Barefoot Running

Barefoot Running

Sarah Seads BA Kinesiology

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Barefoot running can be an important part of any runners program. When applied correctly, running barefoot can improve technique, increase foot strength and potentially decrease the risk of injury.

  • WHY
    Forces good mid-foot landing technique. Thick cushioned heels of running shoes can encourage heel striking. Running barefoot, you will naturally avoid landing on the heel because it causes discomfort.
  • Encourages functional arch biomechanics. Allows the arches of the feet to depress and expand naturally, enhancing their functional ability.
  • Increases the strength of foot support structures. Tendons and ligaments in the foot and ankle become stronger and more efficient at absorbing, storing and releasing energy.

GETTING STARTED
Start gradually to avoid over-stressing the tissues, ligaments and tendons of the foot. Your body is used to wearing shoes and barefoot running must be introduced very slowly to avoid injury. Seek instruction from a running coach on correct biomechanics to ensure you are running safely and efficiently.

  • Run/walk barefoot on a safe surface such as a grassy field, treadmill or turf. Wear a 'barefoot'/minimal shoe to protect the soles of your feet.
  • Begin by walking barefoot in your home as much as possible and only move to jogging if you can do this without discomfort.
  • Next include short intervals of jogging lightly followed by walking. Begin with 5-10 repeats of 20-30 seconds or 100metre intervals and gradually increase to 10-20 over time. See how your body responds the next day before adding intervals or time during your next run. Gradually increase your pace during your intervals to your full running stride.

If you experience any discomfort in your feet, ankles or calves, decrease the volume of your barefoot training and take additional rest days between sessions. Be patient and listen to your body to avoid doing too much too soon and causing unnecessary injury.

It is normal to experience some tightness in the calves if you are not used to running on the mid or forefoot. Be sure to stretch the calves daily and take extra rest time between barefoot training sessions to allow tissues to adapt.

Barefoot running may not be for every 'foot'. It is always recommended to speak with your doctor before beginning any new training program.

If you enjoy barefoot running you may want to transition to running full time in 'minimal' footwear. Do so as a beginner runner, starting at the beginning with a run:walk program and give yourself 6 months to make a safe transition.

Cheers and Happy Trails!