Walking and running barefoot is nothing new. Ancient people used little to no feet protection. But it’s only in 2003 when it was finally considered as a new form of racing. Here are some ways you can run barefoot without injury.
Be aware of your feet
Improve the sensory awareness of your feet by continuously massaging your toes and sole. Discover the different ways you can move your feet. Feel the joints and learn how you can improve their flexibility and agility. You should also be aware of its weakness and threshold of pain.
Examine your feet. Determine how easy they get bruised after taking a few minutes’ walks on pavement. Do shorter run if you are new to running barefoot.
Take a walk or run around and feel your feet. Feel where the pressure land in each foot. Notice how the force travels through from your heels to your toes. Try putting weight on one heel and shift it to the toes and then the other foot.
In the beginning, you will feel the sensation right away. First time running barefoot can make you feel weak, so take it slowly. But over time, your feet will get stronger and they will get used to stepping onto pavements or mud.
After weeks or months of practice of building up strength, you will be able to run longer and faster barefoot. You might even feel stronger than ever before.
Slowly lengthen your running time
Go slowly and do not try to run fast and far immediately. After a few days of training add one or two minutes to your running time. Check how your body will react. Let your body gradually adapt to the changes and you will realize that your muscles are slowly getting tougher. Ultimately, you will be able to prevent injuries if you are physically strong.
Land on your heel
This might sound scary and painful, but landing heel first is a good practice for barefoot runners. Take shorter strides and softer steps. Try landing your foot first before letting it carry the weight of your body.
You can also land on your midfoot to spread the weight and relieve help your calves feel less sore. Pounding hard can also drain your energy, so try to run quietly and softly. In addition, do not extend your legs too far to maintain a balanced and upright body posture.
Know your limits
Some barefoot runners are brave enough to cross concrete paths. For beginners, find a softer ground and build your foundation there. Your feet will feel better running on grass or sand. The best location to practice for beginners is at the beach or grassy parks.
Human soles are much softer and sensitive compared to wild animals. The fact that our feet are used to wearing protective gears, makes them even more delicate. It will definitely take time to adjust and get acquainted with rough areas.
Once the sole of your feet is used to the different surfaces, you can advance to textured paths like rubber floors, asphalt, or pebbled surfaces. You should also remember to stay away from trails that have sharp rocks and gravel. As the course of your training goes on, you will realize that the gravel trail is not such a big deal.
Remember to take each stage slowly. There is no need to rush or feel too ambitious. If you do so, the whole experience will not be worth your time and effort.
Connect to the Earth
The last, but not the least of these steps is to let your feet connect to nature. Shoes may shelter you from the harsh surfaces you run on, but it is also preventing you from feeling light, free, and joyous.
Here are some tips to make your journey fun
- Do not be afraid of the gross feeling when landing on mud or soft surfaces. You should also not be too cautious about the germs. Every area in this world is pretty much co-occupied by bacteria and germs. As long as you do not have any open wounds and maintain personal care, there is nothing you should worry about.
- If you can, you should visit shoe-free parks and let your feet experience nature in the most intimate way. When you do this, you will not only let yourself get accustomed to the feeling but also heal your mind from the discomfort of going against today’s norm.
- When you subscribe to any physical training program, you will often hear coaches advising to not force the body or go all in at once. This rule is also applicable to barefoot running or walking. Never push yourself beyond your limits.
- Take a jog barefoot and do a couple laps for a few minutes. Twenty minutes should be enough as your starting time. If you are feeling uncomfortable due to the soreness of your sole, listen to your body. Ease off to walking pace, before finally stopping.
There have been many running shoes that claimed to help prevent injuries during barefoot running, but nothing has really worked. That’s because preventing strain injuries lies in different factors.
The biggest factor that could prevent overuse of knees and legs that could result in physical impairment is knowing your feet. Being aware of how much your feet can take and how far it can run can save you all the worries and trips to the hospital.
Although there is not enough scientific evidence to prove natural running as a solution that can relieve knee pain and soreness, it is important to note that it can improve endurance and the willingness to be in tune with nature.
Lastly, it’s actually a good idea to start with surfaces you know are safe instead of running in places filled with rocks, metals, or glass. Running barefoot is not about feeling pain neither about speed. Most importantly, it is about building your strength and connection to nature.