Running Barefoot for Injury Prevention and Mechanics Improvement

Back in the ’60s, we ran way more and way faster in the thinnest little shoes, and we never got hurt. I never even remember talking about injuries back then. So you’ve got to wonder, what’s changed…” – Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon Champion

Running barefoot is becoming more and more popular. It’s no longer a flash-in-the-pan trend or a brief fad. Going barefoot is here to stay, and I’m glad.

Shedding your shoes and spending some time barefoot has a host of benefits. The research confirms that if done properly you can increase the strength of your feet and lower legs, improve your running form, and prevent more injuries.

Harvard professor Dan Lieberman’s studies conclude that running unshod sends fewer impact forces through the lower legs. By changing your footstrike from your heel to your midfoot, the impact shock is decreased which can reduce your injury rate.

Going barefoot also changes your stride by increasing your cadence and forcing you to land with your foot directly underneath your body (or close to it). A stride rate closer to 180 steps per minute is more efficient – you’re placing less stress on your legs by making less forceful (but more frequent) muscle contractions.

Landing underneath your body, instead of reaching out with your legs and over-striding, is one of the best things you can do to help your running form and running barefoot is a great way to facilitate this stride change.

Shoe makers are also jumping on the minimalist train. Vibram FiveFingers, the Nike Free, and Newton running shoes are examples of models that can help people with the transition from wearing heavily cushioned shoes to lighter, less structured running shoes.

The transition is where a lot of runners make their mistakes. From running too much at the very beginning, to not recovering enough, and even running on the wrong surfaces. Barefoot running is a spectrum and you shouldn’t jump from one end to the other.

How to Start Running Barefoot Safely

Fortunately, there’s a free guide that just became available from David Csonka at Naturally Engineered to help you learn the minimalist ropes. His Couch to Barefoot introductory guide will show you:

  • How to get reacquainted with the ground
  • The steps to start walking and running barefoot
  • Dangers to be aware of when you’re barefoot
  • The best places to run without shoes
  • Why to run barefoot in the first place

Let me know if you have any questions on implementing some barefoot running in your training. A little bit goes a long way for improving your form and reducing your injury risk.

Note: this guide is no longer available. But there are several free guides, workouts, and exercise illustrations available to SR subscribers here. Just my way of saying thanks for joining the team!

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