Why Run Bare?
Barefoot running is a fantastic training tool, a way to help you run lighter, longer, and stronger than ever, pain free, and with less chance of injuries. It’s also a way to plug back into nature or to go from observing the scenery as we run past, to becoming one with the scenery. For many, it's even a spiritual experience. Perhaps most importantly, going barefoot is just plain fun. Why else do we chase after our children trying to get them to put on their shoes? Instinctively, they know that going barefoot feels better.
In addition to the pure joy you experience from liberating your feet, there are many other great benefits to barefoot running. For one, after you feel the ground, you automatically run lighter. This means less impact on the body, and less effort to keep you moving forward (aka greater endurance).
When you strip off your shoes, particularly if you begin by running on a hard surface (such as a bike path or sidewalk to begin) you quickly discover your lightest stride. Why is that? Instant feedback – if you land hard, you feel it. For instance, you’ll find out instantly that landing on your heel is a big no-no, and that your forefoot is your natural spring. The first time you hit your heel on the ground, is the last time you hit your heel on the ground. It hurts too much. Instead, you begin using your entire foot and leg as a two to three-foot long shock absorbing mechanism.
Run with Agility
Spend time barefoot and you begin to wake up the stabilizing muscles of your legs. You’re closer to the ground and because of this find yourself more nimble, more agile, and more laterally proficient. Say farewell to ankle strains and sprains too. When there’s no distance between you and the ground, you’re hard pressed to roll an ankle, unless you accidently step into a hole. The latter is an unlikely scenario because barefoot, you’re what I call awarefoot or more vigilant. You’re core becomes stronger too. You no longer rely on your shoes for support, but instead your internal anchor. This newfound powerhouse (your core) gives you better form, balance, stability, and endurance.
Dance with Nature
In a shoe we look for the lowest, most stable spots on the trails to plant our feet. But out of a shoe, we look for the high spot or pivot point, on which to tap our feet and dance. We end up hopping from rock to rock, using the trail to propel ourselves forward, or even using the banking to fly through turns or help us slow down on steep descents. By going barefoot you develop the musculature, balance, and coordination to achieve the gracefulness and fluidity you could barely conceive in a shoe.
Reduce Your Chances of Injury
Lastly, you strengthen your feet and help prevent injuries. If you start slow, adding only 100 yards of barefoot time every other day (before your regular runs), you begin to strengthen your feet. Whether you have flat feet, weak feet, or high arches, your feet begin to strengthen and return to the natural shock-absorbing springs that nature designed. This helps reduce impact throughout your entire body, along with reducing stress and strain to your plantar fascia, ankles, knees, hips, and back.
Additionally, any time spent barefoot helps improve circulation to your feet and soft tissues for healing. Out of a shoe, your feet require more blood flow to support your body weight. This increased blood flow helps with injuries that are “stuck” like a plantar fasciitis that won’t go away, or like the weak ankle that so many of us have because we’re told we don’t get enough blood flow to our joints. That’s in a shoe. Once we’re out of a shoe, we get more blood flow and stand a much greater chance of healing.
Whether you become a fulltime barefooter, or simply integrate barefoot time into your training, barefoot running can add an awesome new element to your game. You’ll feel lighter, run with less effort, and dance on the trails. Best of all, you’ll run with a newfound ear-to-ear grin.