Over the last few weeks, I’ve come across a few blog posts and other such articles that are very critical of barefoot and/or minimalist shoe running. I’m not quite sure if this backlash is the result of threatened livelihoods (as is the case with some running shoe salespeople), an attempt to alleviate cognitive dissonance because they spend copious amounts of money on shoes, or maybe an internalization of the marketing propaganda released by shoe companies.
The anti-barefoot crowd can be separated into two distinct groups. The first acknowledges the benefits of barefoot and minimalist shoe running, but chooses not to do it themselves. This group tends to be supportive. The second group is openly hostile towards the barefoot/minimalist shoe movement. This group will ardently defend not only their own shoe wearing (which is perfectly okay), but will belittle anyone that chooses another option. They will claim that it simply isn’t possible to run on the majority of surfaces that constitute our running surfaces, even though there are many of us that have no problems running on concrete, asphalt, gravel, technical trails, or even snow. They will claim the “X” percentage (often very high) MUST wear shoes because of some biomechanical irregularity. Yet no research exists to support this idea.
In all fairness, there are barefoot runners that will toss out equally-unsubstantiated claims. A responsible barefoot runner will acknowledge that barefoot running does have some drawbacks. Extreme temperatures are a problem. Puncture wound susceptibility increases. Learning proper form takes time. Transitioning must be done slowly. Your wallet becomes heavier. Still, for many of us, barefoot or minimalist shoes have led us to a more enjoyable running experience.
Ultimately, we must all make decisions based on what will work best for us. It is our responsibility to test various conditions. That may include barefoot or minimalist shoe running. If it improves performance or enjoyment, keep doing it. If not, stop. If you run in shoes and have never been injured, don’t admonish other runners for choosing a different route. If you run barefoot, acknowledge that some runners don’t have problems with shoes.
And don’t forget to smile.