What is barefoot and minimalist running?

You probably have come across, heard or tried what is termed ‘barefoot or minimalist running’. This term is often used in the running community, but first of all what does it mean?

The term barefoot running implies running barefoot without any footwear. There is a group of runners that solely run barefoot in Singapore. It takes a period of time to transition to this lifestyle. These runners run various distances without any footwear. They have been seen in major races like the Standard Chartered Marathon 42K or even on trails.

As for minimalist running, it implies wearing footwear that offers the closest mechanism to running truly barefoot with minimal cushioning and protection from the ground. The general characteristics of minimalist footwear are minimal cushioning and support with a very flexible upper part of the shoe. These shoes tend to sit very low on the ground and have a thin midsole.

Benefits of barefoot/minimalist running

You may be familiar with the general perceptions of barefoot/minimalist running’s benefits:

First, it is thought to promote midfoot-fo​refoot strike, which is perceived to be the ‘correct’ or ‘more efficient’ way to run. There are also claims that traditional running shoes have chunky heels that promote heel striking. This has led to some postulating that heel striking creates braking forces impacting our legs and musculoskeletal system that can lead to injury overtime.

Second, as in ancient times, cushioning shoes were not invented and most humans then walked/ran barefoot, some have concluded that it is a ‘natural way to go’ as we are made to be without shoes like our ancestors.

Third, barefoot/minimalist running has been suggested to increase proprioception (sense of space and balance), as many nerve endings on the sole of the feet are stimulated, thus strengthening intrinsic foot muscle.

This brings us to questions like: Are all the claims true? Is barefoot/minimalist running for everyone? And might it have any negative effects on our body?

Ref: Q15