Thoughts on Barefoot Running
You may have seen some people running in minimalist “five finger” running shoes or even simply barefoot and wondered what benefit they were getting. The reality is that most of us are used to running in shoes and we might consider barefoot running strange, or worse, dangerous. It’s true that barefoot running isn’t for everyone, but it is worth at least trying if you enjoy running.
Start with why
At The Gents Place, we are advocates of good shoes, and we’ve often written about dress shoes here. It’s important to buy shoes not just for style, but for form and comfort. But, over they years running shoes have evolved to have more stability or motion control features, which can influence the way that you run, and not always for the positive. These more restrictive shoes treat feet like planks which must be placed in protective houses and don’t allow the 26 bones, 20 muscles and associated tendons, and the many ligaments in each foot move naturally. This can lead to weaker feet and ankles, and more chance of injury.
Some take a more intellectual view, using the term “natural” when referring to barefoot running, and talk about the connection they feel with the ground when running, and it is true that your feet and soles get stronger when running with less artificial support.
How to get started
If you’ve only ever run in supported shoes, you’ll want to take it very slow when it comes to minimal/barefoot running. Firstly, run on a hard surface, taking care to avoid any areas that have rocks or potential glass. Secondly, go in increments. Your feet are not used to this and while your body and stride will adjust, you want to take it slow so as not to injure yourself and/or make your feet sore. If you find yourself landing on your heels, shorten your stride. You’ll also want to stay light and springy in your steps.
If you consistently wear dress shoes every day, are unaccustomed to going barefoot, even at home, or never wear flip-flops, barefoot running is probably not a good idea for you. It’s also noted that diabetics or those who can’t feel their feet well shouldn’t barefoot run. Further, if you have ongoing feet or leg injuries, you should wait for those to heal before making such a change.