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What is the logic for running barefoot?
Barefoot running can refer to running without any shoes on or in footwear designed to stimulate the experience of being barefoot (thin, flexible, pliable sole). Our bodies have evolved over thousands of years; making us very capable to run without shoes and this has been shown to have numerous benefits. When running barefoot, there is a natural tendency to shorten your stride so that you land on the mid-foot. Landing on your mid-foot improves your running efficiency as landing towards the front of your body helps keep to momentum of moving forwards.
We have evolved to run way before the scientists at Nike and Adidas developed running shoes to sell to the mass market! If built up gradually and carefully, barefoot running can form a strong base for our running; giving us valuable skills for the long term. Ultimately, this can make us much stronger runners, improving our performance.
What are the key benefits of barefoot running?
Leads to stronger feet, ankles and calves. Consequently, this can reduce the risk of injury in the long term.
Teaches and reinforces better running form. Barefoot running shoes promote a more natural gait.
Better connection with the ground, encouraging a running pattern which is more efficient.
May improve balance and proprioception. When running without shoes or in barefoot shoes, your body relies on the smaller muscles in your feet which can lead to improved proprioception as there is more kinaesthetic feedback. The more kinaesthetic feedback, the more natural and anatomically your body will be able to perform.
How should you build up to run barefoot?
Build up gradually to barefoot running - Firstly, start by running in minimalist shoes for some of your runs. Ensure you try this out on one of your easy runs. You should try this out on just one run a week to begin with. This gradual increase allows our body to adapt to this alternative running style, reducing the risk of injury.
Be cautious of any niggles - If you feel any pain or feel like something isn't quite right, this could be an indication of a part of the body is weaker and needs some more strength work in order to build up to handling this load. It could also be an indicator that you're building up too fast to barefoot running and you should slow the process.
Run barefoot from time to time - Over time, you may decide you would like to try out running completely barefoot rather than in bare foot running shoes. You should only do this once you have built up the strength and you feel capable of this.
Don't do all of your running barefoot - Continue to use supportive shoes for the majority of your running, especially for your harder runs. Although barefoot running has it's benefits, it does lead to a higher risk of injury - you want your training to be sustainable so start off small (even just 1km each week) and build up from there
Run the way that you find agrees with your body best, helping you to achieve your goals.
Recommended barefoot running shoes
There are lots of great barefoot running shoes out there if you feel like running completely barefoot is a bit too far for you. Brands we would recommend you check out include Vivobarefoot, Inov-8 and Xero shoes as-well as Luna Sandal