We've written about the benefits of running barefoot or with minimal footwear before, but make sure you start off easy. A recent study on the possible injuries caused by barefoot running serves as a reminder as to why it's important to ease into changes in your fitness routines.
Picture: IvÃ¡n F. Irigoyen/Flickr
Conducted by Sarah Ridge, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, the study followed 36 experienced runners who ran between 25km and 50km a week wearing regular running shoes.
Half of the group members were randomly assigned to continue running as they had: same mileage, same shoes.
The other runners were given a pair of Vibram Five Fingers barefoot-style shoes and asked to begin incorporating some barefoot-like mileage into their runs, but gradually. They were told to wear the minimalist shoes for one mile during the first week of the study, two miles the second, three the third, and then as much as they liked, which is what the Vibram Web site recommended at the time of the 2011 study.
Almost all of the runners in the minimalist shoe group were spontaneously running fewer miles at the end of the 10 weeks than they had been at the start, "probably," Dr. Ridge said, "because their feet hurt."
According to the study, half of the runners had developed varying degrees of bone marrow edema, an accumulation of fluid in the bones comparable to bruising.
The findings don't suggest that you shouldn't try barefoot running, only that it may not be for everyone — ease into it and see if it's for you. Vibram suggests running no more than 10 per cent of your typical running distance at first. And, as always, if you're ever in pain while running, stop and try again another day.
Barefoot Running Can Cause Injuries, Too [NYTimes Well Blog]