Do you remember when you were a kid and how you used to love running around outside during the summer in your bare feet? Well, barefoot running has been increasing in popularity over the past five years.
Advocates for barefoot running remind us that people have been running barefoot for thousands of years. They say it wasn’t until the running boom in the 1970s that we began wearing shoes with cushioned soles and stabilizing features. They claim barefoot running leads to better foot biomechanics and lessens the risk of injury.
However, most podiatrists and other experts don’t recommend going barefoot. They argue that proper shoes actually correct biomechanical problems that people may experience and help reduce injury risk and foot pain.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been enough well-designed studies done to compare which is better – running barefoot or running in supportive shoes.
So what should you know before you kick off your shoes and start running barefoot?
Potential Benefits of Barefoot Running
- You’ll learn how to run landing with a springy step on your forefoot or the middle of your foot – instead of your heel – allowing your arches to absorb the shock of each step.
- You may develop a more natural gait.
- You’ll stimulate and strengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet, ankles, and lower legs, helping to enhance agility and performance while reducing injuries.
- You’ll stretch and lengthen your Achilles tendon and calf muscle, potentially reducing the risk of Achilles tendinitis or calf pulls.
- You may have better balance and coordination.
- You may feel more supported and grounded with each step.
Potential Harms of Barefoot Running
- You may experience more shock to the muscles of your feet, ankles, and lower legs, especially when beginning a barefoot running routine since your muscles will initially feel overworked. This could actually lead to injuries like Achilles tendinitis.
- You’ll experience blisters and/or cuts to your feet due to rocks, glass, metal, or thorns until your feet develop calluses.
- You may have foot pain or develop plantar fasciitis since your feet are not used to running barefoot. An unsupported foot that is used more than usual will put stress on the plantar fascia and cause inflammation. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot, and like a muscle or tendon, it needs to be exercised or toned in order to avoid the pain and inflammation from plantar fasciitis.
Tips When Beginning a Barefoot Running Routine
- Consult your doctor if you have any chronic diseases, like diabetes, before commencing a barefoot running regime since it may not be advisable.
- Stretch before and after each run, focusing on your feet and calves.
- Start slowly by running short distances like a quarter to a half a mile, then gradually increase your miles in order to minimize the shock to your system.
- Keep your posture in an upright relaxed position with knees bent.
- Take short, light, quick steps, landing on the ball of your foot and gently touching your heel to the running surface.
- Running on grass is a great way to begin a barefoot running program. Football or soccer fields are ideal locations.
- Slowly add harder surfaces, being careful of debris.
- Pay attention to your feet since they will tell you how much you can run and what feels best when running.
- If you feel pain during your run, stop immediately.
- Consider wearing minimalist footwear that simulates barefoot running, but also provides protection for your feet, like the Vibram FiveFingers®. These shoes fit your feet like a glove. They’re flexible and feature a rubberized coating for the sole.
- If your feet aren’t biomechanically aligned (which should be evaluated by a certified professional), then you may want to consider using a custom orthotic device, such as the ezWalker® Performance Insole, with your minimalist shoes. Footwear, like the Vibram FiveFingers®, is designed to be more biomechanically efficient from an energy and force distribution standpoint. When you add an ezWalker® Performance Insole in the shoe, it helps to promote healthy function of the feet. The ezWalker® Performance Insole is ultra thin and only ¾ in length (other orthotic devices are too bulky). It is designed via a custom-impression process so it will biomechancially enhance each step. You’ll notice your body will be better aligned, with greater stability and balance. And, more importantly, you’ll experience pain relief as you run.
So if you’re ready to initiate a barefoot running regime and want to learn how an ezWalker® Performance Insole can enhance your performance, visit our website for more information. Order your ezWalker® Performance Insoles today and begin pushing your running abilities to the limits.
Because ezWalker® Performance Insoles make your shoes feel like they’re running for you.