An argument can be made that the human foot was never really designed to wear shoes. Some shoes do, however, offer much-needed support while others, high heels especially, negatively shift the alignment of your spine. Realistically, you can probably run barefoot without any serious injury to your back so long as you take some precautions if you do opt to go barefoot running.
A report published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise referenced a treadmill test where subjects were asked to run barefoot with their feet striking the treadmill from different angles. The lower back area was better able to absorb shock during forefront running. This type of running posture is where the balls of your feet make contact with the ground first followed by the heel.
According to Beverly Hills spine surgeons, most people are more comfortable with heel-strike running, where the heel hits the ground first. This type of running, especially if it’s done with bare feet, can place added pressure on the lower spine and increase the risk of injuring a disc or straining supporting muscles. Even with shoes, heel-strike running can be hard on your lower back.
Researchers who conducted the treatment test have suggested that barefoot running may actually prevent, or at least delay, degenerative changes to the spine. There is not enough data available to back these assertions or recommend running barefoot specifically to minimize wear and tear on spinal discs.
If you are going to run barefoot, take some precautions to ease stress on your spine and prevent possible foot injuries that could also alter your natural alignment. Stick to clean, smooth, paved surfaces. Aside from being more comfortable, the pavement also acts as a pumice stone and minimizes calluses. Adjusting leg stiffness can also help retain alignment.
Barefoot running isn’t for everyone. Should you have sensory loss in your feet or diabetes-related nerve damage, stick with comfortable running shoes instead. If you have existing lower back pain, check with your doctor first before running barefoot, even if you’ve done it before with no problems.
Some people forgo necessary procedures because they fear they’ll have to give up things they loved, like running. Find out if motion-preserving spine treatments are right for your specific case by reaching out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Call our office today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule and in-person consultation.