5 steps to get started with barefoot running

Lately, barefoot running has become a new craze in what I like to ‘The Minimalist Circle’ 🙂 It sounded so interesting, that I decided to give it a try a couple of weeks ago and have been doing it regularly ever since.

what is barefoot running?

Barefoot running is what it says on the tin. It’s running without expensive trainers because that’s how humans have run for thousands of years. It’s getting back to nature by ditching shoes (a modern invention) that have changed how we step as we run. Originally, humans ran by stepping with the ball of the foot first and then the heel would follow. Nowadays, the design of shoes mean that we all tend to step heel to toe (the opposite way around). When you’re running, if your heel touches the ground first, your entire weight is impacted upwards into your knees with every step.

Try running around at home barefooted for a few minutes. Notice how quickly you revert back to the ‘natural’ way of running (ball of foot first).

If you tried that exercise, and found it to be true, your body is aching to go barefoot running!

When I first tried it, I was living in a city, and there was no way I wanted to have broken glass jammed up my feet, so I decided to mix it up a bit.  I would run in trainers to the park and then run wearing socks on the grass. The park is huge, and kept very clean, so there was little chance I would step on something unpleasant.

Fortunately, at home, I live by a beach. From experience, I’ve found that running on sand is a completely different kind of running, because the ground is so soft. So I had always run in trainers on the concrete pavement parallel to the sea. But, having grown up by the ocean, I know that for a certain time after the tide has gone out, the sand is solid from the moisture and is more suitable for running, so I run barefoot there often too.

the benefits

According to Wikipedia (take that as you like) there is some research evidence that found that:

barefoot running is healthier for feet and reduces risk of chronic injuries, notably repetitive stress injuries due to the impact of heel striking in padded running shoes, in addition to other purported benefits.

However, I should give a word of warning. Although there are a few medical authorities advocating barefoot running, it may not be for everyone. It depends on a number of factors, such as where you live and what your own body is like. Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from running barefoot, and have heard other positive accounts, but that doesn’t mean that it will be the same for everyone.

The best thing to do is to just try it out a couple of times and see for yourself. I’m not saying you have to make a complete switch and do it all the time, maybe you can just sprinkle it between your normal runs.

5 beginner’s tips for barefoot running

1. You don’t have to go barefoot all the way. Actually, you don’t have to be barefoot at all! If you feel uncomfortable, try running in socks on grass. I’ve found it to be just as effective as running barefooted anyway.

2. Keep in mind, you don’t look as silly as you think. To be honest, at first I did feel a bit silly, and I was really concious of people ‘looking’ at me as I ran in the park. But after a while, I got used to it and realised that nobody was really ‘looking’ at all – it was just in my head. And anyway, so what if they look? It’s not illegal, and who knows, they could really be thinking ‘that looks fun!’ and want to try it themselves!

3. It doesn’t just feel different, it feels better. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it really does feel more natural. By just taking off those (expensive yet) encumbering shoes, I felt really free, just like a kid again. Although I’m not quite ready to throw away my running shoes, I definitely use them a lot less now.

4. Realize you don’t need expensive running gear. Apart from regular running shoes, I also found that I don’t need expensive barefoot running shoes. There are a few options available, such as the Vibram brand, but in my opinion, that’s just buying more running shoes! I know that for a lot of people, the shoes are great because it means they can run barefoot on concrete/roads etc. but I think it’s much better for people to just try out barefoot running with socks on grass than using the shoes as an ‘I-don’t-want-to-commit-because-it’s-expensive‘ excuse not to do it.

5. It’s hard at first, but don’t give up, because it’s worth it. It may not be as cushioned and lovely to run on grass, soil and twigs but then again, why not try something different? If everything was easy, it wouldn’t be exciting now would it? For me, doing things differently and outside my comfort zone gives me a rush, and is much more fun than doing the same things the same way over and over again.

Please don’t just read this post and think ‘that sounds nice‘ and leave it at that, why not try it today?

And if you’ve already tried it, how did it go? I would love to hear what you think about barefoot running in the comments!

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