The Deal With Barefoot Running

by Carlo Celotti | August 3rd, 2011 | Fitness Expert

So the running world is in the middle of a debate on whether running in your bare feet (or shoes with very minimal support, if any) is a good idea or not. Here are important points to consider.

-Being in your bare feet does strengthen your feet, and being in well-supported shoes does weaken them; however, if you’ve been wearing well-supported shoes or orthotics for a long time, it’s risky to just toss out your shoes and go for a 10k run outside. The muscles in your feet and calves aren’t used to that type of loading, and you could get hurt.

-So if this is a route you want to go, strengthen your feet first, then gradually begin to use shoes with progressively less support. Barefoot running will use more of a forefoot strike instead of a heel strike, which puts more load on your feet, and this is what makes them stronger. Just remember, too much too soon will result in an injury.

-Some great exercises to strengthen your feet are walking in bare feet (start with short walks, and stop if you feel any knee or back pain) inside your house or in your backyard. Also, practice picking up objects with your feet using your toes (start with something small like marbles, and work your way up to bigger objects like baseballs). Both of these will help to strengthen the muscles in your feet that get stressed with barefoot running. After some time doing this, you can eventually progress to skipping rope and including some very short runs in either bare feet (making sure the area is safe to do so) or minimal support shoes, gradually increasing the distance of your runs and time skipping. It’s important to progress slowly, as foot injuries are hard to recover from.

-Finally, there’s something to be said for the risk of cutting your feet on glass, metal, or any other sharp objects that may be found on the ground. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use minimal support shoes when running on the streets.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.