cushioned sneakers to exercise for years, it’s no secret that the human foot was created long before shoes as we know them. Uneven, grassy surfaces can help the human body navigate and respond to uneven terrain, absorb shock and propel the body forward.

The Cons:

“Choosing to run on non-yielding surfaces without the protection afforded by proper running shoes can be harmful to the foot and ankle and cause even more problems downstream from compensation patterns,” Dr. Kornfeld wrote at the Huffington Post.

While barefoot running shoes certainly have some benefits, they also offer potential injury risks to foot muscles and tendons, the most common being damage to a part of your foot known as the first metatarsal.  Because they can cause issues including tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, knee, hip and back problems, very few people should use barefoot running shoes.

Who Should Wear Barefoot Running Shoes?

Serious runners with stable foot structure and powerful lower-leg muscles can consider wearing barefoot running shoes. Before beginning barefoot running or purchasing special shoes, talk to your podiatrist who can advise you how to use them properly to avoid long-term injury.

January 6th, 2011

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(Page 1 of 1, 4 total comments)

Old guy

The technology needs to derive from and proceed from the racing spikes and distance shoes that have been used for years. At what speed and distance should you transition from running on the front of your foot to running heel to toe? Vibram is showing leadership and taking risk by going against the tide. If I got five fingers I wouldn't do a 10 miler first time out. You have to go back to crawl-walk-run, because it's a new thing. The market will follow the numbers.

posted Jul 7th, 2014 1:14 am

the beastly runner

Us shoed runners just don??t have the time to fool around a lot and argue with the rebel barefooters. We??re too busy out winning races and building legacies and breaking records. Nobody has yet proven that they can break a real record in minimalist shoes. The stupid pieces of rubber that these runners call shoes seem to be injuring more runners than it helps. All of the doctors that the rebel runners say support them may be only doing it because of the increased risk of injury in barefooters due to their lack of support. Bare foot running is good on soft grassy flat surfaces it can help sooth hot and sore feet but should not be over indulged in. Here??s the big picture for all of you wanna be rebels and know-it-alls.
Everyday Running+shoes=:|feet
Everyday Running+shoes+support=?feet
Everyday Running+piece of rubber=?feet

Running barefoot is a thick treat. Don??t throw up! (and only do it on grass)

posted Mar 9th, 2011 10:51 pm

D Patterson

One thing that many people seem to miss is that although there is a huge atrophying effect of many shoe features. Namely the bracing, supporting and motion control technologies lead to a weakening of the foot. No modern field of medicine recommends bracing as a long term solution. So moving in the direction of the minimal footwear definitely aids to the development of muscles through an over taxing of their supportive role. A little tension, strain and stress will help challenge and strengthen the properties of soft tissue. Anyhow back on track ?? there is considerable evidence that anything placed between the sole of the foot and the support surface will act as a sensory insulator, so as minimal as the shoes are there is still a need for stimulation directly to the plantar surface of the foot. I would encourage anyone using any pair of minimal shoes to look for some biofeedback or proprioception based insoles to compliment the shoes. The minimal concept + a biofeedback concept (look for something like Barefoot Science) will make the transition to be barefoot quicker, safer and more successful.

posted Jan 14th, 2011 9:25 pm


This article does a disservice to all those considering barefoot running. Studies show running barefoot on a hard surface is gentler on the foot than running with cushioned shoes. Also injuries occur when people don't take a gradual approach to any sport, including barefoot running (or running w/shoes for that matter). One does not start out running 6 miles. One starts out running 5 minutes with the new form (barefoot in this case) and gently increases it over weeks. I don't have the ankle, shin, knee, and back pain anymore since switching to barefoot running (both with vibrams and w/out shoes). Many people report the same benefit.

posted Jan 11th, 2011 4:37 pm


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