These are the top reasons to start your Barefoot Running Practice. First, don’t confuse running barefoot with that other activity; running. Although the two have a few things in common, going barefoot is just as much brain training as it is a physical effort. It will toughen up both body and brain in a way only natural movement can.
Barefoot running as therapy
Most content online compares barefoot running to regular running, asking which one is better. It’s a silly comparison really. Why? Because running shod takes away most of the proprioception, efficiency and technique needed for natural movement. With barefoot running your brain gets a proper workout too, improving short term memory (study 2016). Shod runners ‘pound pavement’, barefoot running is more like a movement practice, tapping into a movement archetype buried deep inside all of us.
As a human being, it seems a bit weird or frustrating to train for something that’s already part of your natural abilities. The idea that everyone can run – ‘the only thing you need is a pair of shoes’ – is a common misconception. Many times people ask why they should train for something they already master. Every adult knows how to walk and run right?
The thing is, our domesticated lives have put us in a position where the amount and sort of movement we get daily is insufficient for our general health and wellbeing. Yes, we all know how having a desk job is bad for your posture. Yes, we know that regular exercise is good for our health. That’s why gyms are packed and running has become the most favourable sports activity in the last decades. This gives us the idea we’re fit or at least look fit but are we actually getting healthier or at least a little happier? Unfortunately the answer is no.
If you want to run injury free, start going barefoot
Research shows that on average 37 to 56 percent of runners will suffer from an injury over the course of a year. Modern running shoes sporting new ‘technologies’ like gels, foams, air pockets and arch support are very fashionable, but haven’t done anything in preventing injuries.
Fact is the shoe industry as a whole cares more about aesthetics than supporting feet. Manufacturers are putting people off balance by elevating the heel or by adding soles so thick all sensory information is taken away. Depriving your feet from stimuli actually makes your feet ‘dumb’. Major brands have helped make feet weaker, not stronger.
Novice runners run the highest risk of getting injured, quickly followed by the average recreational runner, who is steadily training and who participates in a long distance run every now and then, Most running injuries are lower extremity injuries, with a predominance for the knee. The problem lies in limited mobility and poor form. Before you start to run, it’s useful to learn how to run well first.
A lot of people approach movement or workouts like a job or worse, a chore. Targets need to be met, PR’s have to be broken and Instagram needs to be blessed with #runeverydamnday. This approach just adds stress on an already stressed out body. Relaxation is sitting on a couch swiping or staring at a screen. When you truly understand the physiological state of relaxation then you’ll know more and more screen time is really sucking all life energy out of you.
Discomfort is a great teacher
Liking a quote on Facebook saying something in the line of ‘life happens outside your comfort zone’, won’t help you a bit. Going outside to take your first steps will. Being prepared for all sorts of reactions when going barefoot, will leave you with your first feeling of discomfort. People can even dislike the fact you’re not behaving like everyone else. Finding a secluded area somewhere in nature can help a lot here. Once you’re past that mental barrier, the physical discomfort can kick in.
This is where it gets really interesting. Because your feet will have to work harder than before, you’ll get a sensory overload. Not having familiar feelings to categorize the different sensations may lead to labeling them all the same: pain. Don’t get stuck here! Although you should address feelings of pain, barefoot running can teach you the difference between pain and discomfort. Walking this fine line is your ticket to progression. One way to not cross the line is taking things slow and time on bare feet low. Relaxation will move both body and mind beyond initial discomfort.
Movement as relaxation
Starting point for any movement practice should always be a state of relaxation. For your body, brain and mind to relax they have to be able to let go of tension. A very effective way is through physical activation. Only exercise doesn’t cut it, you’ll have to work your body in a way it both challenges your brain and provides necessary release of hormones, keeping you balanced.
With barefoot movement and especially barefoot running, it’s all about technique and adopting the right form. It’s also about patience. From experience I can tell you too much enthusiasm and lack of patience will lead to aches and pains. Although proper form will keep you from injuries in the long run, doing too much too soon (TMTS-syndrome!) can cause unnecessary harm. Once you suffer from TMTS, then rest is your only remedy.
Barefoot Running is not a sports-activity
Online there is a lot of debate about injury rates amongst power runners vs. natural runners. Simply put, both forms of running work for different kinds of people. Over the years there have been lots of testimonials from traditional runners who got injured, and thought they would never run again, but found they could, once they adopted a natural running form.
The barefoot and natural movement don’t take PR’s, strength and gains as a starting point. The focus is on technique, plus moving efficiently. That’s why we prefer not to look at natural running or movement as a sport; it would suggest there is physical effort, competition and/or talent involved. Barefoot running is about personal development through physical activation. By better understanding how our bodies move naturally, interacting with our environment, we can become better-balanced human beings.
Keep in mind; barefoot running is not about going fast or going the distance. It’s about efficiency, having fun and ultimately feeling free. Even when you are an experienced runner, going barefoot is a totally different ballgame. So take your time to ease into it.
Top reasons to start your Barefoot Running Practice today:
- Creates better posture
- Recalibrates balance
- Provides brain fitness
- Trains mental toughness
- Boosts adrenaline
- Boosts endorphins
- Strengthens core
- Strong feet, bones, muscles, ligaments
- Positive effect on blood circulation
- Remedy for cold feet
- Improves stamina, endurance
- Good for grounding
- Stay injury free (after proper training)