Running magazines would lead you to believe that barefoot running
reduces injury risk and potentially maximizes performance. However, it
appears that, as this is a new trend, there is simply insufficient
prospective data to say otherwise.
Rami Hashish, DPT has been doing quite a bit of research into barefoot running. Unlike Daniel Lieberman, who looked at experienced barefoot runners, Hashish has been researching novice barefoot runners.
The article links to a number of papers, not all of which I’ve read, but the conclusion seems to be that barefoot running requires a completely different form to shod running (heel strike vs. fore-or-mid-foot strike). This shifts the demand from the knee to the ankle. Novice barefoot runners will not have a sufficiently developed calf to support this. As a result, many new barefoot runners with injuries including plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and calf pain.
Hashish’s research supports a lot of the anecdotal evidence I’ve been reading and hearing from people who have tried minimal shoes, stuck with their regular training plan and found themselves injured.
My interest in barefoot and minimalist running is to improve my form and avoid injury. Other research I’ve been reading lead me to believe that barefoot and minimalist running will help me do that, so I’m willing to put in the time to cut back on the running and retrain.
His research is a good reminder to that retraining is going to take some time, and that I need to take it slow.