Barefoot Footwear Advice
I recently received an enquiry from a lady called Rebecca asking about barefoot footwear as she had been having problems with trainers. I'd like to share our correspondence so that you can benefit too.
"I am interested in barefoot running and wondered if you can recommend any foot protection and where to buy it / sizing, how to start etc. I am struggling with trainers and getting bruised nails. I've been running about 4-5months and am doing 5-6km."
Thank you for your enquiry. I hope I can help.
Firstly it's great that you are taking an interest in barefoot running, there is something very primal about it which has a great feel good factor. Barefoot running however can be very intense on your physical structure and so it's not for everybody.
If you are experiencing bruised toes it is possible that the footwear you have is not the right size? Possibly too small or too narrow? Most good running shops will let you try before you buy so you should take advantage of this and try a few shapes and sizes.
I only recommend barefoot running to individuals that are bio-mechanically sound. You should be free from injuries, niggles and compensations. If you increase the intensity of force on a joint that isn't working well it will eventually start to complain and injury can set in.
Footwear choice is of course a personal preference but I tend to use three brands. Nike Free I use for my longer runs as they are flexible but offer a small amount of support. Vivobarefoot provide zero support and are very flexible with a puncture proof sole, I use these for shorter runs. Vibram fivefingers are a bit like gloves for your feet and offer a great barefoot feel, I use these for the gym.
Finally when starting out with barefoot shoes you should make a gradual transition to allow time for the structures in your feet and legs to strengthen. Start by wearing them a few hours per day and over several weeks gradually increase the duration until you can complete a normal working day in them without your feet aching. Once you have reached this stage, start to wear them for low impact exercise such as walking, resistance training and yoga etc. After a few weeks of low impact conditioning, introduce them to running for short distances and build up your weekly mileage in them by about 1-2 miles per week.
I hope this information is useful. If you're interested you can come and visit me at my Nottingham studio for a little posture and running assessment. I could then give you my opinion on the suitability of your running style. Let me know if that's something you'd like to organise.
"Thanks, I will think about trying it as I have Degenerative Disc disease in my lower spine although I get no trouble when running."
Considering your condition I'd suggest you have some support. A good half way house would be the Nike free brand. They have a flexible sole and come in 3 different sole thicknesses that you can progress through.
Try to hydrate before a run if you can, it will help shock absorption in the spine.
I wish you all the best Rebecca.