2 Rules For Beginning Barefoot Running (And Avoiding Injury)
Barefoot running is not only beneficial for your health but it’s also very enjoyable! You will feel much better after doing some barefoot running.
But what if you are injured? What if you have a foot problem or other injury? Shouldn’t you avoid these problems with bare feet?
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t do so.
First of all, there are no rules about barefoot running. Some people like to wear shoes while others don’t.
So why not let yourself decide which way you want to go?
Second, it is true that you might get hurt during your first few months of barefoot running. However, you won’t get injured if you follow these two simple rules: 1) Don’t overdo it; and 2) Keep practicing barefoot running until it becomes second nature.
Third, even though you may get hurt during your first few months of barefoot running, you will recover from such injuries because you are going to experience a lot of natural biomechanical changes in your body. Your muscles and tendons will adapt to the new movement patterns. And when they do this, your pain level will decrease significantly. If it doesn’t then maybe it’s time to change up your routine and try something else.
In other words, don’t be afraid to experience a little bit of pain. It’s actually a good thing because it will prove to be beneficial in the long run. You are literally retraining your body so it only makes sense that your body is going to protest at first. This shouldn’t scare you.
There are several other benefits to barefoot running such as better posture, quicker reflexes, more stamina, and less chance of getting injured in the future. If you haven’t considered barefoot running before, you really should start giving it some thought.
We all have to start somewhere and for many of us that means getting over that initial fear of going barefoot. If you can learn to run barefoot effectively, then you will be able to do a lot of other things barefoot as well. It’s really a win/win situation!
So what are you waiting for?
Go out there and try it!
If you have already been barefoot running and are having problems with pain, then you should continue reading. There are many types of foot problems that can occur while barefoot running. Since everyone’s feet are different, it is impossible to list every single possible problem that can occur. Instead, we will just give an overview of the most common problems.
The most common causes of pain while barefoot running are:
1. You are going too far too fast.
2. You are leading with your heel.
3. Your arches are collapsing.
4. You have tight calf muscles.
5. You have tight achilles tendons.
6. You have tight plantar fascia.
7. You have a pinched nerve in your feet or legs.
8. You are overweight.
9. You have a bone or growth abnormality.
10. You have fibromyalgia (FMS).
11. Your running surface is too hard.
12. Your running surface is uneven.
13. Your running surface has rocks or other debris.
14. You are wearing the wrong type of shoes.
While there are more things that can cause pain, these are probably the most common ones. If you are experiencing pain, you should try to determine what the source of the pain is before doing anything else.
It is also important to remember that some level of pain is okay and even desirable when you are working out. The key is not to do too much too soon.
The only way you are really going to know if you are having a problem is if you are experiencing an unusual amount of pain for you. Everyone has a different level of pain they can tolerate. Someone who runs long distances might be able to run a 10K without any pain, but experience pain when running even a mile. Someone else who doesn’t run at all could experience pain after walking a mile.
As you start running barefoot, your body will adapt gradually until it reaches a point where it is ready to take you further. You just need to give it time and stay patient.
The following are a list of possible foot problems you might experience and how to treat them:
Heel Pain: Possibly the most common problem for new barefooters. This is usually due to one of two reasons. The first is that you are trying to push off with your toes when you run. This causes you to push off from your heel which is painful for most people until their legs and feet get used to bearing your weight. The second reason is due to your Achilles tendons and calves being too tight.
This causes your toes to curl under (making you pigeon toed) when you run which puts stress on your heels.
To avoid this, make sure that you bend your knees while running so that you are actually pushing off from your calves and not your toes. Your feet and legs will get stronger as you continue barefoot running so your heels shouldn’t be hurting at this point. If they are, you may have tight calf muscles or tight achilles tendons. Stretch them until you can feel the stretching pain subside.
Arch Pain: This is usually due to one of three things. The first is the most common, your arches collapse when you run. This causes you to “roll through” your feet when running. The second is due to a muscle in the bottom of your foot called the abductor tendon which is supposed to keep your big toe pulled back from pointing away from your other toes. If this is tight, it will cause pain under your big toe and cause you to feel like something is stabbing you.
If your arches collapse, you can fix this by doing “arch strengthening exercises” which is basically arching your feet and holding the position while you do something that causes your feet to fully support your weight (like standing or walking) until it no longer hurts. This should strengthen the muscles in your feet which will keep your arches from collapsing.
The other way to treat this is to stretch out your abductor tendon. You will most likely have to do both.
Ball of Foot Pain: This is probably the least common foot problem, but for some people it can be painful when running on hard surfaces. The reason is because you are using a bone in your foot called the “navicular” as a balancing tool while running. This can cause pain on the top of your feet just in front of your big toes.
To alleviate this, try to relax your feet while running. Try not to tense up the muscles in the top of your feet.
It is also helpful to slightly increase your stride length slightly. This will move your feet past that painful area a little faster. This isn’t always possible though if you are running on rough terrain.
Achilles Pain: This is pain in the tendon that attaches your calves to your heels.
Sources & references used in this article:
Gait retraining for the reduction of injury occurrence in novice distance runners: 1-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial by ZYS Chan, JH Zhang, IPH Au, WW An… – … American journal of …, 2018 – journals.sagepub.com
The barefoot debate: can minimalist shoes reduce running-related injuries? by JA Rixe, RA Gallo, ML Silvis – Current sports medicine reports, 2012 – journals.lww.com
Oxygen cost of running barefoot vs. running shod by NJ Hanson, K Berg, P Deka, JR Meendering… – International journal of …, 2011 – Citeseer
Impact characteristics in shod and barefoot running by J Hamill, EM Russell, AH Gruber, R Miller – Footwear Science, 2011 – Taylor & Francis
Minimalist shoe injuries: three case reports by DJ Cauthon, P Langer, TC Coniglione – The Foot, 2013 – Elsevier
Intrinsic gait-related risk factors for Achilles tendinopathy in novice runners: a prospective study by A Van Ginckel, Y Thijs, NGZ Hesar, N Mahieu… – Gait & posture, 2009 – Elsevier
Is there evidence to support a forefoot strike pattern in barefoot runners? A review by DS Lorenz, M Pontillo – Sports Health, 2012 – journals.sagepub.com
A 2-year prospective cohort study of overuse running injuries: The runners and injury longitudinal study (TRAILS) by SP Messier, DF Martin, SL Mihalko… – … American journal of …, 2018 – journals.sagepub.com