Barefoot Running

A group of men on barefoot running stride on the beach
We can help runners analyze both walking and running gait patterns by focusing on the proper footwear, orthotics and the various types of running shoes available. Supportive footwear, can cause weakness and fragile feet and ankles. This is why the transition to change your footwear.

The number of elite long-distance runners who have originated in Kenya is disproportionate when considering their population. Interestingly, many of these elite runners shun footwear, which has caused a lot of speculation about the impact of shoes on running form. Modern athletic footwear is of quite recent origin. The sneaker, with its padding and elevated heel has really only been around since the 1970s. The sneaker was designed in hopes of reducing running injuries. Unfortunately, the hoped-for reduction in running injuries has not materialized. In fact, running injuries are possibly even more common to injury. Meanwhile, some studies demonstrate that barefoot/minimalistically shod runners have a lower rate of injury than those choosing the fancy padded shoes.

Researchers and athletes speculate about why. Is it the design of the shoes, is it the fact that the shoes strongly encourage the use of heel-striking, is it the lack of proprioception caused by the shoes? Perhaps it is just faulty running technique causing the injuries. Barefoot runners and shod runners seem to use very different running techniques.

Most studies of barefoot running find that barefoot runners tend to the hard impact of the shod runner.

It is clear that just ripping off the shoes and going out for the usual run isn’t a good idea. People who are used to change habitual ways of moving.

One of the more recent studies by Dr. Dan Liberman from Harvard University concluded that barefoot running may reduce the chance of injury. Barefoot running allows for more proprioception, in other words allows the foot to try minimalist or bare foot running.

There maybe other benefits to barefoot running.

  1. Make sure your foot and body can handle barefoot running by seeing a running or sports medicine specialist. Although studies and his to barefoot running,” but others “may do horribly.” Not all human feet come in the same package. There is significant variability in human feet structure, some of which make barefoot running impossible.
  2. Transition to work on technique then adding a minimalist shoe is desired. Again just remember with both barefoot running and minimalist you will not be logging your current miles.
  3. It is recommended to adjust.
  4. Start with short distances such as 200m or less then walk for the same amount. This will help you build up the proper muscles in order to prevent injury. Do not increase mileage by more than 10% per week.
  5. Of course with barefoot running comes blisters. Be sure to avoid infections.
  6. Last but not least always check with a doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise routine.

Some of the possible benefits of running barefoot are that it could allow for the development of a more natural gait and strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments associated with a natural gait. Without the thick soles from a sneaker it may help stretch and strengthen the calf and achillies tendon.

Barefoot runners typically run forefoot or mid foot landing which is shown to a minimalist running style.

Barefoot running seems to be done before it is decided whether running with or without shoes is best for over all health.

Should You Invest In A Gait Analysis?

In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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