The transition to barefoot running can be a great way to experience a whole new style of running. Getting rid of your heavy shoes with their thick soles can make you feel free and connect with the ground. This transition can also make you feel more connected to your body as you run.
It can also be a scary thing to think about. If you have been running for a long time, you probably have a favorite brand of running shoes. You also probably buy new shoes many times a year. If you are new to running, the idea of running with no protection can also be frightening. In this post, we’ll talk you through ways to transition to barefoot running. If you approach the transition with these ideas in mind, you will be able to learn this new technique.
What is Barefoot Running?
Barefoot running means running with no shoes or running with “minimalist” running shoes. True barefoot running is obviously done without any shoes. But many people use the phrase “barefoot running” to mean that they run with minimalist shoes.
Minimalist running shoes are lightweight. They have little or no cushioning. They offer little or no support to your ankles. Some models look more like socks than shoes. They are meant to have a natural feel when your foot strikes the ground. A lot of the models of shoes have individual spaces for each of your toes. This makes them feel like a glove for your feet.
There are also brands of shoes that are called minimalist, but they are really just ultra-lightweight running shoes. For the purposes of this post, we are referring to either running completely barefoot or running with actual minimalist shoes, the ones that look like gloves.
Who Should Consider Barefoot Running?
Almost all runners can try barefoot running. If you have a significant issue with your feet, you might want to wait until you fully recover before you start. This could be an injury or maybe you are recovering from a hard race.
If you have low arches, also known as flat feet, you may need to spend more time acclimating to barefoot running before you can start. This is because people with flat feet hit the ground with more of their foot’s surface area. That means there is more skin to toughen up before you can start running barefoot.
If you have constant problems with your ankles, or any other chronic condition, you should check with your doctor first. Before transitioning to barefoot running, you want to be sure you won’t make any existing problems worse.
Step 1: Get Used to It
The first step to transition to barefoot running is to get your feet ready. Before you try to run barefoot make sure you spend some time walking barefoot. This includes walking on different surfaces like gravel or sand. You should get your feet accustomed to the different feelings of many different surfaces. You also need to let the skin on the bottoms of your feet get tougher. People who have run barefoot for a long time have very tough, thick skin on their feet.
You should also walk on a lot of uneven surfaces. This will help the joints and muscles in your feet get used to moving in ways they wouldn’t have before. Trails, if they are well maintained, can be a good way to do that. Try to find places with a lot of uphill and downhill stretches.
Also, try walking or standing on small rocks. Big shoes allow us to spread out our body weight across a large surface area. Your feet need to get used to absorbing that kind of sharp impact.
Step 2: Practice with Short Distances
Once you have spent time getting your feet ready, you can start some practice runs. You should start with very short distances, like one mile or less. After you are comfortable with running one mile you can try to increase the distance slowly.
Be sure to choose a route that will keep you close to home. If you go out too far and have to turn back, it can be very hard to do if your feet are feeling torn up. Maybe just go up and down your street, staying close to your home, until you are ready to increase the distance.
Step 3: Increase Distance Slowly
The most important part of the transition to barefoot running is to do it slowly. You can’t throw out your running shoes just yet! You will need to start with a short distance. Then for your next couple of runs, do them in your regular shoes. Alternating your runs like this will help you complete the transition gradually. You will find, as you get more comfortable, that you will need your shoes less and less.
At this point, you can start doing more of your runs in your new style, and only save your shoes for the really long runs until you are fully ready. Just be sure not to push yourself too far. If you try to speed up the transition, you may just find it takes longer.
Barefoot running is a great way to connect with your body and get back to some of the natural movements your feet were built for. We walk in heavy shoes with thick soles our entire lives. This makes our feet dependent on shoes. Many people who run barefoot say that it is how we were meant to run. Our ancestors didn’t have fancy running shoes with all the different cushioning and support technology that is available today.
If you want to transition to barefoot running, it is possible. But don’t get frustrated if it takes longer than you thought it would. After a lifetime of walking in heavy shoes, you have a lot of work to do! As long as you remember to take it slow and not get frustrated, you will be able to experience running in a whole new way.