LAURA N. SCIARONI MD

Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery
Member of the San Francisco Multispecialty Medical Group,
Part of the IPM Medical Group family
Board Certified, Fellowship Trained in Sports Medicine

Barefoot Running

Some years after the surge in popularity of barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes, there is enough data for an orthopaedic review article.  The verdict?  A decrease in anterior knee pain (runner’s knee) and a decrease in chronic exertional compartment syndrome.  But, an increase in risk of repetitive stress injuries to the foot and ankle.

Some years ago I saw a rash of stress fractures and posterior tibial tendonitis, around the time barefoot running was gaining in popularity.  Over time that has tapered off, and I’m now seeing the usual mix of anterior knee pain and shin splints along with tendonitis and stress fractures.  The change in injury trends probably relates to adoption of a popular new technique, followed by adaptations, including the use of mimimalist shoe wear rather than running unshodden.  These days I see a lot more runners in “typical” running shoes than the minimalist version, but I do see both.

It’s interesting and frustrating that despite all the effort that has gone into the study of running gait and running injuries over the past 40 years, the incidence of running injuries hasn’t changed.

I’m hoping this article may be of interest to my running patients.  There are many great health benefits to running, but those benefits don’t come without risk.  Any runner who makes a decision to change foot strike should consider those risks particularly in light of any previous history of running injuries, and consider the supervision of a good physical therapist or running coach.