Running barefoot can become dependent on several factors, weather, for one. When it is freezing outside, having no shoes on can be difficult. At such times, a good alternative is to use the treadmill.
However, is it safe or even possible to run barefoot on a treadmill? In this article, we not only answer this, but we also talk about the challenges of barefoot running on the treadmill, some tips for starting, important considerations before you start, risks, and ways to prevent injuries.
Can I Run Barefoot On A Treadmill?
You can run barefoot on a treadmill. That said, whether you have been running barefoot outdoors or not, certain precautions need to be exercised before you start. This is to ensure that you do not injure yourself.
Challenges of Barefoot Treadmill
There are certain challenges associated with barefoot running on treadmills that you need to be aware of.
The treadmill comes towards you
The movement of the treadmill makes it different from running in real life where the feet seek the surface and propel forwards. In this case, there is a force that comes towards the toes creating more stress on the forefoot.
The way to prevent this is to decrease speed and increase the incline. This helps in landing on the forefoot. You can gradually level out.
The running area can feel restricted
While running barefoot on a treadmill, it often happens that you become conscious of landing your toes on the front part of the running plate.
One way to overcome this is to step your feet back from where you would normally run. However, make sure that your hands can easily access the controls.
Things to consider before starting to run barefoot on a treadmill
Treadmills come in all variations. The top three criteria for choosing one are:
- Low heat production
- Deck suspension system
- Comfortable running belt texture
Here are some things to consider when choosing one for running barefoot:
Check for shock absorption
It is important to check your treadmill for shock absorption, especially if running barefoot. Inadequate shock absorption can impact your joints as you run.
Length of the running deck
The longer the length of the running deck, which is the wooden board just beneath the moving belt, the better it is. The standard length is 64 inches.
The texture of the running belt
A running belt is designed for shoes and so the surface is hard. It is good to start with shorter times and increase gradually.
Some Tips for barefoot treadmill
Here are our top tips for barefoot running on treadmills:
If you are new to barefoot running, it is advisable to not start directly with treadmills. Allow your feet time to acclimatize to being without shoes. You can practice walking barefoot in nature and then slowly transitioning to running.
Making adjustments to the treadmill
There are various combinations of speed and incline that you would need to frequently make so that the feet are safe.
Walking barefoot on a treadmill is a repetitive movement as the same parts of the feet are being used. By changing speed and incline, this repetitive motion is prevented, thereby reducing the chance of overuse injury.
Be mindful of your running motion
How you land while running barefoot has a direct impact on the health of your feet. Make sure you land on your mid-foot, take short and light steps and run a bit behind where you would normally stand on the treadmill to give enough space to the toes.
Risks of running barefoot on a treadmill
There are several potential risks of running barefoot on a treadmill. It helps to keep these in mind before taking it up.
Blisters and injuries
The treadmill surface is hot and rough. Also, the feet meet the surface at the same spot repeatedly, leading to more heat from friction. This can cause blisters on the soles of the feet.
The proximity to the running belt and general lack of space puts you at risk of stubbing your toes and abrasions.
When you run barefoot, the feet can get sweaty, which means a high chance of slipping off the treadmill. Lack of grip can make it more probable for one to lose balance and fall.
When we walk barefoot outdoors, there is ample variation in the terrain. This ensures that different parts of the feet are used while adjusting to the change in surface.
On a treadmill, the surface is uniform. This places repeated and constant stress on the same parts of the foot, thereby making you susceptible to overuse injuries.
How to prevent Treadmill Injuries
With all of the issues associated with running barefoot on treadmills, there are still ways to prevent potential injuries. Here are some tips:
Make frequent changes to treadmill settings
You do not want to injure your foot because of repetitive motion.
What you can do to prevent this is changing the speed and the incline as frequently as possible. You can start with running flat, make the incline steep after a couple of minutes, and then gradually decrease the incline with each minute.
You can also set speed variations at frequent intervals, where the treadmill would change speed every minute.
Run for shorter intervals of time
Running barefoot on the treadmill for a long time can cause blisters from the heat. Start small. Run for 3-5 minutes on the first couple of days and then gradually add a minute every day.
This will prepare the foot for the heat by giving time for the soles to harden.
Keep it natural
Rather than taking longer strides, keep it short and light. Step on your forefoot and mid-foot, take natural steps and keep the impact of the landing light.
Barefoot running on a treadmill can be challenging. However, with some small changes to the technique and staying mindful, running barefoot can remain safe and healthy.