Barefoot running has been quite the debate lately. Most people are either really against it or really supportive of the idea, there is no middle ground. I tend to support the idea because I think it makes a lot of sense. Back in the day, let’s say the hunter/gather era, we didn’t run around with nice padded shoes on our feet. Nowadays, we’ve gotten used to our padded running shoes that have us landing with the heel of our foot on each stride. However, if you take your shoes off and try to run, you’re almost forced to land on the ball of your feet instead. In my mind, this is a more natural running style. I’ll tell you why.
1) The Forefoot Strike
Landing on the ball of your feet instead of your heel makes a lot more sense. Think about it. When you land on the heel of your foot, you’re essentially hitting the brakes on each stride. Each stride also sends a chain reaction of stress up your calf, thigh, hip, and back. Going for your normal run can result in hundreds of these kinds of impact collisions. Runners who run this way are usually prone to stress fractures and other related injuries. However, landing on the ball of your feet on each stride provides you a more springier step and more support.
2) Strengthening Your Leg Muscles
There’s no question that the nature of running barefoot can improve and strengthen the muscles in your feet, ankles, legs, and so on. You are basically forced to watch the ground below you and watch out for anything you don’t want to step on, so you make adjustments in your footing as you go. This can also result in teaching yourself better balance. Taking all the cushion away from your feet activates muscles that you didn’t use as much with normal running shoes.
3) Restoring The Connection
You lose a lot of the communication between your feet and body when you use normal running shoes. Barefoot running reconnects you with your environment and dramatically increases the signals and communication flowing through your body. In this situation, you’re forced to use your eyes more, more of your muscles are working to support you, and the structures of the bones in your feet and legs are being put to the test. There’s a lot going on here! You want these kinds of communication to be flowing nicely so that your body can work in a high alert mode that protects you.
Now, when I say barefoot running, I don’t mean literal barefoot running. There are plenty of barefoot or minimalist type running shoes that can simulate barefoot running while protecting the bottom of your feet from the ground.
In this post, I make barefoot running seem like a walk in the park and that there are only benefits. The truth is, it’s really tough. Especially at first. It’s safe to say that barefoot running isn’t for everyone. If you take up barefoot running, you need to ease into it slowly. At first, you might even be more prone to injury and blisters with barefoot running than you are with traditional running. You’re also more prone to hazards on the surfaces that you decide to run on, so try running on softer surfaces first. As you get used to it, you may never turn back to traditional shoes.
Dan Thomas loves topics on health & fitness and shares his knowledge freely. He also writes reviews on running shoes with toes and what you should know about them. Follow him on Twitter (@HealthCrazyDan) for health, fitness, and personal development ideas!