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Barefoot running—are you a fan? With so many choices for running footwear, or foregoing it altogether, let’s talk about why barefoot running might be something to add to your fitness routine.
The trend of barefoot running came to my mind this morning when I stepped out of bed onto what felt like slightly bruised feet. I did some barefoot running on the beach yesterday, and although it wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do, it felt great in the moment! I wasn’t intending to do a workout, but when you go to the beach with four incredibly active children, running is something that just happens naturally.
It started with a simple ‘I bet I can beat you to the lifeguard station’ challenge and ended with a long game of tag. It may not sound like much, but I raced in between lifeguard towers a total of 10 times and played tag for an exhausting 30 minutes. My guess would be that I racked up a total of at least 1.5 miles of barefoot running.
Looking at my feet today got me thinking about the topic of barefoot running. I realized this morning that the barefoot running trend was one that I have never really tried. The muscles and tendons in my feet and calves are sore for doing something they are not used to—stabilizing my body. I must share that I’m incredibly selective when it comes to what I put on my feet for training. Being a former athlete, I’ve tried on many pairs of sports shoes.
As someone known for running and sprinting, I’ve been asked for my opinion on barefoot running many times. I was always quite against it for personal reasons. As an athlete, I wore corrective orthotic shoe inserts, and over time, they helped to correct imbalances in my running stride. The idea of abandoning shoe support altogether brings back memories of shin splints for me. From a fashion perspective, barefoot running shoes didn’t fit in with my personal style; however, there are many new barefoot running shoe styles available now. The majority of ‘barefoot’ runners are actually wearing some sort of technologically advanced shoe. These specialist shoes are designed to provide protection from rocky, uneven and dirty surfaces.
Let me share with you some of the pros and cons associated with barefoot running.
PRO: Barefoot running is more natural than running in shoes. We were born without shoes on our feet, and our body is designed perfectly to run without equipment. Before shoes were invented, we were barefoot and spent our time running and hunting without shoes.
CON: We no longer have the opportunity to run on soft surfaces, especially in urban environments. There are many risks associated with overtraining on a hard surface. Some of those risks include knee pain, shin splints, and stress fractures. Before running shoes were invented, I would imagine that people did not run for enjoyment; they ran for survival and, therefore, didn’t train for hours at a time as we do today.
PRO: Barefoot training may improve your balance and provides a much needed workout for your feet. Balance and stability can be improved when you don’t rely on the support structure of a modern shoe. If you stand barefoot, you will feel the small muscles in your feet and ankles working overtime to keep you upright.
CON: Jumping straight into a barefoot routine may cause injury or soreness, because your body has spent years getting help from supportive shoes. Drastic changes of any kind aren’t good for your body. All changes should be done slowly and safely over time so that your body can adapt.
PRO: Barefoot shoes are lightweight and easily fit into any bag or purse. If you opt for being truly barefoot, you would not have to pack running shoes at all!
CON: They may be lightweight but their design often means there is no cushioning from the bumps of your chosen running surface. This may leave your feet feeling a little tender and puts you at risk of sustaining an injury.
You have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and decide what feels right for you. My personal approach will be to start incorporating a little barefoot running into my life, especially when it involves a fun game of tag on the soft sand. The underused complex muscle group in my feet will get a workout from time to time.
I’m not going to ditch my traditional athletic shoes altogether in the name of going natural, nor will I take to the concrete in a pair of flimsy, unsupportive shoes. My training involves a lot of high-impact exercises on unforgiving surfaces, so I will continue to protect my body from unnecessary stress.
Let me finish by saying that we all must make our own decisions of what feels right for our own body. It’s fun to try new things, and many trends tend to come and go over the years—especially when it comes to health and fitness. The barefoot revolution is not a new concept—t’s simply an old one that has come back with a new technological look.