I have recently heard of the trend barefoot running. This seems like a dangers activity but why do so many people do it?
Barefoot running is a type of running that involves running without shoes or with minimalist footwear. It has gained popularity due to its potential benefits, including improved running form, stronger feet and ankles, improved balance and proprioception, increased flexibility, and reduced risk of injuries. However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as the risk of cuts and bruises, increased risk of Achilles tendonitis, difficulty in adapting, and lack of protection and support. It is important to take it slow and build up gradually, choose the right surface, and wear some form of foot protection to prevent injury.
I have done some research on barefoot running to find out if it is safe and to find out why it is so popular.
What is barefoot running?
Barefoot running is a type of running where you would run without shoes or with minimalist footwear. It has been gaining popularity recently and I have started to see people wearing minimalist shoes in my day-to-day life.
Benefits of Barefoot Running
I was very sketchable of barefoot running as I know how running shoes were designed to give you the support you need to minimise injury.
Better Running Form
The main benefit people claim barefoot running to have is a more natural running form. Running without shoes or wearing minimalist shoes improves stability and allows you to land on the ground in a way that gentler on your body and can help to prevent injuries.
Stronger Feet and Ankles
Running without shoes strengthens the muscles in your feet and ankles. When you run in shoes, your feet become reliant on the cushioning and support of the shoe, and the muscles in your feet and ankles become weak. Barefoot running forces your feet and ankles to work harder, which can lead to stronger, more stable feet and ankles.
Improved Balance and Proprioception
Proprioception is the ability to sense the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts. Barefoot running can improve proprioception by allowing you to feel the ground beneath your feet. This improves your sense of balance and body awareness. This increased awareness can help to prevent injuries and improve performance by allowing you to plan ahead and be mindful of your surroundings and movements.
Running without shoes requires more flexibility in your feet and ankles. Over time, this increased flexibility can help to prevent injuries and improve your range of motion.
Reduced Risk of Injuries
There is a famous book in the barefoot running community called “Born to run” that claims barefoot running helps prevent injury by avoiding soft cushioned shoes which the book claims is the sole cause of most running injury's. Running with a natural gait and landing on the midfoot or forefoot is less impactful on your joints and can help to prevent overuse injuries.
Drawbacks of Barefoot Running
While barefoot running has some proven and theoretical benefits, it is important to be aware of the potential drawbacks. Here are a few I am concerned about for you to keep in mind:
Risk of Cuts and Bruises
Running without shoes leaves your feet exposed to cuts, bruises, and other injuries. This risk can be reduced by running on soft surfaces and being mindful of your surroundings, but it is highly likely you will step on something that could injure you. The solution is to wear minimalist shoes which would protect your feet while still having the experience of barefoot running.
Increased Risk of Achilles Tendonitis
Barefoot running can put increased strain on the Achilles tendon which can lead to Achilles tendonitis. To reduce this risk, it is important to build up gradually and strengthen the muscles in your feet and calves but, without proper support there will always be an increased risk of injury.
Difficulty in Adapting
Some people may find it difficult to adapt to barefoot running. This can lead to soreness, discomfort, and even injuries therefore, It is important to not push yourself too hard.
Lack of Protection and Support
Running without shoes or in minimalist shoes means that your feet are not protected or supported in the same way they would be with other types of shoes such as running shoes or trainers. This can harm your feet and ankles, especially if you have a history of foot or ankle injuries.
Getting Started with Barefoot Running
If you decide to give barefoot running a chance it is Important to take it slow and build up gradually. Start by walking barefoot around your home. Then, begin incorporating short barefoot runs into your regular running routine. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the distance and duration of your barefoot runs.
When starting barefoot running, it is also important to choose the right surface. Start by running on a soft, natural surface such as grass or dirt. Avoid hard surfaces such as concrete until your feet have had time to adapt to the new running style.
Most importantly I highly recommend wearing some form of foot protection like minimalist shoes to prevent injury from sharp objects and you must admit you wouldn’t want to step in something, would you?
Many people claim barefoot running has many benefits, including improved running form, stronger feet and ankles, improved balance and proprioception, increased flexibility, and reduced risk of injuries. Some of these have been proven true but I personally wouldn’t want to deal with the drawbacks of cuts and foot and ankle problems.