A recent article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compared the number of injuries between barefoot running versus ordinary running, wearing regular running shoes. It is not clear from the abstract if the barefoot runners were wearing minimal, thin-soled running shoes or had no shoes at all. The results, gathered over a year, showed that the 107 barefoot runners in the study had fewer injuries overall, but had the same rate of injury as the 94 shod runners.
Barefoot runners tended to suffer from more calf injuries but fewer incidences of plantar fasciitis, knee and hip injuries than shod runners. This is particularly good news in the case of plantar fasciitis. If you've ever suffered from it you will know that it is caused by chronic inflammation of the big, thick piece of connective tissue (fascia) that attaches to your heel on the bottom of your foot. Because very few of us can put their feet up and rest throughout the day it can be a hard one to fix and can persist in causing pain over a long period. Perhaps switching to barefoot running and avoiding it all together might be a better option!
If you are thinking of transitioning to barefoot running, the worst thing you can do is buy a pair of barefoot shoes and start pounding the pavement straightaway! You need to give your body time to readjust to how your sole lands and build up flexibility and strength in the lower legs. Start with smaller sessions of walking in them and slowly build up to your usual run times.
We'd also recommend you pop in and see us if anything is hurting during the transition. The new shoes will probably have a profound impact on your sense of proprioception. This is you sense of where you are in 3D space. Every time you lift your foot in walking or running your body knows how far off the ground your foot is. If it didn't you would misstep or fall over frequently. Soft soled shoes, like the ones with gel inserts, may change your sense of proprioception as your foot doesn't feel the ground in the same way.
UK barefoot running coach Lee Saxby. shares a few tips in this video. On a side note, I've been wearing barefoot casual shoes from Vivobarefoot for two years now and they are insanely comfy. We've got some discount vouchers for Simply Well patients, so just mention it to your practitioner if you want to check them out.