I have done some barefoot running, not a whole lot, and not for a while. It works well for some people, works poorly for some, and for a whole bunch it's a toss-up. One thing that matters a lot is your footstrike. If you heelstrike when running barefoot, that is supposed to be the worst combination. If your strike is mid or forefoot, the forces are supposed to be redistributed in a way that peak forces are about the same as in shoes, but more on the ankle, achilles and calf, and less on the knee and upper leg. There is a lot to read about this and a lot of recent changing information.
Here is one place to start that is relatively unbiased.
Here is the seminal research supporting barefoot.
Here's a pretty good video on running form and economy that features barefoot. He seems to prefer barefoot but doesn't insist it is the only way.
Good luck! Have fun!
Barefoot running definitely has some benefits. I'd start with very small doses of it. It's not something you do daily. I'd start off doing it on a football field after a run or on a track or maybe a soccer field and do 30 seconds worth of running and gradually build that up once a week or so.
Running barefoot is supposed to simulate your natural and ideal running form because your brain can sense that you don't have shoes on. This is a good thing and teaches you a form that will be more efficient and less prone to injury. This will NOT happen overnight though. Stick with it and keep us update.
Would you do me a HUGE favor and complete the 30 second survey below? It's about beginning runners. Thanks SO much!
I think of barefoot running as a way to crosstrain for my running. I do have a few "barefoot" shoes and sometimes will run truly barefoot. Do heed the advice that you should start small or you will find your legs very sore the next day. The "Born to Run" bookby Chris McDougall has a lot of good information on barefoot running. If you decide it's something you want to try I would recommend reading "Barefoot Running" by Michael Sandler - he gives a lot of good information on barefoot shoes vs no shoes, excercises to help strenghten and prepare your feet, etc.
Grass is probably NOT a good surface to start. It is too uneven. What you want is a smooth, firm surface. A composition track can work (though I find them a little abrasive and the color may bleed) or a smooth section of asphalt. Below are sections from the FAQ on http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/ (Daniel E. Lieberman's research site).
What surfaces should I run on?
Choose a clean smooth paved surface. A common perception is that our feet were not meant to run on hard surfaces and that running on hard surfaces causes injuries. But our ancestors ran on surfaces of various hardness and forefoot striking when barefoot has less impact than even walking. Runners typically adjust leg stiffness so they experience the same impact forces on soft and hard surfaces (Dixon et al., 2000).
What about surface hardness? Our ancestors didn’t run on pavement.
A common perception is that running on hard surfaces causes injuries, but runners typically adjust leg stiffness so they experience the similar impact forces on soft and hard surfaces. Further, forefoot and some midfoot strikers hit the ground in a way that generates almost no collision forces even on hard surfaces like steel. You can run barefoot and heel strike on a soft beach or lawn, but most natural surfaces are much harder and rougher. With proper forefoot or midfoot strike form, running on hard, rough surfaces can be comfortable and safe.
Also some recent and interesting research that casts doubt on the benefits of barefoot for a lot of runners.
Forgot to put in the link.
Message was edited by: Leonard Herring
For what it's worth, at a 5K recently I started a conversation with a barefoot runner. A guy in his 50's, he said he started running barefoot 2 years ago when his knees started swelling after running in conventional shoes.
It cured his problem and the guy actually turned out to be an accomplished runner, winning his age group in 22:00 & change that day.
It may not be for everyone, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out without talking to an actual barefoot runner. Practical experience will trump an armchair expert every time.
Enjoy life, this ain't a rehearsal...
As I said, it works well for some. And it is certainly worth a try. Even if you only do it part-time, it can help with footplant and gait. It is a completely different feel from what you get in shoes, and I have tried to carry that "feel for the road" over into my running in shoes. My problem, personally, is that I continue to heel strike barefoot. Research has shown that heelstriking barefoot is the worst combination, actually greatly increasing the loading on your feet and legs. In other words, for barefoot to be beneficial, you have to strike either midfoot or forefoot So I have pretty much given it up.
I'll bet if you were raised in a country where walking and running in bare feet are common, and you had already done it often, it would probably work out well for you. There are people who run entire marathons in bare feet. The problem is that here in America, we spend most of our lives in shoes (no shoes no shirt no service), and our feet lack a lot of conditioning for the practice. This may not be true of those who routinely spend their time at home in bare feet, or whose occupations are outdoors in bare feet, such as lifeguards, but it is true of most of us.
Here in a newbie forum, where people are making the jump from couch to 5k, barefoot running is more of a quantum leap for any tenderfoot to attempt while learning just to run regularly. I'm in agreement with others here, that it can take a while to adjust to something that unfamiliar, no less when exercise itself is fairly new.
My advice for any aspiring runner, who might also be an aspiring barefooter, would be to learn to run in roomy, well cushioned shoes first. After your feet have toughened up over a few years, try more minimalist footwear, and mix in some barefoot workouts as a trial. It is often said that learning to run barefoot first, improves your form, but that depends on how easily you can learn just to be barefoot. You can't just decide to be a native Kenyan overnight, and I'm willing to bet most failure of barefoot running is among those who thought they could just ask their unconditioned body to make too many changes at once.
Alternatively, you could try learning to live in bare feet by baby steps, after a few years of which you might try running that way. Learning just to live barefoot can hurt. A lot. It's like growing up all over again, except you don't get the extra time. You are also no longer in a similar growth phase. Eventually, you might even be able to take on a program like C25K, but I would not recommend both at once if you are not already an experienced barefooter.
Choose now which is most important to you, and tackle that first, before taking on the other. C25K, even for a newbie, is a fairly modest enterprise - shod, but in newly bared feet, way more to ask of yourself. It's not about how great you might feel right away, or even over a year or so, that counts. It's what condition your body will be in down the line. Many running injuries take years to develop, and there is no point spending your running time developing potential career-ending injuries. Play it safe, and you might be able to enjoy your sport for a lifetime.
I ran in shoes for 30 years until stopped by chronic knee pain. After draining fluid from my knees for the third time, the doctor told me to stop running. The realization that I might never run again was devastating.
That was in 2004 at the age of 52. Then in 2009 I read Born to Run. Having nothing to lose, I decided to try running in bare feet. I built up very slowly and am now running 25 miles a week with absolutely no pain.
The key for me has been to run with the knees bent, even upon landing. That pretty much put an end to the overstriding (feet landing too far forward). I rarely run on grass or sand, but enjoy concrete, asphalt, the track, or a good trail.
I gladly talk with other runnners about my odd habit, although I don't actively encourage anyone to ditch their shoes.
For me the benefits have been life-changing and I expect to enjoy running in bare feet at least into my eighties.
"The key for me has been to run with the knees bent, even upon landing." Most definitely upon landing! That and avoiding overstriding. The two need to go together. As someone else out here has said: "flex your kness, then flex them a little more". To my mind, you have indeed found the key. I did too, but before I did any barefoot running, which emphasized what I had learned. I cannot emphasize those things enough, to the extent that I feel like a "broken record" when I mention them in a reply to a new runner. Do those things and you will greatly reduce your chances of injury.
Glad that you got it back, injury-free!
There are NO mammals which run on their heels. In pedestrian cultures humans run on their forefeet, big toe lines up straight with heel. Heels are meant for walking on, NOT running on. Heels did NOT evolve to handle the shock of running and fat squishy heels do not compensate for 100 million years of evolution (or god perfecting our design if that suits your fancy). The leg and calf muscle spread out the impact of barefoot running on forefeet so you can feel almost weightless running, even on concrete.
We put marshmallow heeled, toe bending shoes on our children, and grow up warping our legs spine and toes. We adopt the belief that sexy for Women is to wear spiked heel toe smashing shoes. Podiatrists and orthopedists make tons of money "helping" people deal with the pain created by the mis-aligned, warped, and contorted bones caused by "civilized" footwear. Don't wait until your body is injured by this perverse bondage. Take off your shoes, ease back into your natural running form. If you have tender feet or live in sticker/cactus land, get Vibram 5 finger or FLAT Fila Skeletoes (latter are great if you have webbed little toe). Name brand 5 toe socks are good but unreasonably expensive, get em in bulk at VERY affordable prices elsewhere (eg search "toe sock" @ http://www.aliexpress.com).
Strip off those foot corsets and experience the joy of barefoot(or nearly barefoot) running!
Like some of the other folks who have posted on here, I was a heelstriker. I have been a runner on and off for over 20 years, but could not run more than a few miles at a time because of constant knee problems. Like some of the other folks on this post, the book "Born to Run" really triggered a major paradigm shift for me. I was inspired after I read the book and went out and bought a pair of Adidas Adipures. I ran a few short runs in the shoes and I felt fantastic! So, on my third run, I went out and ran 7 miles in my minimalist shoes and then could hardly walk for a week. Over the next 6 months, I had a long process of research and relearning how to run the way God designed our bodies to run, but an imprtant point...I was commited to making this happen. The Harvard website (http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/) is really useful. I also watched a lot of barefoot runners on YouTube to learn what I was doing wrong. Another VERY important part of the transition is to strengthen your Achilles. You can do this through simple toes raises and lunges against a wall before and after each run. Another exercise I found was to use your toes to pickup things like your kids toys laying on the ground...it helps wake-up those sleeping, atrophied muscles. I strained my Achilles a few times in the process of building up my strength and converting to minimalist running. I have now been running in minimalist shoes for 18 months. I ran in my first half marathon at the end of last year. I went from running less than 200 miles per year to over 1500 miles per year. I also appreciated the comment above about folks using minimalist shoes for cross-training. I have some friends in the military who run in minimalist shoes in personal training and it helps them tremendously when they have to go on runs in combat boots.
I do not believe that it is simply that barefoot running is only for some people. It is REALLY HARD to unlearn a lifetime of walking and running with bad form. The muscles in your feet atrophy in the cushioned, padded shoes most of us are told to wear. Statistics show that cheaper shoes with less padding create far fewer injuries than expensive cushioned running shoes. It takes a lot of work and you really need to listen to your body and do your homework about what bad habits you have to unlearn.
People have run and walked for thousands of years with no shoes and before Nike introduced the padded running shoe in the early 1970s, Americans dominated the world in distance running. I believe minimalist running is a re-disovery of how we were designed to run.
Hi all! I haven't been over here for a LONG time. Lenzlaw, as ever, you are the voice of reason and sound experience and always seem to have the best links at your fingertips.
My own take as a primarily Barefoot runner runner since I went from couch 100% Barefoot running in May of 2010, is that there's no time like Newbie time to start learning careful, gentle natural form running. As a beginner you're not saddled with high expectations for speed or distance that can make transitioning hazardous or tedious.
Do your homework. Read the articles and maybe track down a workshop if you're luck enough to have such a thing in your area. Try it in moderation and see how it feels to you. You will notice a difference! I remember my feet tingling like never before after my first few runs. Keep your eyes peeled for nice paved trails to check out for running on.
I live near Valley Forge National Park which has a wonderful 5 mile paved loop trail that's my favorite if the sun's not too hot. The nearby Schuylkill River Trail is much longer than I can run and is all smooth like butter. I know of a few unpaved trails that I like to try now and then for a special treat.
Another source for info on BF running is the Barefoot Runners Society (theBarefootRunners.org)
Good luck and have fun!
Barefoot / Minimalist Runner
...not maintaining this these days..
07/29/2012 Marsh Creek Raptor Run 10 Mile Trail Race
07/15/2012 Quadzilla 15K Trail Run, Trexlertown, PA 1:37 (2011, 1:49)
04/29/2012 Lehigh Valley / St. Luke's HM, 1:43:15 (2011, 1:54:20 )
03/19/2012 Kutztown Fool's Run 10 Miler, 1:18:15 (2011, 1:30:20)
02/26/2012 Ugly Mudder 7.2 Mile Trail Run, Reading, PA 1:20
11/27/2011 Dirty Bird 15K Trail Run, Birdsboro, PA 1:40
10/08/2011 Lehigh Gap Nature Center 10K Trail Run (6.38 miles), 59:20 (10/07/2012)
Started running (again) May 5, 2010
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