Joint Pain and Barefoot/Minimalist Running

By: Paul Kramer DC

I was running on the treadmill at the YMCA the other day, and I couldn’t help but be distracted by the “slam, slam, slam” noise of the guy running two machines down.

By contrast, I hardly made any noise at all.  I run in Vibram Five Finger Shoes which simulate barefoot running.  The guy down the way was running in shoes.  We were both running at the same pace, but he was just pounding away.

All that pounding has to go somewhere.  It goes into the joints of the feet, knees, hips and back.  The common thinking is that the cushions in the shoes absorb the shock.  And it does to a certain extent.  The problem is this:  Because the shoes provide cushioning, your foot can’t feel the ground.  So you end up having to pound at the ground in order for your foot to feel what is going on, and maintain your balance.  The feet may get less stress, but the rest of the body gets more.

In a barefoot situation, you run lighter.  Your feet feel what is going on and you don’t pound.  You land lightly and push the pavement (or treadmill in my case), behind you.  It is a very gentile movement and your muscles absorb what little shock there is.

The first thing I noticed when I started to run barefoot, is that my form totally changed.  I stood taller and I didn’t bounce.  The effect lasted after I ran.  My posture was taller and easier to maintain.

I now wear, flat, thin soled, flexible shoes everywhere I go.  I feel better and stand taller than I ever have.

If someone has told you to stop running because it is affecting your joints, you should know that they are well meaning, but unaware that there are solutions that can keep you out on the road.  I regularly treat people who have been told not to run again and within a few weeks, they are back on the road pain free.  It is a matter of knowing how to treat the injuries you have and getting the right footwear for your particular situation.  In general, flatter more flexible shoes work the best.

If you would like to set up a free no obligation evaluation, you can contact my office at 262-293-3790, the phone is answered 24/7.  We can discuss your situation and I can tell you what can be done to get you back on the road again.