The debate and studies dedicated to barefoot or minimal running have been done to death in my opinion. That is on both sides of the fence, those trying to convince people that barefoot running will either fix injury concerns or cause others. Barefoot running is not a panacea to solve or injury concerns and when transitioned correctly will offer benefits.
Disclaimer: My opinion is based on personal experience and not on a medical qualification. I certainly don’t profess to be an expert in biomechanics.
The best thing that transitioning to a barefoot or minimal footwear has done for me is improve my foot strength. Better foot strength has given me better mobility and a strong base for every step that is taken when running.
Prior to my transition to minimal footwear I was a typical runner that wore the same footwear every time I needed shoes and was regularly injured. I was prescribed orthotics to heal injuries that I had on my feet and lower legs. I decided to transition to a lighter, more flexible shoe with a much less heel lift and throw away my orthotics after continuing to be injured.
My stubbornness insured that I transitioned far too quickly and suffered calf problems. When I overcome my stubbornness and transitioned correctly. And by correctly I mean slowly I began to see the benefits. The benefits of an improved running form, a forefoot landing and growing foot strength. My running is by no means the finished article and I still work regularly on my running technique, foot landing, eliminating over striding and the strength of my lower limbs.
Better foot strength has given me better running efficiency. I can run with an increased leg turnover and run faster for longer then previously. Normally when a runner injures their knees or their back they will go to physiotherapist or physician and are prescribed strength exercises to strengthen the area that are injured. Often when a runner injures their feet they are prescribed orthotics like I was that don’t allow the feet to heal but immobilise the foot and hinder it’s movement when running. The best thing I ever did for my running was throw away my orthotics.
If you had a bad back and were prescribed a back brace for the rest of your life most people would dispute this diagnosis and look for a better result for themselves. Many people, me included are prescribed orthotics that are to be used for the long term.
I don’t fit into the group that believe that running barefoot has or will eliminate running related injuries. I do believe though that running barefoot has improved my strength in my feet, ankles and calves and this has given me a better chance of staying injury free.
Running in a minimal shoe has given my feet more freedom of movement due to a larger toe box and foot strength has given me more power when trying to run faster. Minimal footwear has allowed my feet to move in their natural state and not be driven by the shoe per say.
Running is about consistency and staying injury free is a key reason why your running can improve and most likely your enjoyment and motivation to run.
Strengthen the feet and strengthen your running.