Many runners are interested in barefoot running or minimalist running because of the benefits that come with it. It improves strength on your legs, more natural gait, and improves balance while running.
You will feel in nature and feel like you’re connected to the ground when running.
At first, it may seem unnatural because of the lack of support from your cushioned running shoes. But it is how our feet are designed, which is to be able to run barefoot. It’s how our ancestors used to run thousands of years ago.
Sadly, runners like me can’t run barefoot outside for numerous reasons. Most likely because of pavements that are hot that can burn your feet or roads that have sharp objects like rocks, debris, pebbles, and other dangerous objects that your foot can step on.
But don’t worry! You can still run barefoot on a treadmill at your house or your local gym. It is generally safer due to the environment you’re in and running barefoot on the smooth surface of the treadmill is so much better than the hard and rough surface of a road or pavement.
Now, questions might pop into your head like, is it safe? What are the benefits? Are there any risks of potential injuries? How to start running barefoot?
In this article, we are going to talk about all of that.
What Are The Benefits Of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill?
1. It Strengthens Your Feet And Legs
Running barefoot targets the muscles and ligaments like your calves, legs, Achilles tendons, and tibialis. Without the support of the cushion on your shoes, your feet will take all of the impacts in every stride, therefore activating and strengthening the muscles.
Moving around barefoot will also improve your movement, strength, and flexibility of the muscles and tendons of your foot.
2. Brings Back Your Natural Gait
When runners are wearing quality running shoes, they always make the mistake of overstriding. This is a problem as overstriding increases the chance of injury.
Barefoot allows the runner to change their natural running gait. What’s most likely to happen is your transition from heel striking to midfoot striking. Which allows your legs to absorb the impact better when running.
Unlike midfoot striking, heel striking may cause stress on your knees as it increases the force which may lead to an injury and slow down your stride.
It is natural to shorten your stride when you run barefoot, which is perfect.
3. Improves Your Balance And Stability
Running barefoot also does improve your balance and stability. When you are wearing comfortable, cushioned, running shoes, it gives a lot of support and balance on your feet.
Taking it off and using your naked feet to run is more natural and your muscles and joints will eventually function just like how they’re supposed to.
4. It Is Safer Than Running Barefoot On The Road
Roads have specks of dirt, rocks, and sharp objects which leaves your feet prone to injury. Also, hot roads can impact your running and burn your skin.
If you’re an introvert like me and running barefoot in public might make you feel awkward because of the looks some people give you, then running barefoot on a treadmill will give you a sense of relief.
Also Read: Running 10 Miles A Day
Risks Of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill
1. Possibility Of Foot Injuries
Running barefoot on a treadmill can cause burns and scratches. Risk of calluses, blisters, and foot abrasion. Other potential injuries can come from the running belt producing too much heat due to the friction which can burn the soles of your feet.
Running barefoot on a treadmill exposes your foot to bacteria and fungal organisms that can cause infections like athlete’s foot (or tinea pedis).
So clean your treadmills people, a clean and dry damped cloth is enough to clean the belt, and try to not drop any liquids on the belt.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
This happens to beginner runners because of transitioning way too fast from running with shoes to running barefoot which can overwork your Achilles tendon. It causes inflammation and hurts to the point where you don’t wanna stand anymore and just sit all day.
Achilles Tendonitis can be aided with rest and physical therapy. Which usually takes about 6 weeks to several months to recover, depending on the severity of the injury.
When you experience a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot, then these are symptoms of metatarsalgia.
Running barefoot can cause this and it is recommended to not run or do any physical activities that involve your feet and legs.
Although the pain usually subsides when you rest.
Tips On How To Start Running Barefoot On A Treadmill
1. Run Slowly
When first starting barefoot running, going slow is always the key to avoiding injuries. Try to focus on your posture, running pace, and form to not make any mistakes because of bad running form.
Try to run on the treadmill for a minute or 2 and see how it feels. Decrease the speed of the treadmill if it’s too hard and as you progress, speed it up.
Over a matter of weeks and months, you slowly progress and build your strength.
2. Learn The Basics Of Running Barefoot
- Your foot should strike the ground forefoot first instead of your heels. This will shorten your stride and increase your number of strides per minute.
- Do not slouch and keep your posture straight and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Don’t make a fist with your hands to not tighten up your arms. Remember to run tall and to be fully relaxed.
- Stay light at your feet, do not hammer your feet on the ground.
- Stay balanced
- Avoid overstriding
- Practice your running mechanics
3. What Are Barefoot Running Shoes?
If running barefoot on a treadmill hurts too much, then getting a pair of barefoot shoes is a perfect choice. Using these shoes to build up your strength on your tendons and tibialis until you can finally do it barefooted.
Barefoot shoes have no heel drop, so the heel of your foot is not raised. The sole has the same thickness across the shoe, therefore it would be completely flat on the ground. This means it would feel like you’re running barefoot but still have a layer of protection.
It helps reduce the impact and stress on your muscles and joints despite it having fewer cushions and is more comfortable and less painful than regular footwear. Although you do have to get used to it first if you’ve never worn it before.
The soles on barefoot shoes have less cushion compared to regular running shoes. Barefoot shoes normally have a 0 mm heel drop considering that running shoes have a 7 mm to 12 mm heel drop.
Executing a midfoot or forefoot strike is made easier by wearing barefoot shoes.
4. Buy Barefoot Running Shoes
Consider buying barefoot shoes or minimalist running shoes as it provides comfort even if you feel like you’re walking barefoot and protect your feet to avoid injuries that are stated above. It is a thin, lightweight, and soft shoe that is good to wear on your feet.
Visit the Whitin store on amazon to get barefoot & minimalist shoes which cost $42. It is a bang for your buck and it’s good for runners starting.
To Wrap It Up, Is Running Barefoot On A Treadmill Worth It?
Overall, running barefoot on a treadmill has some drawbacks and it puts extra force on your feet, it will take some time for you to get used to it.
If it feels too hard to do, don’t feel bad because trust me, it is not that easy and with the potential injuries, it can be discouraging to do.
But it is definitely worth running barefoot on a treadmill as it’s a completely new experience to do. Running in a different way and I find it to be a fun challenge, so it’s definitely worth trying it out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Is The Point Of Barefoot Running?
Removing your shoes brings back your natural gait. Also improves your balance and burns more calories since each step requires more force and effort because your feet are no longer being supported by shoes.
Q: Does It Hurt To Run Barefoot?
Barefoot running comes with a lot of benefits but also has drawbacks like Achilles strain or tendonitis, blisters, abrasion, etc. Wearing socks or minimalist shoes can add protection to your feet and avoid injuries.
Q: What Are The Differences Between Running Barefoot And Running With Shoes?
Comparingly, running barefoot tends to be more challenging than running with shoes since it requires more effort. While running with shoes, your feet get supported and the springs on the shoes help you while running and allow you to take longer strides.
Q: What Should I Worry About When Running Barefoot?
You should worry about running barefoot since it puts you at greater risk of getting injuries like Achilles strain, foot abrasions, burns from hot pavements, metatarsalgia, blisters, and many more.
Q: How To Avoid Injuries When Running Barefoot?
Use barefoot or minimalist shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects like rocks and pebbles. Start slowly and don’t run rapidly so soon.
I’m Ramona, a specialist in Crossfit and functional training. I am passionate about helping people reach their fitness goals, and I have been actively involved in the CrossFit community for over eight years. I’ve trained with some of the best coaches in the world, traveled to many different countries to learn from different experts, and completed numerous certification courses. Regardless of your fitness goals, I am committed to helping you achieve them through comprehensive, challenging, and effective workouts tailored to your lifestyle.