Barefoot running is, as the name suggests, running without any kind of footwear. It is also called natural running, because presumably our feet were designed to run barefoot and this is how a lot of traditional societies still do run.
A significant number of top athletes such as Olympic runners also practice barefoot running. Critics decry barefoot running as inviting injury and complications. However proponents of barefoot running say that it reduces risk of several injuries, chronic pain, and repetitive stress injury and so on. Here are some tips and techniques for barefoot running.
People experienced with barefoot running advise that it is important to first get used to walking around barefoot if you’re not used to it. The foot needs to adjust to moving without footwear and so going barefoot will cause soreness and stiffness to begin with.
Be careful of injuries and strain during those first weeks and be patient because the transition from running with footwear to running barefoot can take several months. Doing proper stretches and massaging of the foot and calf muscles can also help with the transition.
Maintain proper balance and running stance
The body needs to be properly positioned while running barefoot. The head should be positioned in a forward position to facilitate proper breathing and a good running stance. The torso should be upright and held in a relaxed position.
The knees should be bent at the time of point of contact of the sole of the foot with the running surface so that some of the impact is absorbed. The calves also should be relaxed and not tense. While landing on the balls of the feet, the toes should be curled up to prevent them striking the ground. Keep the landing soft and do not land heavily on the soles. The stride should not be too long – the foot shouldn’t land too far ahead of the hips.
Examine your running surface
Experts advise that in order to learn the proper barefoot running technique it is important to run on a smooth, flat surface that is free from debris. Grass is good too; in fact any surface that feels comfortable to run on. However some barefoot runners caution that running on a sandy or uneven surface may not mean that you’re not running with proper form.
People who shouldn’t run barefoot
People with chronic conditions such as diabetes or a compromised immune system (those who have HIV etc) and those on certain medications are advised not to run barefoot. This is because they could injure themselves more easily and the risk of infection is higher.