Updated: April 2nd, 2022
What’s the deal with barefoot running? The benefits, risks and shoes

Simply put, barefoot running is running without footwear or with today’s advanced technology, it is running with minimalist shoes compared to traditional running shoe. Many runners, from all over the world ditch the cushioning shoe and opt for the barefoot approach on all terrains believe it or not! Some claim it could be the secret to injury-free running; after all, it’s in our DNA. Humans’ barefoot skin to ground running came way before memory foam insoles and high arch support. But before you ditch the cushiony running shoes and go back to basics, it’s worth having a read through the ins and out’s of barefoot running, and seeing if it can benefit you.

Is barefoot running good for you?

Well, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA)and the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) stands together in a statement that says “Barefoot running is a possible alternative or training adjunct to running with shoes… Research has not yet adequately shed light on the immediate and long-term effects of this practice.”

Barefoot running with people with shoes on

You see, because barefoot running strides are usually shorter compared to the usual running shoe gait, where the initial heel to floor contact is more so underneath your torso. Better balance, lower centre of gravity, easier and more natural gait that invites a deeper knee bendhelping your body absorb the impact. Instead of the shoe doing it for you. Runners who choose to go barefoot tend to have better biomechanics (or gait) as it encourages a much more natural, efficient running style, often encouraging a forefoot strike – and we don’t need to tell you how beneficial that is compared to a heel-strike.

Benefits of barefoot running.

  1. Barefoot running can burn more calories.
  2. This is obvious, right? If you opt for a running shoe that is super cushiony and springy – then the shoe’s job is to propel you forward, it’s working FOR you. Whereas with a barefoot shoe (or none at all) there is no spring in our step UNLESS you provide it. Each step requires you to work a little bit harder. The toe-off is important and requires the same energy as the initial contact foot to the ground, and it’s all coming from the extra effort of your muscles! More work = more calories.

  3. Barefoot running can help with foot pain and poor biomechanics.
  4. Horrible isn’t it. The inflammation of fascia (the sheath surrounding your musculoskeletal system) can stop your running right in your tracks, and plague you for weeks! But did you know that this is often a result of running shoes that alter your natural gait, leaving your foot completely unsupported. More often than not, it is due to ill-fitting orthotics, a high arch needing support and not getting or even flat feet getting overstrained for example.

    Barefoot and a barefoot running shoe ready to take on the trails

    Well, take the shoe away, all that unwanted, un-needed padding and see what comes natural – zero interference from the ‘latest performance technology’ and suddenly, your gait will be more natural. The pain would likely subside because your muscles are firing exactly as they should be. It is no coincidence that your gait would alter, become effortless and au natural over time because your feet are being strengthened naturally, no shoes are propping up your arch, or doing work for the muscles in your feet to become lazy and switch off.

Other pros are:

  • Improve balance (proprioception)
  • Forces a better, more energy-efficient running technique (forefoot-mid foot strike)
  • Aid in body-clock regulation (especially if you work shifts or travel to different time zones)
  • Reduces injuries
  • Increases joint involvement to absorb running impact

The cons of barefoot running.

  1. Little to no foot protection.
  2. You don’t need telling there is a reason we wear shoes, right? The main hurdle for people to get over is the initial skin protection for your feet – it’s actually the reason why barefoot runners in most parts of the world opt for barefoot running shoes. A completely minimalistic shoe offering nothing but a rubber sole to protect your skin and toes but sometimes an upper mesh also, especially for the off-road barefoot runners.

    Kids muddy barefeet

  3. Tendency to overwork the calfs and Achilles
  4. Unfortunately, because we have grown accustomed to shoes, and the super supportive spring they possess, by making the switch over to barefoot running, you might find that your calf’s and Achilles are put under more stress, being asked to work Arden than usual. It can become a problem, especially if you suffer from tight calf’s or Achilles’ tendon strains to begin with.

  5. People will think you’re a bit crazy.
  6. What kind of person goes running on the tarmac without their shoes on? …Yeah… so people might stop, stare and make you feel a little strange, but you’re clued up now, and if they stopped you – you could always point them to this article? (Or stop running and give them a barefoot-runner-elevator-pitch there and then).

Vibram five fingers shoes

Other cons to barefoot running:

  • Could increase plantar pain
  • At risk for cuts, blisters, splinters and treading in goodness knows what
  • Barefoot running shoes are just as pricey, if not more so than traditional running shoes (although they last a heck of a lot longer)
  • High impact running and heel striking can increase the risk of stress fractures to the feet and tibia

“Tell me about barefoot running shoes.”

Jumping from super soft or memory foam running shoes to the minimalist type can be quick a shock, so please take the time to adapt properly. However with barefoot shoes, the fact they offer zero shock absorption, it is more important than ever to get the perfect fit for your foot AND the activity you want to do (obviously in our case it’s running) but there are different options for walking yoga, CrossFit and so on and the male to the female range is important too.

Barefoot shoes tv traditional shoes – there is more to it than you think:

Minimal running shoes:

  • Usually made of light, bendable materials with a low stack height
  • Less than 8 mm heel-to-toe drop
  • Better for runners with more calf flexibility and ankle mobility

Barefoot runner showing off green vibrams

Traditional road running shoes:

  • Thick heel cushioning and stiff soles
  • A 10 to 12 mm heel-to-toe drop
  • Better for runners with an aggressive heel strike, tight calves, or Achilles tendonitis

Brooke’s road runnnig shoe being put on

Take a look at the latest reviews of barefoot, minimalist running shoes for you in 2022!

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