Want to take your running to the next level? Looking for the best ways to increase your speed? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need fancy gear to hone your running skills. Actually, barefoot running can do wonders for your health and sports performance. It not only makes you a better athlete but also reduces injury risk.
This trend has been around since the ’60s. It has recently made a comeback and got quite some attention after the book ‘Born to run’ by Christopher McDougall was published. After all, people have been running like this for thousands of years. Our bodies are meant to run barefoot and not with shoes.
Need more proof? Let’s take a quick look at the surprising benefits of barefoot running!
Barefoot Running at a Glance
In 1960, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the Olympic gold medal and broke a world record. Surprisingly, he was the only runner with no shoes. Since then, barefoot running went mainstream. Today, minimalist shoes are all the rage.
Science supports the benefits of barefoot running. This training style increases knee flexion at ground contact, boosts stride frequency, and causes less collision force to the feet. It also results in a shorter stride length and decreased injury risk.
Everyone knows that running outdoors supports health and well-being. Yet, the barefoot part is subject to debate. Some experts say that our feet are not designed to be in shoes. Others claim that running footwear prevents injuries and boosts sports performance. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Is it really necessary to wear running shoes?
What Are the Benefits of Barefoot Running?
Lately, more and more people are going minimal. Barefoot running enjoys huge popularity in some Western countries as well as in Africa and Latin America. Some runners wear minimalist shoes. Others give up footwear completely.
Research shows that running form, not footwear, is what matters. Despite the advancements in footwear technology, running injuries are just as common today as they were decades ago. In the best case scenario, sports shoes can decrease injury risk only by about 10 percent at the most. Studies have found that barefoot running has several advantages over shod running, such as:
- Higher pre-activation of calf muscles
- Higher pushing and braking impulses
- Higher stride frequency
- Lower contact time
- Smaller collision force
- Improved running economy
Plus, running barefoot improves your balance and proprioception. Over time, it helps stretch and strengthen the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon. This leads to a reduced risk of injury, tendinitis, and calf strains. On top of that, you’ll develop a more natural gait.
Compared to shod running, this training style activates the small muscles in the hips, legs, and ankles to a greater extent. You’ll get faster and more agile while keeping injuries at bay.
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What if you’re not ready to go barefoot? Well, you can always opt for minimalist shoes. Choose a model with minimal heel-to-toe drop, wide toe box, and flexible soles. Beware that building up the muscles that got weaker as a result of wearing running shoes takes time.
You may experience aches and fatigue in the first few days. As your body adjusts to barefoot running, you’ll get stronger and cover longer distances. Not to mention the cost savings!
So, what are you waiting for? Throw away your shoes and go running barefoot!
Your future self will thank you.
More reading: Top Reasons to Start Your Barefoot Running Practice