Navigate Up
Explore UPMC.com

Barefoot vs. Shod Running

Kelley Anderson, DO

 
There are pros and cons to running both barefoot and shod, shod meaning running with a shoe.  For barefoot running one of the pros is that you strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot and the ankle in addition to the natural arch of the foot.  Also barefoot running requires less energy.  A con though would be that you are exposed to the uncertain terrain and can damage soft tissues to the foot itself. On the other hand, if you run shod or with shoe you have the protection of the shoe from that terrain.  One of the cons however of shod running is that there are larger impact forces when your heel strikes the ground that’s distributed up into the knees, the hips and the low back that can cause overuse injuries. 

Barefoot Running Transition

Anybody can try barefoot running but it’s not for everyone.  First and foremost you need to take care of your previous injuries before making that transition.  Also if you are afraid to go completely barefoot you can always try the minimalist or finger shoes.  Also we’ve noticed that the younger athletes tolerate the transition a little bit easier from shod to barefoot, they tend to heal a little bit faster and make those changes easier.  

Slow and Steady

If you choose to make the transition from shod to barefoot running it must be slow and steady.  First start out by walking around barefoot for about 2 weeks, then start running in place and slowly transition into smooth flat surfaces. You can then increase your mileage and increase your speed again slow and steady, but no more than 10% in distance per week.  The important thing is to listen to your body. If you are in pain you are doing too much too fast. 

Commitment to Runners

UPMC is committed to the running community.  We host training sessions, have nutrition services and offer gait analysis and our physicians are experts in taking care of runners of all skill levels from the weekend warrior to the marathon runners with and without shoes.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com