The 2009 bestseller "Born To Run" is widely credited as the source that inspired the barefoot running craze in America. Unfortunately, it may also have inspired a host of barefoot running injuries in Philadelphia.
The running craze took hold shortly after the book, which portrays the members of an Indian tribe in Mexico who are able to run long distances wearing only sandals, was published. Shoe companies have capitalized on the trend, offering flexible-soled shoes with mesh tops to help transition the athlete into barefooted running.
With as many as 70 percent of runners suffering some form of stress injury each year, runners are often eager to try alternate training methods. Running barefoot uses different muscles than normal running; runners usually have a longer stride and land on their heel, but barefoot runners typically have a short stride and land on the forefoot.
Although the book states that the tribes-people are able to run barefoot without pain, doctors say there has been a steady increase in the number of injuries sustained while running without shoes. Injuries vary, but they include Achilles tendinitis, pulled calf muscles and metatarsal stress fractures—all of which can put a runner out of commission for several weeks.
The runners themselves are divided on the benefits of barefoot running. Some avid runners believe their leg and foot pain has decreased, while others have only experienced problems. However, there is not enough medical evidence that proves barefoot runners suffer fewer injuries.
Most doctors agree that the key is to barefoot running is to take it slow. Start by walking barefoot around the house to build up calluses, run no more than a quarter mile every other day in the first week—and always stop if you feel pain in your bones or joints.