Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.
How does barefoot training affect a basketball player as opposed to a runner? Running barefoot helps improve running mechanics for those who have a heel-strike:
It allows the foot to flex and absorb shock, says Tony Post, president of Vibram USA, which makes FiveFingers. With thick heels, people lengthen their strides, landing heel-first and letting the shoe absorb the impact of each footfall. You can’t do that barefoot (try it sometime), so your body naturally falls into a shorter stride, landing first on the outside middle or ball of your foot. As you advance your foot rolls inward; the arch flattens and helps absorb the impact; it then springs back up as you lift your foot and push off the ground.
“In a sense the arch is acting like a leaf spring,” says Post.
Barefoot training – doing things like jumping rope, strength training, etc. without shoes – also may help improve balance and ankle stability, which potentially would decrease ankle sprains or help in the rehabilitation of an ankle sprain.