Barefoot running is exercise at its most basic and primitive form, and yet it has become a popular option with runners today. Even with a diverse array of running shoes available, many people are choosing to run barefoot. There are many benefits to barefoot, or minimalist, running. But switching from the full support of a shoe requires a lengthy adjustment period and careful attention to your feet. Before beginning a minimalist running routine, consult a doctor or podiatrist to insure that this new kind of workout is beneficial for your foot type.
Benefits of Barefoot Running
The most basic benefit to barefoot running is that is often causes runners to come down on their midfoot or forefoot rather than on their heel, decreasing the amount of shock to their feet and body. Most running shoes encourage heel strikes, which means your heel will absorb two to three times of your body's weight with each step. By coming down on the midfoot or forefoot, barefoot runners get more bounce, with less impact on their knees and hips. More of the foot absorbs the shock, and the knees absorb it, as well.
Flat Feet and Barefoot Running
Flat feet occur when the arch of the foot flattens toward the ground. Up to 30 percent of all people experience flat feet. Despite common belief, there is little correlation between your foot type and potential running injuries during barefoot running. If you are running barefoot, your foot should strike the ground on your forefoot or midfoot, continuing until the heel touches the ground. For this action, arch height is irrelevant. Running barefoot can actually increase flexibility and strength in your feet, which can counter some of the negative effects of flat feet.
Adjusting to Barefoot Running
If you decide to switch to barefoot running, you will need to give your body time to acclimate, no matter what type of feet you have. Begin by walking barefoot on different surfaces. Start with softer ground, such as sand or grass. As your soles toughen, you can try new surfaces. Practice landing midfoot rather than on your heel. Provide time for your arches to strengthen and for your muscles to adjust to this new form of running.
Alternatives to Barefoot Running
The transition from running shoes to bare feet can be eased by different types of footwear, such as the minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes typically have very little sole and almost no heel drop, simulating barefoot running while still providing a little protection and minimal support. If you are used to the full support of a running shoe, try changing to a neutral shoe and then gradually adjusting to a minimalist shoe. As an alternative to barefoot running, some people prefer wearing the minimalist shoe for every workout.