While running barefoot comes naturally to us, humans, we don’t usually practice it. For example, if a person is planning to start a running regime, he or she spends considerable time on picking the perfect running shoe. The gear is decided even before the running begins.
It is indeed true that shoes provide a lot of support and prevent us from injuries, but running barefoot also has its advantages. Let us take a look at how running barefoot can benefit us in the long run.
The main differences between running with shoes and running barefoot
When you are running wearing shoes, you strike the ground with your heels. In case of barefoot running, you land on the balls of your feet on your forefoot. This generates much less impact when your feet strike the ground. Landing on your heels can lead to injuries like stress fractures and Achilles tendinitis.
A recent study has found that you need much more oxygen when you are running wearing shoes. Running barefoot uses much less oxygen and is hence energy efficient.
Let us take a look at some benefits of running barefoot
- Running barefoot may strengthen your ligaments, tendons and muscles.
- It allows you to develop a more natural gait
- It helps with strengthening the Achilles tendon which in turn reduces injuries.
- It also helps with strengthening calf muscles which prevents you from straining your calf.
- When you land on your forefoot or on your mid-foot while running barefoot, it enables your arches to absorb all the shock.
- Running bare foot may also help you with improving posture and balance. Skipping the shoes might activate the smaller muscles in your legs, ankles and feet.
- Running barefoot helps you with achieving the correct form. This happens because your body develops a heightened sensitivity to impact.
- Barefoot running helps you with connecting to the ground and to respond accordingly.
Dr Nicolas Romanov is an internationally renowned running coach. He has developed the ‘Pose’ method of running, which uses the barefoot running method. He has been of the most vocal proponents of running barefoot for the last three decades.
Running shoes are only 50 years old while we humans are much, much older. The fact that we are constantly evolving means there might come a time when running barefoot will be the norm.
How to do it
If you are used to running with shoes, don’t start running barefoot all of a sudden. You have to ease yourself into it. A good idea is to start walking/running barefoot once or twice a week. Always remember to run barefoot on protected surfaces (such as a treadmill or a running track). Start with running very short distances of 800 meters or a bit more. Another good idea is to buy a pair of minimalist shoes and practice running wearing those. Some good options are “Nike Aptare Essential Mens’ shoe” and “Merell Pace glove 3”.
When you should avoid barefoot running
- If you have had sensory loss to your foot. This usually means numbness, tingling or pain in the feet. This is usually caused because of neurological conditions.
- If you have flat feet or deformed toes.
- If you are new to running please don’t start your journey with running barefoot. It needs good knowledge of technique to prevent injuries while running barefoot. It is important to master running before you start to run barefoot. Start running barefoot only after you have become an experienced runner.
- If you have an injury to the hip, ankle or the knees. Running barefoot with these types of injuries will only increase the pain.
- If you are at a new place, please don’t go running barefoot. This is because it is best done in an area which you are aware of. At a new place, you may encounter conditions which can cause injuries. First you need to acquaint yourself with the terrain properly.
- If you are running with others please wear shoes. You may need to stop sometimes to remove dirt or debris from under your foot. This will only inconvenience your fellow runners.