Many individuals who read the Harvard study wrongly interpreted the information to mean that barefoot, or minimalist running is associated with fewer injuries and faster running speeds. However, the study only revealed that barefoot runners could run efficiently without shoes given they landed on the balls of their feet before bringing down the heel. Those who wear running shoes often land heel first given shoes provide extra cushioning and elevated heels.
Despite what the facts truly reveal about barefoot running in the end, many athletes have chosen to give this method a try. Have you decided to swap running shoes for bare feet or minimalist running shoes? Here’s what you can do to make the transition process easier on your feet, legs, and body.
Consult with your podiatrist first
Don’t switch to barefoot running or wearing minimalist shoes until you meet with your podiatrist first. In most cases, barefoot running is not recommended for individuals who suffer from tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, hammertoes, or bunions, since running barefoot can worsen these foot conditions. Your podiatrist can perform an evaluation on your feet and overall foot health to determine whether minimalist running is ideal for you.
Acclimate your feet
- Stand barefoot on gravel. The soles of your feet need to be tough enough to withstand the elements you’ll encounter while running barefoot. Stand or walk around carefully on gravel to get your feet used to being on rough surfaces without shoes.
- Walk in the beginning. After you get used to walking barefoot at a fast stride, gradually turn walking into running.
- Go short distances. Try running short distances on grass, a rubberized track, or on wet sand to help your feet acclimate to different types of surfaces.
Practice the right mechanics
- Focus on landing midfoot. If you’re used to running in shoes, your natural gait may tell you to strike heel first until you get used to barefoot running, but focus instead of landing midfoot to prevent injuries.
- Take short strides. Don’t take long strides until you’re able to land midfoot with each stride. Each landing should feel gentle and relaxed.
- Listen to your body. Since barefoot running requires you to change your landing, you’ll be exerting your calf muscles even more, your Achilles tendons may become stiff, and your arch muscles may weaken in the beginning. Take time off when these muscles need recovery.
Increase your distance over time
- Start and build up slowly and gradually. Just as with any other new sport or physical activity, go slow at first until you master the right mechanics, and until your body grows used to minimalist running. Try not to push yourself more than 10 percent per week in regards to stepping up your workout and challenging yourself.
- Take time to build muscle and endurance. Running barefoot will require you to have stronger calf muscles. Understand that it will take several weeks or months to condition your body for minimalist running.
Are you interested in switching to barefoot running? Call Kansas City Foot Specialists to schedule an evaluation at (913) 338-4440, or request an appointment online so we can conduct an evaluation of your feet and determine whether minimalist running is safe for you based on your overall foot health.