Barefoot Running Shoes: What are they?
The term “barefoot” means without any footwear at all. These days, it refers to running or walking barefooted. There are different types of bare feet. Some wear sandals while others wear flip flops or other kinds of shoes with little soles (or no soles). The barefoot type is characterized by having only one big toe and two small toes.
There are many benefits of wearing bare feet. They protect your feet from germs, cuts, scrapes, bruises and other injuries caused by sharp objects such as nails, glass shards or even rocks. They allow you to feel the ground better because there is no shoe covering them. They also prevent blisters and chafing.
They may also reduce the risk of developing plantar fasciitis, a painful condition where the bottom part of your foot becomes inflamed due to overuse. Plantar fasciitis is often accompanied by pain in other parts of your body such as your heels, knees or ankles.
Bare feet allow you to balance yourself better since they promote proper footwork and improve your sense of judgment. Wearing shoes, on the other hand, can make you lose that natural connection to the ground and your surroundings.
Barefoot running can help turn your feet into shock-absorbers, protecting you from bone injuries. This is because the bones in your feet are protected by padding and muscle which strengthens them.
Other ways of describing barefoot running are natural running, primitive running or primal running.
Barefoot running has undergone a revival after the 2010 release of the bestselling book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. His book followed the true story of a small group of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who can run hundreds of miles without getting tired and ran away from modern society after an ill-fated attempt to enter a marathon. The book has a cult following within the barefoot running community and is also popular among the ultramarathon running community.
Primal or Barefoot?
Many people confuse the term barefoot running with primal or natural running. This is because they are used interchangeably by some members of the running community. In reality, however, they refer to different approaches to running.
To put it simply, barefoot running means running without any footwear at all. It is usually a person’s preferred way of running since it allows him to feel the ground and engage his natural reflexes.
Natural running, on the other hand, refers to a system created by a physical therapist named Danny Dreyer. In his book “Running Strong”, he goes into detail about how you should run by engaging your core muscles and letting your body move in a more efficient and stable way.
Some people claim that natural running is a more advanced approach to running since it requires a person to have better balance and control of their core muscles. They also say that natural running is more barefoot running, although this isn’t entirely true.
How to start?
If you want to start barefoot running or natural running, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First off, be sure that the ground you’re running on is safe and free of debris. This means avoiding gravel, sand and other uneven surfaces. Second, start slow. Begin by walking and then gradually ease into a light jog. This will prevent you from getting injured and give your body some time to adjust.
Finally, pay attention to your body. You’ll know when it’s time to transition into a natural or barefoot running style since your feet will naturally adapt and react to the ground below.
The transition from regular running to natural running can take time. It’s not uncommon to feel soreness in your calves and shins during the first few weeks. This is because you’re essentially strengthening the muscles that were weakened from years of poor running form. In time, however, you should notice an increase in your balance and running stamina along with a decrease in muscle pain and fatigue.
Benefits of Barefoot Running
Barefoot running and natural running have a number of potential benefits. First off, they’re great for people who have dealt with injuries in the past since it encourages a more natural way of running. It also helps strengthen your feet and ankles, making them less susceptible to pain and fatigue.
Natural and barefoot running can also improve your balance which is useful for other athletic pursuits such as martial arts. It also allows you to feel the ground below which can be great for people who are concerned about the environment.
Finally, some enthusiasts claim that running without shoes can help them avoid injuries and recover from past ones more quickly. There have been a number of studies on the topic with mixed results. While some studies show no difference between running with or without shoes, others show a slight decrease in impact when running barefoot or in a more natural form.
Zero Drop, Wide Toe Box Shoes
Like barefoot and natural running shoes, zero drop, wide toe box shoes feature a flat sole that promotes natural running. Since your foots natural position is flat, this reduces the risk of rolling your ankle or straining your muscles. These types of shoes also have extra space in the toe box to allow your toes to move freely. While not everyone needs this extra room, people with wide feet usually benefit from it.
These types of shoes can reduce the chances of injury since they allow you to run in a more natural form.
Unlike zero drop, wide toe box shoes that try to recreate a bare foot experience, minimalist shoes are low without trying to look like one. They do not feature any sort of support or cushioning and allow you to feel the ground beneath you which can help you adjust your running pattern.
Sources & references used in this article:
Acute effects of barefoot, minimal shoes and running shoes on lower limb mechanics in rear and forefoot strike runners by MR Paquette, S Zhang, LD Baumgartner – Footwear Science, 2013 – Taylor & Francis
The influence of barefoot and barefoot-inspired footwear on the kinetics and kinematics of running in comparison to conventional running shoes by J Sinclair, A Greenhalgh, D Brooks… – Footwear …, 2013 – Taylor & Francis
Choosing the Right Running Shoes by SD Smith – livestronghealthyhappy.com
Effects of barefoot and barefoot inspired footwear on knee and ankle loading during running by J Sinclair – Clinical biomechanics, 2014 – Elsevier
Biomechanical considerations on barefoot movement and barefoot shoe concepts by B Nigg – Footwear Science, 2009 – Taylor & Francis
Choosing Running Shoes: The Evidence Behind the Recommendations-Part 3 by DJ Fellner – m.podiatry.com
What do people think about running barefoot/with minimalist footwear? A thematic analysis by PD Walton, DP French – British Journal of Health Psychology, 2016 – Wiley Online Library
Impact characteristics in shod and barefoot running by J Hamill, EM Russell, AH Gruber, R Miller – Footwear Science, 2011 – Taylor & Francis