Barefoot Running: Is It Good for You?

Day by day, more and more people are turning to one of the latest trends in staying active: Minimal (barefoot) running. While it’s absolutely true that humans did just fine without shoes for hundreds of years; do the risks now outweigh the benefits, or is this a trend that more people should adapt to? Are the health benefits of barefoot running really as good as some enthusiasts would lead us to believe they are, or is this just another fad that will eventually fade away like the ab roller and other workout gear and contraptions of the past?

Core Insights

  • Barefoot running is gaining popularity. It has benefits but also risks.
  • Historically, humans didn’t use shoes.
  • Being barefoot, called “earthing,” can boost energy and improve sleep.
  • Barefoot running might cause fewer injuries, but more studies are needed.
  • Long-time runners should switch slowly to avoid pain or injury.
  • People used to high heels might find it harder to adjust.
Barefoot 3

Potential health benefits

Whether you’re out for a run, doing yard work, or just curious about the practice of earthing, being barefoot can be very beneficial to you if you do it the right way. Earthing is the practice of getting your body as close to the earth as possible by sitting, sleeping, and/or walking barefoot in nature to synchronize your energy with the earth’s. Doing so has been said to reduce chronic pain, improve your energy levels, and improve your sleeping habits, among many other benefits. If you live in too urban an area or you’re stuck indoors, there are devices you can purchase that yield the same benefits (but going au natural is always the best first choice).

Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, studied the biomechanical differences between running shod and barefoot. Experienced barefoot runners land on the middle or front of the foot. Shod runners wearing modern running shoes tend to land on the heel, generating a sudden, high impact. Because of the reduced impact of the forefoot and midfoot strikes, barefoot running may lessen the risk of developing any impact-related injuries. However, the author mentions more research is needed on the matter.

Some runners have turned to barefoot running in search of pain relief caused by chronic running injuries. Still, the American Podiatric Medical Association warns people who want to convert to this style of running to first book an appointment and consult with a certified podiatrist who has a strong background in sports medicine – Have them look you over first to make sure that you’ve got the right kind of bone and muscle structure. That way, you’ll lessen the likelihood of becoming injured.

Barefoot 2

Switching from regular running to barefoot

If you’re already a marathon runner or running enthusiast, you’ll have to consider a few things before you switch out your running shoes for a pair of those foot gloves or lose the footwear altogether. Remember that you’ve probably been wearing shoes for the better part of your life – Shoes that support your feet, ankles, heels, and arches in all the right places. If you already run 5k a day and you suddenly lose your Nikes in favor of going barefoot, not only are you going to be incredibly sore due to the change, but you’re also at a much higher risk of injuring yourself because running without shoes forces your body to run differently.

If you’re not a runner and you just like the idea or the look of going barefoot or with foot gloves, you won’t have to worry quite as much as someone who does a lot of running, but if you tend to wear high-heeled shoes often, you’re probably going to feel a big adjustment because heels tend to force your feet into high arches.

You’ve probably heard at least one of the barefoot running enthusiasts make the argument that wearing shoes could potentially become obsolete since humans got along just fine without them for hundreds of years before they were invented, but think about this: People generally ran as a means of basic survival back then, not so much for pleasure. They also weren’t running around on pavement, asphalt, or concrete, and you didn’t see many (if any) older people taking a jog. Another point to consider is that the areas in which some people run aren’t always the cleanest of places – If you step on trash or a piece of gum with your running shoes on, it’s a little gross, but it’s not the end of the world. That same scenario might play out entirely differently if you’re out running barefoot, especially if you’re a germaphobe.

So, if you’ve been considering taking up minimal running, you should introduce the practice slowly to lessen the likelihood of injury. If you’d like to reap the benefits of being barefoot (and there certainly are a lot!), take a trip to the park a beach, or just walk around your house and property without shoes on every chance you get.

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