How to Start Barefoot Running

By Jonathan Bales , last updated February 5, 2012

The results are in, and studies show humans evolved to run barefoot, but you may be wondering how to do this without getting injured. Running barefoot has a lot of benefits over running with shoes, provided you do it correctly. When feet in shoes hit the ground, they usually do so near their heel. When barefoot, however, humans tend to hit the ground on the ball of their foot, creating much less force and limiting the chances of injury. Ultimately, the benefits of running barefoot can easily outweigh the downside, if you do it with care. Read on for more information on why and how you should run barefoot.

Why Run Barefoot

There are fossilized footprints from human ancestors dating back 1.5 million years, and only recently have we begun to wear shoes. While today's shoes are generally well-made and are useful in almost all daily situations, there is no substitute for barefoot running. Running barefoot might seem unnatural, but nothing could be more natural for humans. We naturally run differently when we do not have shoes, and this motion is more efficient than with running shoes. By landing on the balls of our feet, we create more spring, taking fewer steps to go the same distance and causing less strain on our joints.

Decide on Location

Prior to running barefoot, you want to make sure you are doing it in the correct location. There can be a lot of hazards when you run barefoot, so the most important thing to do is be sure there will not be any sharp objects that could cut your feet. Avoid running barefoot on streets or sidewalks, obviously, and steer clear of any other location where manmade objects could potentially hurt you. Running on grass or the beach is a great choice, as the landing spots are soft and you are less likely to cut yourself.

Start by Walking

If you have never run barefoot in the past, start by walking barefoot. It is something you will need to get used to, and walking barefoot can toughen the skin on your feet. If you have never run barefoot in the past and you go out for a three-mile shoeless jog, you could have some really sore, torn up feet the next day. Once you toughen your feet, you begin with light jogging to make sure you get the correct motion down.

Practice Makes Perfect

Remember, land on the balls of your feet, not your heels. To make sure you can do this, your stride should be significantly shorter than when you wear shoes. You should almost double the number of steps you take when you run barefoot, making sure to land on the balls of your feet and spring forward off of them. This will put you in a position where you naturally lean forward far more than regular. By taking shorter strides and leaning forward, you will find you can cut down on injuries and increase the efficiency of your jogs. As you practice running barefoot, you will find a running cadence that works for you. You will know if you aren't doing something right, because your body will hurt. This will allow you to make adjustments.

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