While anyone can do barefoot running, not everybody can do so successfully without injuring their feet. Barefoot running is when the runner runs in minimalist shoes that are very low, with no forefoot, midfoot, or even shank. Compared to a typical heel-striking stride, the forward-releasing midfoot or forefoot striking that most minimalist running shoes promote places less stress on the Achilles tendons, which may cause injury to some runners. Since minimalist shoes are lower than typical running shoes, there is less cushion for the foot, and the shock of the impact is absorbed by the lower body instead of the upper body. This reduces the possibility of injury.
The main disadvantage of barefoot is that it lacks cushioning. Traditional running shoes provide cushioning because of the shock absorbing materials placed into them. Without these materials, the shock is transferred to the bones and ligaments in the feet, and this can cause bruising and damage to the tissues. Cushioning in traditional running shoes can be achieved through the addition of air to the shoe, which is usually done through the addition of air cells in the heel counter. While this may add some cushioning, it still does not compare to the cushioning of minimalist running shoes.
Another disadvantage of barefoot running is that it can cause injury if the runner does not run in the proper way. Because the feet are in contact with the ground, it is easier for the runner to roll an ankle or slip a foot. Because minimalist shoes have less cushioning, they may also cause injuries to the back and legs. In addition, barefoot running can increase the risk of injury to the toes and to the arch of the foot. For example, a high arch and a flat foot may cause a problem if one is not careful when wearing the barefoot.
One final disadvantage of minimalist running shoes is that they lack the durability and efficiency. This is true especially for athletes who need their running shoe to be very functional and very durable. A minimalist shoe that is too lightweight will not last long. It is also more likely to experience wear and tear because it is more susceptible to quick and sharp turns and pulls on the laces. A traditional running shoe is designed to withstand these types of pulls, but it is more difficult for the runner to prevent the inevitable.
These disadvantages of barefoot footwear are not the only factors to be considered when choosing a pair of minimalist running shoes. One other factor that can affect the running economy of a pair of shoes is the type of surface on which you plan to run. Barefoot footwear is not a suitable choice for running on concrete, asphalt, gravel, or sand, because the lack of cushioning and support can cause injury. You may be best off going with a traditional running shoe if you plan on running on hard surfaces.
The cushioning in a pair of minimalist footwear is also typically lacking compared to that of a traditional running shoe. As a result, minimalist runners may find that their forefoot experiences a greater shock to the point where it causes pain. A disadvantage of this is that the minimalist shoe is not as efficient at providing stability when you land. If you need to have forefoot cushioning for competitive running, or if you just do not like the feel of a traditional forefoot pronation pattern, then barefoot is probably not for you.
One thing that many people do not realize is that the feet need to be in a variety of postures throughout the duration of a running program. This is why minimalist running shoes are not the best choice for runners training for marathons. They are better suited to those who simply want to get in shape and enjoy a casual workout. When it comes to marathons, however, runners should always aim to keep their feet in at least one elevated position during each leg of the run. Barefoot is not recommended for these kinds of runs because the runner is more susceptible to injury and the risk of developing a ten-week chest or leg infection increases.
Because minimalist shoes are not cushioned at the front of the shoe and have no protection from the rear, they are best used for trail running or cross country running. For those serious about their sport, you should definitely invest in a good pair of barefoot shoes. But unless you plan to take up running seriously, there is no need to spend an exorbitant amount on a shoe that offers little in the way of protection. Save your pennies for a good shoe before you buy.