The Advantages of Running Barefoot
The legendary marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie, once commented on the beginnings of his career: “It always got difficult when I wore shoes.”
Nevertheless, sports equipment shops offer an almost endless range of running shoes, in all shapes and sizes that manufacturers claim will give your feet optimum protection, cushion your stride gently and take the strain off your joints. New slogans appear constantly, claiming to support and improve your running training – as long as you’re wearing the right shoes.
But there was once a time when sports shoes hadn’t been invented and people ran barefooted or in simple sandals – hardly imaginable these days. But just like with nutrition, it can make sense to go back to basics – and as in the case of the Paleo diet, more and more people have latched onto running barefoot.
1. Tip for Running Barefoot: Safety First – Especially to Start With
It might sound strange that there are shoes that were specially developed for “running barefooted” – but it’s true. Basically, no-one wants you to tread on glass splinters, stones or other hazards and injure yourself when you’re running barefoot.
To make the best transition into the new, “old” running feeling, you should get a pair of “barefoot shoes”. These minimal foot protection covers are light, flexible and made of breathable material. Your toes are covered individually, as if in a glove – resulting in something akin to a barefooted feeling when you’re running.
2. Tip for Running Barefoot: The Wet Foot Test
The first step in finding the best possible fit for a pair of barefoot shoes, is the so-called, “wet foot test”. This is based on the theory that a print of your wet foot, shows exactly how much support your foot needs. The higher the instep, the less support will be required.
There are three main types of feet:
- The normal foot also leaves a normal footprint, in which the front of the foot and the heel are connected by a broad strip. The foot rolls inwards slightly on landing to cushion the impact.
- The flat foot leaves a broad footprint, which depicts all of the sole. On impact it bends in, almost sideways.
- The highly-arched foot, leaves a footprint with a very thin or practically invisible connection between the front and the back of the foot. This means, the impact cannot be absorbed effectively.
3. Tip for Running Barefoot: Avoiding Injury
Don’t just suddenly start running barefoot: It’s important to develop your own step rhythm first. Too much, too soon can lead to injuries. It should be taken into account that most of us are actually used to wearing solid shoes. For this reason, we have lost the ability to run barefoot safely as well.
High heels or platform soles do the rest in making us walk unnaturally. The stresses and strains are spread in a completely different way when you’re running barefoot, which you gradually have to get used to first.
4. Tip for Running Barefoot: Learning to Run Again
The first thing you have to learn with barefooted running is to land on the right part of the foot. Minimal barefoot shoes, were developed to enable you to adopt the most natural stride possible, without being influenced by your shoes. This means that at first you’ll feel a stronger impact than you’re used to, when landing on your heel.
This impact shock is mainly absorbed by your ankles, knees and hips, which are especially put under strain by this. The good news is that barefoot shoes, makes it practically impossible to land hard on your heels and that you soon instinctively change to a softer landing and roll-off.
This is how you should land when you’re running barefoot:
- When you’re doing running training, always try to land on the front of your foot or in the middle. Your heels only touch the ground lightly and then cushion the impact towards the toes.
- Lean forwards slightly and use gravity with your feet directly below your hips, keeping your knees bent.
- Take strides and land light-footed, swiftly and silently. Look straight ahead, keeping your shoulders relaxed, low and parallel to the ground. Your arms should always be bent at right angles, like your knees.