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Barefoot Running And Foot Pain

A Basic Overview of Barefoot Running and its Benefits

Learn more: watch the video or read the transcript below.

Transcript of Video:

This video showcases a minimalist running clinic conducted by Dr. Phelan at Wake Forest Chiropractic. Strengthening and reconditioning the feet is part of our protocol for treating plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis as well as foot, knee and ankle problems. To restore the integrity of the feet, we run on trails in as close to bare feet, as possible. The “shoe” that I have found to be as close to bare feet as possible is the Vibram fivefingers™. They are running shoes that are designed specifically for running while wearing as little material as possible, so that your feet are protected, and yet retain the natural flexibility they would have if you were not wearing any shoes at all.

Vibram Brand fivefingers™ Barefoot Running Shoes

People have been running barefoot or in thin soled shoes such as moccasins for a very long time.  With the introduction of modern running shoes in the 1970’s, change began.  Modern running shoes generally have extra padding at the heels and therefore change the way we walk and run.  When worn, the heel bears the most strike force, and that is then sent up the leg to the knees and hips. In minimalist running, the forefoot or mid-foot strike the ground first. Therefore, the foot and lower leg absorb the impact and turn this energy into a forward, springing motion.

Key Points for Minimalist Running

You can stub your toes, or have more serious injuries in “barefoot running shoes”. So be careful and stay focused on the 3' of trail in front of you.  If you need to look around, adjust something or speak to someone, stop to do it.  It is helpful to build up a few calluses on your feet and also to transition slowly to increase the strength of your foot and calf muscles. Take your time, walk if you have to and stop when you are tired.

Lean your weight forward. You’re going to run differently than you have been in your running shoes. What will happen is your strike will be from the forefoot back, instead of heel striking down and forward. It’s very different. Your engine is in your lower leg and thigh. There’s not a whole lot of drive muscle in the front of your lower leg, but it does exist in your calf and thigh. Conversely, on the hills, what you’ll be doing is landing forefoot first and your drive is going to be coming from the back of your leg in the gluteus muscle instead of using all of the quadriceps (thigh muscles) to push you up and forward.

Dr. Phelan's barefoot running clinic
Dr. Phelan's Barefoot Running Clinic

When you begin, bend your knees and keep them bent throughout the run.  This should help transfer your weight to the front of your feet and decrease the possibility of landing heel first.  Also, take shorter strides than you did in your running shoes – you may even find that this happens naturally.

Please keep in mind that there is an unwritten rule on trails: if you want to pass someone, always come up on their left and just let them know you’re coming by.

NOTE: In the video, you may see that many of the runners are not landing forefoot first. That is because this is a clinic for beginners. Landing heel first is a hard habit to break.

Read more about how minimalist running can help symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

If you would like further information about minimalist running, or if you’re interested in speaking with us, please go to our website,  If you would like to make an appointment, please get in contact with us by calling 919-562-0302. We would be happy to hear from you. Thank you.


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