Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you’ll enjoy if you do.
1. Stronger Muscles
By running without shoes, your feet, legs, and entire core make some adjustments. Proper barefoot running technique may help strengthen your foot muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Consequently, you may develop a more natural gait.
2. Healthier Tendons
Since shoes provide some form of a heel lift, running barefoot can stretch out and strengthen your Achilles tendons and calf muscles by tossing the shoes. Such adjustments help you reduce potential injuries, including Achilles tendinitis calf strains.
3. Enhanced Heel Strike
If you practice consistent barefoot running techniques, you will begin to land on your forefoot and not your heel. As researchers have noted, barefoot runners tend to land on their forefoot or midfoot.
This is ideal.
Runners began landing on their heels when running shoes began offering padding and resistance. However, the most effective natural running stride is to land on your midfoot or forefoot, helping arches absorb shocks.
4. Improved Balance
Running barefoot may also boost balance and improve your proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body).
In general, going barefoot activates your smaller muscles in your ankles, feet, legs, and hips that help with balance and coordination.
5. Stay Grounded
Once you’ve improved this balance, your body will adjust to maintaining a more efficient stride and contact with the ground.
By spreading your toes and expanding your foot, you create a more solid foundation to support your body’s movements.
In fact, studies have shown that barefoot running means shorter contact time with ground, smaller stride lengths, and higher stride frequency. This means fewer chances to damage the intricate muscles in your foot.
So, Is Running Barefoot Worth It?
Ultimately, even though running barefoot may put initial strain on your bones and it may take months for your body to build up the muscle strength of your feet and ankle, don’t be discouraged.
Running barefoot offers an entirely new scope of muscle refinement that you lose with shoes, so it’s definitely worth exploring.
How to Begin Barefoot Running Technique Training?
As I just touched on, even though barefoot running can offer a lot of benefits, it’s also going to be a big change. You need to be careful about making this adjustment to your typical running practice or you may end up regretting your decision.
So, if you’re interested in starting or experimenting with barefoot running, consider these five tips for a safe transition.
- Maintain a Low Mileage
Don’t start with too much too fast. Considering that you have supported your feet with shoes your entire life, you cannot expect to run eight miles barefoot right out of the gate.
Even if you’re a seasoned runner, you want to start your new barefoot running journey slowly and methodically.
Consider walking barefoot in your home for a few days, or even take a light jog for ¼ mile. After a day or two, monitor any pain in your calves or feet. While some calf and arch soreness is to be expected, you may also experience pain on the top of your foot if you overdo it at the beginning.
- Begin Barefoot
Even if you have transitioned from a regular running shoe to a more minimalist shoe, do not mistake your experience with these minimalist shoes for running barefoot.
Despite minimalist shoes offering some sense of comfort, such comfort can be misleading, as you are more susceptible to overdoing your mileage or injuring yourself.
Your running will progress faster and more efficiently if you begin your journey completely barefoot because of the feedback your soles will provide. That said, I know minimalist shoes have become very popular in recent years, so I’ll cover them in more detail in the next section.
- Begin on a Hard Surface
Even though you may be inclined to start running barefoot on grass, I think you’re better off avoiding it. Because grass surfaces are often uneven, you could roll your ankle or, worse, step on a rock or other object that would sideline you for a while.
Instead, I recommend you run on concrete or hard-packed sand. Doing so offers a couple of benefits.
For one, hard surfaces help you visualize how you are landing. In sand, for instance, your footprints can show you how you are pushing off. To avoid blisters over long distances, you should maintain light and uniform footprints, being sure your toes are not digging into the sand.
Additionally, you can see if your heel print is deeper than the forefoot. If so, you risk heel striking, which can damage your joints and potentially lead to injury.
- Take Silent Runs
If you’re not running on sand, then consider the benefits of running on concrete or asphalt.
For one, you can more easily see the entire surface and avoid any potential threats that grass may be hiding.
Additionally, you can more attentively work on landing softly and quietly, taking note of that thudding sound you hear and feel throughout your body and especially in your joints.
If silent strolls seem too mundane, you can try to make a game out of your journey by running so quietly that even fellow runners or local wildlife do not notice you.
- Avoid Glares
While running barefoot will certainly set you apart from other runners you pass, don’t assume that people are staring and judging you behind your back.
Sure, some people may give you weird looks, but the majority of people won’t notice. Most of those who do will be positive and may even want to know more about your barefoot running.