Trends & Features

A comprehensive guide to barefoot running

Since the publication of the Born to Run book by Christopher McDougall, there has been an increase in the popularity and uptake of barefoot running. The premise of this was that humans didn’t evolve to run with padded shoes beneath the sholes; instead, we ran barefoot, which promotes a totally different form of running.

Making the shift to barefoot running can be difficult and should occur gradually. Here’s our guide for how you can start to run barefoot and what benefits barefoot-style running can have for you.

What is barefoot running?
Whilst some may choose to remove their shoes altogether, it’s much safer and beneficial to wear barefoot shoes. These minimalist shoes are specially designed to replicate the experience of how humans naturally run, whilst protecting our feet. Barefoot shoes typically have a no heel-to-toe drop, lower stack height, wide toe box and less padding.

What are the benefits of barefoot running?
Running barefoot can help to strengthen and tighten your foot muscles, improving your natural gait. This forces you to use the correct technique and can actually reduce the chance of injuries. It can also improve proprioception and balance. Barefoot running can even enhance wellbeing, by making you more aware of your sense of touch and bringing you into a mindful state.

How can you start running barefoot?
You should be aware that trying to run barefoot over long distances too quickly can result in injury. Development takes time and you’ll initially be much slower than before. Below are some tips to help improve the process and ensure you adjust accordingly.

Take your time
Running in barefoot shoes will initially feel uncomfortable, so get your feet used to this new feeling. Start by running a small distance, followed by a light jog of around 10 minutes two or three times each week. If you feel comfortable enough to travel further, extend this by another 5 minutes.

Practice your running mechanics
You may need to adapt your running form to accommodate the difference. Identifying how your foot hits the ground is key to this. If you tend to land on your heel, try landing midfoot or forefoot and see how this differs. It is also important to land gently when you are running – since there is less protection, you must compensate for that when hitting the floor.

Moving your legs at a faster pace means you are already pushing up with the next foot as the other lands. The result is less weight landing on one side. Alternatively, you could take smaller steps to reduce the weight coming down on one foot.

Don’t overdo it
Be aware of how you feel, making any necessary adjustments as needed. If you’re feet begin to hurt, it’s best to stop. Not everyone can adapt to this form of running as easily but once your feet become familiar with barefoot shoes, you’ll be on your way to running a marathon barefoot in no time.

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