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> Barefoot running – what are the benefits?

Barefoot running – what are the benefits?

Publish date 22.05.2023

You can read it in 7 minut

Barefoot running – what are the benefits?

Rarely do you see a runner who is doing their training without shoes? After all, there is so much talk about the fact that if you want to run you must first buy comfortable and suitable shoes, but here the foot is in constant contact with the ground. Not many runners are convinced to run this way.

Does barefoot running have good benefits? What are they? Read this article and find out all the essentials. Who knows, maybe these advantages will convince you to put your shoes in the closet once in a while and go for a barefoot workout. Let’s get started!

What is natural running? 

Natural running has been known for thousands of years. A long time ago, our ancestors did not wear shoes. They walked and ran barefoot. Now natural running has been popularized around the world for more than a dozen years. The idea is to abandon shoes and socks and feel the ground with your bare feet. 

The idea of natural running came from Christopher McDougall’s book Born Runners. It tells the story of the Tarahumara Indian tribe, whose representatives run hundreds of kilometers precisely in the natural way – without shoes.

I’m guessing that you’ve certainly walked barefoot on the grass a few times in your life. Have you noticed how your steps change then? You start to take slower and more careful steps, and what’s more, when putting your foot on the ground you place the front of your foot first. This is also in a way a natural defensive reflex because subconsciously you don’t want to step on an unidentified object in the grass or on an insect.

“OK, so what is barefoot running all about? Surely it must be characterized by something.”

Yes, natural barefoot running involves, among other things: 

  • landing on the forefoot or midfoot, 
  • making shorter steps, 
  • running upright, without undue tension in the arms or hands.
Barefoot running technique
Proper natural technique gives you a better performance.

Natural running in shoes?

“What? You just now said that it is barefoot running. What shoes?”

Yes, yes I know! Natural running is running with bare feet. However, if you don’t like to draw attention to yourself, or just want to protect the bottom of your feet, you can purchase minimalist shoes or barefoot footwear. 

The most common thing about athletic shoes is cushioning – when running barefoot there is none. The same in minimalist shoes, which are only protection for the foot. They also do not have stabilization of the foot, so you can continue to run “naturally” even when wearing such a model of footwear. 

Barefoot running benefits 

  1. Improve your running technique 

Many readers (maybe you too) are probably wondering how running without shoes can improve technique. After all, so much is said about how the right footwear helps you run better and more efficiently.

Running shoes often have it stated in their descriptions that they cancel out the strain created in the joints through cushioning. This is the case when you run from the heel and a lot of the load after landing from the heel is transferred to the knees, hips, and spine. What’s more, landing on your heel makes you step on a straight leg, which also puts stress on your joints. 

Therefore, if you run naturally, the midfoot will be ideal to cushion the impact on the ground. What’s more, the foot itself cushions impacts and loads. Because you land on the midfoot, your landing leg is naturally flexed, so there is less load on the joints. 

Therefore, running barefoot improves your running technique because you are running from the midfoot. You can try “from the heel”, but you will notice that after a few minutes of training, you will feel discomfort, which is what everyone is trying to avoid. Run correctly and make each workout more economical.

  1. Better running performance

Running barefoot contributes to strengthening the muscles in the foot, which we neglect from an early age. All because of walking in shoes, because the foot has no way to work properly in them and the muscles do not work as hard. 

That’s why you should go for a short barefoot run at least once a week, which will “wake up” your foot muscles and allow you to strengthen them. Surely you have heard more than once how important strengthening exercises are. Running alone won’t do anything. In the case of the foot, the best way will be to run, but without shoes. 

Better performance running barefoot
Better performance will give you more confidence in your trainings.

When you run naturally, you will also stimulate your shin, which works hard during barefoot training. By exercising these muscles, you can count on better stabilization of the foot.

Remember how I mentioned earlier that when running barefoot you look carefully at where you put your steps? During such training, you also improve your concentration. By making your feet stronger, you can expect to perform better during your normal workouts and races.

  1. More comfortable without shoes 

I’m guessing that at the beginning of your running journey, your feet often hurt – you had abrasions, blisters, painful blisters, and a black toe. These were made because of shoes – for example, the wrong model or size – there are many reasons.

If your shoes continue to cause you these previously mentioned ailments, you should try barefoot running. You’ll be much more comfortable and won’t have to worry about further foot abrasions from inadequate footwear.

  1. Stimulate the receptors on your feet 

We don’t often walk without shoes, let alone run. Therefore, our feet cannot experience different stimuli. With barefoot running, you expose it to different elements, for example, stones, grass, soil, and twigs. 

The feet get a lot of new stimuli during this time, which reaches the brain. You learn what is on the ground and thus can avoid potential danger faster.  

Additionally walking or running barefoot is a great way to massage your feet. Walking on grass, a rocky or sandy beach. What’s more, if you go for a walk on the beach you will also gain a homemade foot scrub.

Receptors - benefits of running without shoes
Feel more!
  1.  ​​You will run faster 

At the very beginning, you may see that you are running slower, but this is normal because your body needs to get used to the change. After some time, your performance will start to improve. All because you are strengthening the muscles in your feet and improving your running technique.

Running barefoot in the snow

You’re probably wondering if barefoot running can be done all year round. As it turns out, it can! Even when there is winter and cold weather and snow. Some runners love such conditions and often choose to run in the cold and crisp snow. 

However, you must remember not to spend a long time outside. A short workout is enough. Long exposure of the feet to such conditions has negative effects on the joints. 

“And there are some positive effects of running in the snow?”

Of course, there are! During a short workout:

  • you increase your immunity, 
  • better coping during infections, 
  • improved blood circulation.

Barefoot running – disadvantages 

Many people are against barefoot running. For good reason, this style also has its disadvantages, which are worth mentioning. 

  • natural running is associated with learning a new running technique, so at first, you may overload your joints because you have not lurched to this style of running, 
  • you may step on something sharp and injure your foot, 
  • avoiding all the dangerous elements on the route can be tiring and can disrupt the rhythm and pace of your run, 
  • after running, you will have to immediately jump into the bath or shower to wash your feet thoroughly, 
  • sometimes it is difficult to find a suitably soft running surface – grass, sand, soft earth. Running on asphalt and hard surfaces is not advisable, especially at the beginning of your adventure, 
  • it takes a lot of time to master the proper technique of barefoot running, if you disregard this, it can lead to serious injuries, 
  • at the very beginning, you will feel pain in your calves, 
  • Achilles tendonitis may occur if the temperature is lower.

How to start running barefoot?

To learn how to run properly, you need several hours of decent training. However, the most important thing is that you should be aware of how to get started. Here are some important points you should follow: 

  • Don’t start with running right away – start with short walks that will get your body used to the new activity.
  • Start learning when it’s warm – it will be easier for you to adjust.
  • Start with a 10-15 minute barefoot walk. Get your feet used to it, don’t put them under tremendous stress right away when you still can’t run technically well. 
  • Run only on soft surfaces. You can choose harder terrains only after your feet get used to the activity and your muscles become stronger. 
  • While running, watch the ground to avoid stepping on a dangerous object or insect.

As you can see, barefoot running has a lot of positive effects. However, before you start, it’s also a good idea to look at the disadvantages and prepare for them while running. Start slowly, getting your body and especially your feet used to a different style of training. Once you learn your running technique and your muscles become stronger you will be able to run longer distances barefoot, not just about 15 minutes like at the beginning. After running, take care of your foot – wash it thoroughly and lubricate it with cream.

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