Anyone who’s read Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage)
will be convinced head to toe that barefoot running is a cure-all. MacDougal makes it sound as if you can just throw off your shoes and run ultras with no problem. That’s TOTAL BS!
You can’t run the same way barefoot as you did with shoes. You will screw up your feet if you do. You Must alter your stride, you must decrease impact, you must EASE into it. Barefoot running is NOT a treatment for foot, knee, and back problems. Barefoot running is a style of running that strengthens your feet, lower leg, and diminishes high impact on the joints and back. It’s also the key to instant enlightenment; anyone who runs bare will tell that each naked step awakens you to true experience of running.
Here are 5 Myths about Barefoot Running in Born to Run:
Myth: Barefooting will Cure Plantar Fasciitis
If you don’t ease yourself in to barefoot running on hard surfaces, running unshod can GIVE you Plantar Fascitis. If you’re running barefoot to treat plantar fasciitis, you’re in deep trouble. You’ll probably aggravate it ten fold, especially if you run the same distances and speeds you did when you ran in shoes.
Myth: Bare-footing will fix Weak Achilles Tendons
Running barefoot on concrete can aggravate your Achilles problems, especially if you’re calf muscles aren’t up to task yet. Never try to “run through” Achilles pain. You risk snapping the tendon. Because shoes baby your Achilles by slightly raising your heel, just walking around for long periods without shoes can irritate the tendon. Calf exercises and stretching will help your Achilles adjust, but definitely don’t try to run through Achilles pain barefoot.
Myth: Bare footing will Fix Knee Problems
Any type of high impact exercise can inflame knees. Running barefoot with a hard stride will hammer up your knees and back. You’ll feel it right away. Running with a bobbing, jackhammer stride is bad for your joints. However, it IS true the ever so mystical proper, softer barefoot stride can ease knee and other impact driven problems. Why? Because the stride is softer than the shoed stride. When you’re running properly, impact is much lower without shoes. Wearing a necklace while run barefoot can help you track your stride. It should NOT bob around too much. It’s gonna bounce a little, but it should NOT be smacking you in face, chin, or hitting your chest forcefully.
Myth Bare-footing will stop top of foot pain
As far as I know, barefooters and ballerinas are the only ones with top of foot pain. Why? Running, jumping, or dancing on rock hard surfaces flexes the foot in curious ways. Top of foot pain is common for beginners. The foot stretches in how to run like a ballerina will help alleviate and prevent top of foot pain. Don’t do the stretches if you experience pain.
Myth Bare-footing is for EVERYONE
People who have weird feet, eg. abnormally high arches, should ease themselves into it, VERY SLOWLY. My wife has worn orthotics most of her life. She read Born to Run and just started running in Vibrams. Now she’s battling plantar fasciitis, top of foot pain, and Achilles pain. She’s wearing shoes and inserts to help recover, but the barefoot bug has bitten her and she’s eager to go back to barefoot shoes. But this time she’s doing it right. She’s taking a few a minutes a day to WALK bare. Next week she’ll jog in place barefoot for a minute or two. If you want to run barefoot. Read my “How to Run Barefoot” Page.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid barefooter and I love barefoot running, but I know from first hand experience how hard it is on your feet, especially when you’ve been wearing your shoes most of your life. There’s nothing wrong with wearing shoes and even inserts to make the transition.
The Kenyan runners and Tarahumara Indians GREW UP barefoot. Their feet are already well adapted to running unshod. The rest of us will need to ease into running barefoot.