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Can I run barefoot on asphalt concrete to the nearest park (1km) without damaging my feet? I'd do this every other day.

I've been running 2-5km three times a week for a year running barefeet, except for a few months in winter where I used shoes and only ran once a week.

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Possible duplicate: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/293/… –  Martin Bøgelund Apr 4 '11 at 13:03
    
I don't think this is a duplicate of fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/293/…;, since it's much more specific. –  Matthew Read Apr 4 '11 at 13:52
    
Depends what your pavements are like. You could maybe run on the road, where the surface is flatter and probably less littered. –  rmx Apr 4 '11 at 14:00
    
Could you add some more information to your question @Tim? Like how much experience you have with barefoot running and how much experience with running you have. –  Ivo Flipse Apr 4 '11 at 15:21
    
@Ivo: I've added more information now. –  user26 Apr 5 '11 at 9:38
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5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Yes.

Obviously any environmental hazards like glass and debris could cause a problem but I'm assuming you are asking about the impact on your foot and leg and lack of cushioning.

Many barefoot runners run on concrete and asphalt, including during road races. All of the benefits of barefoot running hold true on hard surfaces. This articles points out that barefoot running (as opposed to wearing shoes) in fact reduces the risk of injury when running on hard surfaces.

Edit: The "Yes" answer is dependent on using proper running technique. I thought this went without saying because the same goes for shoe'd running. When you have poor form you are more likely to get injured. "What is proper technique?" is a whole new question of it's own but generally speaking barefoot running with fore-foot strikes are going to transmit less impact into the joints and lower leg than heel-strike running with shoes on. Another important note is that if you are a new barefoot runner, you need to ease into it, just like you would any other new activity.

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This is SO wrong! –  Øyvind Apr 5 '11 at 9:12
    
@Øyvind: I'm hesitant to accept this answer because of your comment; would you care to elaborate and show some source? –  user26 Apr 5 '11 at 10:21
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@Tim: I obviously disagree with Øyvind but I recommend you do some reading up on barefoot running to learn about the advantages & disadvantages. The caveat to my answer is "as long as you do it properly". That same caveat goes for shoe'd running. If you have major flaws in your technique you are going to open yourself to injury. That being said like anything, we don't have all the answers. While I have not seen any evidence to suggest that barefoot running is dangerous it's relatively new (as a popular movement) and as more people do it more evidence one way or another will emerge. –  matt Apr 5 '11 at 12:55
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@matt - for completeness I would suggest editing your answer to add your caveat as this seems to be the main sticking point being brought up in the other negative answers. –  Andy Rose Apr 5 '11 at 13:11
    
I agree with Matt about having the ball of your foot land first, if that is what he was saying. All dancers dance on the ball of their feet. Animals also run on the ball of their feet. Anyway, my 2 cents. –  Salsero69 Apr 19 '11 at 2:04
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The website "Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear" (yes, it's a long title) has links to research on how people ran before the modern running shoe and barefoot running. This is from their FAQ:

What about surface hardness? Our ancestors didn’t run on pavement.

A common perception is that running on hard surfaces causes injuries, but runners typically adjust leg stiffness so they experience the similar impact forces on soft and hard surfaces. Further, forefoot and some midfoot strikers hit the ground in a way that generates almost no collision forces even on hard surfaces like steel. You can run barefoot and heel strike on a soft beach or lawn, but most natural surfaces are much harder and rougher. With proper forefoot or midfoot strike form, running on hard, rough surfaces can be comfortable and safe.

Besides this answer, I recommend their site- they have lots of diagrams and videos as well. A great resource for people considering taking up barefoot running.

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The thing about barefoot running on asphalt is that it provides no damping whatsoever, so your knees will be brutalized a bit more. To my best recollection they advise to run on a 'softer' underground when you go barefoot. Apart from that, asphalt will get really hot, really fast, to the point where you might as well be walking on coals ;)

So, yes, you could go running barefoot on asphalt, but I'd say: walk to the park and start running on the grass.

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I don't think your first statement is true. A heelstrike runner (depending on arch height) wearing shoes is going to transfer more impact from the ground up their legs than a barefoot runner that's utilizing proper forefoot strike and planterflexion. –  matt Apr 4 '11 at 14:54
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Running on grass is generally more dangerous for a barefoot runner than pavement or asphalt due to change in terrain such as hills and dips. Also, like matt says, the foot and calf act as a spring when you don't have a shoe on, so there is a degree of natural shock absorption. I fixed my knee problems by switching away from running shoes. –  Jordan Apr 19 '11 at 9:25
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Yes you can. My girlfriend has run 2 half marathons, 1 full marathon and a sprint distance triathon all "barefoot".

She actually wears the Vibram Five Finger barefoot "shoes" which are nice because it's basically running barefoot but gives you protection from the dangers of sticks, stones, glass, etc on the pavement.

She just ran her first marathon this weekend and has been training for months running multiple 10+ mile runs in the Vibrams every week.

She has had no injuries and completed in a very respectable 4 hours!

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I would bet "no," simply by using common sense. Yes, it is healthy to go barefoot, but to run – or walk, even– on concrete?

It may not show signs of harm right away, but I would bet that it would show up at the end. Our bones, ligaments and tendons are not built for running on a hard surface. Common sense.

The only time I wear more cushioned, supportive shoes is when I am out on the road. The rest of the time I am barefoot or wearing beach shoes, though.

And I think the reason why so many runners get injured isn't due to the traditional shoes but just not paying attention to their running style and their diet.

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Why do you assume that we are not built to run on hard surfaces? I can think of a lot of hard surfaces that occur naturally. –  Baarn Apr 26 '13 at 18:29
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