I recently read an article describing a barefoot runner's stress fracture diagnosis. It's an interesting coincidence that the runner developed a stress fracture soon after wearing his barefoot running shoes. However, there's still no evidence the shoes were the cause. He could have increased his mileage too quickly, or suffered the same injury while in other shoes. It seems like everyone is interested in the barefoot running vs. sneakers debate, including those outside the running community.
Recently, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Vibram FiveFingers, alleging they've made false claims on the benefits of going barefoot. Personally, I haven't run in the shoes. I tried them on once at a store and didn't find them comfortable enough to run in. Someday I'd like to try them on a run, but I shy away from paying the same cost of a new pair of trainers for shoes I thought were uncomfortable.
Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman runs a lab devoted to studying the effects of running form on injury rates. He thinks form matters more than footwear or lack of — don't overstride, have good posture and land gently.
In a 2010 study examining different running gaits, Lieberman and colleagues found that striking the ground heel first sends a shock up through the body while barefoot runners tend to have a more springy step. Even so, more research is needed into whether barefoot running helps avoid injury.
“The long and the short of it is that we know very little about how to help all runners — barefoot and shod — prevent getting injured. Barefoot running is no panacea. Shoes aren't either,” said Lieberman, who runs barefoot except during the New England winters.
Chang, Alicia. “Barefoot runners limp into foot clinics.” Boulder Daily Camera. Associated Press, 22 May
2012. Web. 24 May 2012. http://www.dailycamera.com/nation-world-news/ci_20686073/barefoot-runners-limp-into-foot-clinics.
Although everyone wishes there were a simple answer on which is better: barefoot running shoes or sneakers, there just isn't enough research out on the subject yet. What's your opinion on barefoot running? Have these frightening headlines made you think twice before going barefoot?