Years ago, barefoot running started trending because of its potential to help runners strengthen muscles in their feet that they rarely used, and, in turn, prevent injury. Unfortunately, many people went about trying it in all the wrong ways. Runners ditched their shoes immediately, not taking the time to get accustomed to the barefoot lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in pain and injuries for many people. If you’re looking to try a more minimalist approach, here’s how to approach barefoot running in a safe, effective way.
Examine whether or not barefoot running is right for you
If you wear constrictive shoes most of the time, often wear shoes in your home, or never wear sandals or flip flops, barefoot running might not be the right choice for you. Your feet are accustomed to shoes, so your foot muscles rarely have the chance to strengthen in the ways necessary for walking or running barefoot. If you eventually want to get into barefoot running, change up your footwear style gradually. Try walking around the house barefoot or wearing flip flops more often during the hotter months. Then, you can reassess your decision.
Don’t dive into it all at once.
This goes for anything exercise-related, but you should never just start doing all your runs barefoot, thinking you’ve successfully transitioned into barefoot running. You’re almost guaranteed to get hurt this way. Instead, find little ways that you can incorporate barefoot running into your training.
If you like to do drills before running, do them barefoot in the grass or on an otherwise safe surface. This can help you use the muscles of your feet that you might neglect when you’re wearing more supportive shoes.
You can also try incorporating barefoot strides into your running. After your regular run, do about 4–6 reps of 100 meter runs just a little slower than your all-out sprint pace. If you want to gradually bring barefoot running into your regular run, you can add in a bit of barefoot running at the end of a few miles. Start with one minute and gradually increase your time until you’re at 5 minutes of barefoot running.
Go barefoot without actually going barefoot.
Chances are, you’ve heard of barefoot running shoes. Seems counterintuitive, right? But barefoot running shoes are just lightweight, minimalist shoes that have less support than traditional running shoes. They create a similar feeling to barefoot running, but without exposing your feet to potentially sharp objects on the ground. These could be a great option if you’d like to try barefoot running but are skeptical about the safety of the surfaces where you typically run. If you’re used to running in highly supportive shoes, you’ll want to gradually work barefoot running shoes into your routine. If you’re unsure what brand to shop for, Merrell’s offers highly trusted models of men’s and women’s barefoot running shoes.
Make barefoot running one part of your routine rather than your daily go-to.
As always, it’s important that your workouts have variety. Just like it would hurt you if you tried to run your fastest 5k every single day, you also don’t want to make barefoot running your only type of running. Keep lacing up your sturdy shoes at least some of the time so that you can achieve a balance of supported running and minimalist running.
If you want to try barefoot running but you’re worried about injuring yourself, you are completely capable of making this change to your running routine. If you know your body and its limits and take it slow, you can successfully go barefoot to improve your running.