They can help them adopt a barefoot style of running that is less likely to lead to injury in years to come, said Dr Mick Wilkinson.
But he warned adults to think twice before casting aside their running shoes.
"It's a particular way of running associated with a particular style, and that style for most people needs to be learned," said Dr Wilkinson, a sports and exercise scientist at Northumbria University.
This weekend an estimated 54,000 people will take part in the Great North Run, and many will end up injured. Up to 90% of amateur runners pick up an injury every year, said Dr Wilkinson.
Most people who learn to run in trainers strike the ground with their heel first. The problem is that the heel is not a good shock absorber, according to Dr Wilkinson. Natural barefoot running involves impacting with the mid-foot which provides better protection, he says.
A shoeless running craze in America has been inspired by tribes such as the Taraumara of northern Mexico, who habitually run barefoot. The movement is now taking hold in the UK with increasing numbers of people running barefoot, or donning "minimalist" footwear.
Dr Wilkinson, himself a barefoot runner, says it is not so much discarding shoes but running style that matters. Speaking at the British Festival of Science at the University of Newcastle, he said: "It needs to be done very, very gently. Otherwise you're opening the door to other types of injury."