Barefoot running has become a popular activity at present because many of its proponents believe that it has lots of rewarding benefits. Most of them say that running barefoot makes them feel a lot better. Fans of this practice even say that wearing running shoes just limits their natural movements and stride, resulting to injuries and pain.
So the question is “is this trend for everyone?”. And what are the specific benefits that one can get from it?
What is Barefoot Running?
As the name suggests, barefoot running involves running without footwear. With modern footwear around, though, the act of running barefoot is less common in many parts of the world. However, a few parts of Latin America and Africa still practice it. It has also become popular in some Western countries because of its many reported health benefits.
Still, many are skeptic about trying it out because it means that there will be nothing that will protect them from bruises, cuts, harsh weather and other elements. If you’re interested but afraid to try, then here are some of its reported benefits that may encourage you:
- Makes you feel more connected – Running with shoes can’t make you feel that connected to the world around you. Doing it barefoot, on the other hand, can add a newer and better dimension to the entire experience. You’ll feel more connected not only to the ground but also to the environment where you’re in.
- Improves your balance – Barefoot running allows you to feel the ground, which is also a good thing in starting to wake up your brain’s balance or vestibular system. This further stimulates new neural connections and remap your mind, so you can attain better balance. The balance that one can attain from this activity is more beneficial for seniors. Their new and improved balance can help them prevent possible falls, hip fractures and other forms of injuries that can trigger the development of some health issues.
- Improves posture – When you feel the ground, nerve endings found at the bottom part of your feet will start telling you that you’re tilting or leaning forward. This is a good thing if you want to start improving your posture as it serves as a signal whether you need to correct your present one. Aside from making you look taller and better, your good posture can also significantly reduce the strain, stress, and pressure received by your body. This is possible even without exerting too much effort.
- Keeps your strides lighter – If you’re wearing running shoes, expect your feet to be fully protected from the ground. This will prevent you from feeling your own strides, except for the sounds of your shoes when it lands the ground. However, because you’re unconscious of your own strides, expect to take heavier ones. If you decide to run barefoot, you will start to take much lighter strides. There’s no need to pound on your ankles, feet, and knees anymore, which is a good thing if you want to be more comfortable when doing the activity and avoid injuries in the process.
- Makes you embrace more freedom – Once you start barefoot running, you will instantly realize that wearing shoes before had actually somewhat restricted your movement. Your movements are quite limited considering the fact that you need to wrap and enclose your feet in socks and shoes. That’s not the case with barefoot running. Expect to feel your midsole, heel, toes, and your entire feet touching the ground as they brush against the cool and relaxing air when making each stride. This experience can actually make you enjoy more freedom.
- Improves your strength – Going barefoot also strengthens your body as it stimulates new muscles – waking them up to improve your balance and provide proper support to your entire body. It’s also a good way to tone all your leg muscles. The activity can also wake up the dormant muscles in your legs and feet, thereby stimulating the proper flow of blood into your legs and feet. This improved blood flow can result in reduced pains and aches, warmer legs and feet during the winter season and lower risk of developing varicose veins.
- Reduces stress and pressure on your joints, feet, and knees – Barefoot running actually lessens stress and pressure on your feet. Running shoes have the tendency to damage your ankles, hips, and knees. It’s because it tends to shift your weight down, triggering ankle sprains. You can avoid that if you run barefoot because you can improve your posture plus make your strides even lighter. It lessens the weight that your feet, ankles, and knees bear.
- Offers a fun experience – Barefoot running tends to bring out the child in you. This makes the experience much more fun than what you initially expected. Since it’s a fun experience, expect to run longer than what you initially planned. This is a good thing if you really want to be motivated to work out. Aside from these eight powerful benefits, expect barefoot running to also help you reduce inflammation, lower your risk of suffering from high blood pressure, and be more mindful.
Do you Need Barefoot Shoes?
While barefoot running involves running without footwear, it does not mean that you can’t wear something to protect your feet. In fact, you can find lots of minimalist barefoot shoes on the market that can protect you during the activity without causing you to let go of its benefits.
Barefoot shoes can make you feel like you’re running without footwear. The soles just provide the bare essentials to protect your feet from potential hazards found on the ground. Some models don’t feature cushion in the heel pad while others are slightly cushioned.
If you want to try barefoot running and enjoy its many rewarding benefits, such as the ones mentioned here, then try to invest in a good pair of barefoot shoes. Do this especially if you still want to have some sort of protection against harmful elements on the ground. With this, you can enjoy the benefits of the activity without potentially harming yourself.