How Safe Is Running Barefoot for Flat Feet?

Sharp rocks can wreak havoc for flat feet when running barefoot.
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Flat feet don't have to take you out of the barefoot running game. Sure, the experts at "Runner's World" say running shoes with proper stability and support are best for your special tootsies, but some foot doctors now recommend running in your bare feet. Don't neglect safety, though -- understand the way your body works and choose your running route with care, or you'll be down for the count.

Running Site Safety

Your pedicure won't thank you for running barefoot -- your soles will toughen with each mile you run. All the callouses in the world won't protect you from sharp rocks, glass shards and other detritus on the trail. This is particularly important for flat-footed girls; the surface of your foot is wider, so it slaps down on more of the surface on which you run. Choose a running course that's easy on the feet. Macadam, concrete and grass courses are your best bet.

Foot Strengthening For Safety

The running shoes you pick up for your flat feet may fix the overpronation common to this type of foot. Michael Sandler, in his book "Running Barefoot," suggests that foot strengthening -- not special running shoes -- may correct that overpronation. There's still a lot of disagreement on this point. East Carolina University researchers found that running barefoot does not strengthen your feet after studying four recreational runners. Runner's World experts, however, point to the study's small sample size and think more research is needed on the subject.

Increased Wear on Body

Your running shoes have cushioning to keep your flat feet healthy, so running in your bare feet may not be smart. Researchers checked out the legs of 18 recreational runners in a study in the April 2013 issue of "Human Movement Science" and found running barefoot is harder on the legs than running in shoes. If you want to run barefoot and have flat feet, you can still do it -- but start slowly. The American Council on Exercise believes incorporating barefoot running gradually into your routine lowers your risk of injury.

Foot Strike Benefits

Overpronators, especially those with flat feet, often land heel-first when running. If that sounds like you, running barefoot might help you correct your footstrike position. A study in the January 2010 "Nature" reveals that researchers looked at footstrike in barefoot runners. They discovered running without the typical running shoe prompts you to land on the front of your foot. Less pressure on your heels means less damage to your knees, and less time off from running as you deal with annoying injuries.

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