Should I wear barefoot running shoes?


Barefoot shoe technology continues to be popular with some runners and our Centre is often asked about such shoes.  There is no doubt that these kinds of shoe are not suitable for everyone but some runners function well in this kind of footwear.  Here are 3 key criteria which will help to determine whether you are a potential candidate for barefoot shoes.


  1. Good ankle mobility with flexible calf muscles.

    Most barefoot running shoes have a zero heel to toe angle and this makes such shoes much less suited to patients who don’t have good ankle flexibility.  To test your suitability, stand on a board which has a 15-degree angle. (A4 sized board with one ended lifted by about 30mm to create slant) If you feel uncomfortable tension in your calf muscles or if you cannot stand straight, barefoot shoes are not for you until your flexibility improves!


  2. Run on softer varied terrain ground not concrete!

Barefoot shoes are designed for natural running on natural ground.  If you run on concrete or very constant repetitive terrain, you are more likely to get injured in barefoot shoes as this is hardly a natural normal surface!  


  1. You should have a neutral to slightly pronated foot type with an absence of deformity such as bunions and claw toes.


    Patients who have a stiffer, higher arched foot type (supinated) or flat pronated foot type are often more prone to injury and this is often reflected by toe deformities such as bunions. These kind of foot types generally require a more protective type of shoe.


So what type of barefoot shoe should I consider?

The problem with a number of barefoot shoes is that they are made up of a sole material that can easily compress and distort unlike the foots natural tissues.  The ideal barefoot shoe should consist of a resilient outer sole material that doesn’t change shape with a good fastening system.  An example of a good type of barefoot shoe is the Vibram barefoot and the Vivobarefoot. If you want to try a shoe with a zero angle but a bit more protection, try the Altra shoe and this is particularly good for wide feet!





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