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Injuries

     One of the dangers of beginning barefoot running is doing too much too soon.  Your feet have likely spent most of their active life confined in shoes. Shoes weaken the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons of your feet. The skin on the soles of your feet will not be used to the sensory input of the ground.  In order to prevent injuries, it is important to begin barefoot running cautiously.   Barefoot running feels wonderful!  The urge to do too much before your feet are ready is very powerful.  As such, it is important to follow a conservative plan even if you feel great in the beginning.   

     Going too fast may result in a myriad of injuries, including tendon and ligament damage, excessive blisters, stress fractures, and other over-use type injuries.   If at any time you experience pain, STOP! Add a second day of rest, and then try again. Continue until you are pain-free.  Do not give in to the temptation to “run through the pain.” The soft-tissue injuries that can occur during the foot-strengthening process can set your progress back by weeks or even months. TOO MUCH TOO SOON injuries are the greatest obstacle to successfully transitioning to barefoot running!

     A fairly universal complaint is often referred to as the “top of the foot pain”; it feels like a dull ache on the top side of your foot.  This seems to be a function of your foot anatomy adapting to the different stresses of using new muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Give this process time and the rewards will be great!

     Blisters are a fairly common issue for the new barefoot runner. Generally, blisters result from some combination of heat, friction, and moisture. If all three are present, blisters tend to form quickly.  In the absence of one variable, blisters may still form if the other two conditions are fairly extreme. For the new barefoot runner, friction is usually the main culprit.  Moisture is a non-issue unless you are running in mud or rain. Heat can be an issue if running on a hot surface such as asphalt on a sunny day or some treadmills. If blisters do develop, they can be an indicator that your form is not quite as good as it could be. Where blisters develop can be very informative. If blisters develop on the heel, that is usually an indicator that you are heel striking or over-striding.  If they develop on your toes or the ball of your foot at the base of your toes, that can be an indicator that you are “pushing off” with each stride.

     Another potential area of concern is puncture wounds.  When running barefoot, you have little or no protection against glass, nails, thorns, or other such debris.  It is absolutely critical to develop your skill at analyzing the terrain immediately in front of you. This is necessary to avoid potential dangers.  With practice, this skill will become automatic.  However, until that occurs, ALWAYS watch your path.  If you encounter an area that contains hazards, it is best to avoid that area.

     One final area of concern is tripping or stubbing your toes on objects. My only two barefoot injuries came about because of this. I tripped on a root when running a 50-miler barefoot, and tripped on a speed bump while on a training run.  In both cases, my falls could have been prevented had I not been distracted. Again, it is critically important to watch your path to identify potential hazards. Also, it is vitally important to pick your feet up enough to avoid tripping over hazards.