Barefoot Running,

Feeling the ground or improving the footprint are some reasons that lead many runners to run barefoot. The “barefoot” has become an option among runners that generates a great debate.

Since its origins, man has covered long distances without any shoes, and running barefoot is precisely the maxim of barefoot running, also called Natural Running, which is characterized by being a slightly different way of running.

This running, in which there are no shoes, and the runner is in direct contact with the ground, led Africa to win the first gold at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome through Abebe Bikila, who completed a barefoot marathon.

It is also credited with various benefits that numerous studies have supported. One of these is the study conducted by Harvard University,  which focused on analyzing the footprints of athletes who ran with shoes and compared them with those of barefoot runners.

In this research, it was found that 75% to 80% of runners who run with running shoes make the first impact with the ground with the heel, while barefoot runners make contact with the ground with the forefoot, that is, with the midfoot.

In both variations, the muscle chains activated, such as the calf, hamstring, or lumbar muscles, are different, with heel impact being seven times more aggressive and, therefore, more likely to result in injury.

But we are used to wearing shoes from the first step that block out the sensations of the millions of nerve endings in our feet. This is one of the main reasons why many start walking barefoot: to feel the unevenness and temperature of the ground, which is a great gesture of freedom for them.

However, there is also the fear of damaging the soles of the feet, which is why many barefoot runners wear minimalist footwear, a type of socks or very thin sandals that allow them to improve their grip without coming into direct contact with the ground.

If you want to enter the world of barefoot running, keep in mind that the change must be gradual to avoid injury. It is advisable to start gradually, alternating the phases of running with and without shoes so that the foot can get used to the changes without suffering.

You can also start running barefoot on a static treadmill to avoid hypersensitizing the sole to the ground. Other good areas to run barefoot are bike paths – as they are usually quite smooth – or athletics tracks and parks, which have softer ground.

Advantages of barefoot running

Barefoot running seems to be in vogue, but in reality, it is the most natural movement performed by our oldest ancestors.

Among the proven benefits of this type of running are:

  • The footprint improvement, since the landing is made on the front part of the foot, distributes the weight thanks to the arch and the fingers, especially the thumb. This results in less stress on the joints and muscles, especially the knees, and therefore less risk of injury.
  • The improvement in proprioception, i.e., the information received from the position of the foot muscles, makes it possible to correct a misstep immediately. This reduces injuries, especially ankle sprains.
  • A remarkable improvement in the muscles and ligaments of the feet, which are not exercised much when running with shoes.
  • An increase in the distance covered because even if the steps are shorter, they are made faster. Due to the smaller steps, there is also less weight that is exerted when hitting the ground.
  • It improves posture, which becomes more upright and aesthetic since the body tends to lean back when running with shoes.
  • The heart rate decreases and oxygen consumption decreases to 5.7%, consuming less energy than conventional running.

Contraindications of barefoot running

Despite the numerous benefits that this type of exercise brings, it is only suitable for some. It is advisable to consult a doctor before starting barefoot running, as some people do not have the right anatomy for it and can suffer serious injuries.

Blisters and erosions on the soles of your feet will be your companions; to minimize them, try to walk on a more or less smooth surface that is not very uneven and free from objects that could cut or prick. Remember that you must walk safely and without fear so the movement is natural.