Cause: Heel-striking. Dr. Ben Tan, Medical Director & Senior Consultant, at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre (SSMC) and Head and Senior Consultant, Changi Sports Medicine Centre, points out that it is not tenable for you to remain a heel-striker while wearing barefoot shoes.
Cause: “Your calf and hamstring muscles need to work harder than usual because the absence of thick, cushioning material in barefoot shoes makes you land more on the front of the foot,” says Malia Ho, Sports Podiatrist at the SSMC.
Solution: Ho recommends that you condition your calf muscles first: “Wear your regular running shoes to practise running – as described by Dr. Tan. This reduces the excessive use of the calf muscles and hamstrings. As your calf muscles become stronger, you can gradually go back to your barefoot shoes.” But if you persist in using your barefoot shoes despite having aching calves, you will have to consciously change your running gait so that you land on your midfoot. This may be more challenging as most of us have been conditioned to heel-strike after years of running in super-cushioned trainers.
Cause: Because of the added flexibility of barefoot shoes, your feet are not accustomed to the additional stress they are facing when you use barefoot shoes. The increased flexing of the feet, Dr. Tan explains, may result in pain around the area of the big toe. The arches of your feet may also ache because of the lack of support provided by the shoes in that area.
Solution: The best solution would be to give yourself more time to adapt to the shoes, says Dr. Tan. And he also highlights that, despite the barefoot shoe’s lack of weight, you may not be hitting your personal bests any time soon. Ironically, because of the lack of cushioning and support, your feet may actually tire out more quickly in them. Because of this, Dr. Tan, an avid marathoner with a 2 hour 56 minute marathon personal best, uses such shoes only for his shorter runs once a month – namely for feet training and for fine-tuning his running gait.