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How To Start Barefoot Running

How To Start Barefoot Running
How To Start Barefoot Running

Barefoot Running: Where To Begin

Do not simply ditch your old running shoes and try and kick off barefoot running using exactly the same routine you were performing when wearing your traditional running shoes, as I would suggest that this is almost a guaranteed recipe for disaster. The closer to barefoot you are running (the more minimal your running footwear) the more your foot, ankle and lower leg have to work to support, cushion and maintain your bodies posture whilst running meaning your foot, ankle and calf muscles have to be much stronger to carry this out safely.

Tips To Transition To Barefoot Running

  • Do Your Homework: Work on strengthening your core and lower body in preparation for the change.
  • Ease The Transition: Start practicing weight-bearing strength exercises barefoot or whilst wearing your minimalist shoes. Include activities such as walking, the cross trainer or even just wearing them to the gym to do your weights routine prior to starting running in them.
  • Start With Interval Training: When starting out barefoot running incorporate short intervals of only seconds to minutes of barefoot running into longer walks around a football oval. Easing yourself into it little by little in a structured and progressively paced approach gives time for your body to adapt and strengthen.
  • Don’t Heel Strike: Do not try and run as you would in a traditional running shoe. If you heel strike normally then you should not attempt heel strike running wearing minimalist footwear. You must learn how to run barefoot! It is crucial you learn the mechanics of running with less underfoot, for some this comes natural but others have to work at it. Remember you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run and barefoot running for some can be a process of peeling everything back and starting over.
  • Consider A Running Coach: A couple of sessions with a running coach with a special interest in barefoot running will guide you with exercises to help your barefoot running technique, as well as helping set you up a training program to help achieve your running goals. Spending money of a coach would be money well spent before embarking on your minimalist journey, a few dollars spent here may well end up saving you in the long run from significant medical expenses as well as saving you from both the pain and frustration of injury.
  • Consider Minimalist Footwear As A Training Tool: If you use your minimalist shoes in your regular running program as if they are simply a new pair of traditional running shoes then your run a high risk of injury. Most likely they injury would be to your calf muscles or Achilles tendon but stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and other nasty injuries are also common. It is important to exercise patience when starting barefoot running and see minimalist footwear as a strengthening tool within your greater running program.

Minimalist Footwear: A Training Tool For The Athlete

You must learn how to run barefoot, slowly pacing up your barefoot running as your body builds tolerance to running without the support of traditional running shoes. A transition for me should be treated as learning to run again and starting over, building up your mileage slowly. Because many runners don’t have the patience to take this step backwards in their daily or weekly running mileage and put the extra effort in perfecting their barefoot running technique they put themselves at significant risk of injury by introducing barefoot running.

Done correctly on the right foot and body type (where foot biomechanics, body weight and overall strength are important factors) I feel minimalist shoes or barefoot running can be a nice training tool to a runners arsenal. Personally because the majority of the patients I deal with in the Sydney CBD do most of their running in and around the city or their homes on tarmac like surfaces I am generally not a massive advocate of barefoot running for the majority of my clients.

Whilst I feel minimalism may not be for all runners, most runners could benefit from strengthening their lower limb and carried out sensibly barefoot running can be one way to go about this. Before you attempt any training program or start barefoot running, make sure you first of all contact your podiatrist, physiotherapist or trusted practitioner for a personalised biomechanical assessment to see whether the change you are planning is appropriate (or even safe).

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on How To Start Barefoot Running should consult his or her general practitioner, podiatrist, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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