why, where and how to run

Attitudes towards barefoot running are contradictory: some say it’s stupid and dangerous, others – on the contrary, that we are created for such running.

Since Nike launched the first dedicated running shoe, running shoe sales have exploded, new brands and technologies have emerged, and with them, marketers have convinced us of the need for flexible soles, a foot support, pronation and supination correction, and more. solutions to runners’ problems.

Since the release of Christopher McDougle’s book Born to Run in 2009, the barefoot running debate has resurfaced and brands have taken the plunge with minimalist, thin-soled sneakers.

Ekaterina Preobrazhenskaya, the trainer of the Marathonica running school, will help you understand the nuances of barefoot running.

Why do you need running shoes

We are born without shoes – this is already proof that our body is ready to do without shoes. If you take a radical look at things, the body is already optimally organized to perform the functions necessary for survival and development.

Since running is one of the types of movement inherent in a person, nothing more is needed for this. But civilization has brought us many benefits that create extra comfort, and running shoes are one of them.

When a small child begins to walk and soon to run, as a rule, he constantly wants to take off his shoes. And it’s no coincidence: for those who are not yet used to shoes, walking barefoot is much more pleasant and comfortable.

When we don’t put our feet in shoes, the arch and ankle muscles work and grow with every step, and they are then responsible for cushioning when running and walking. If this natural process is disturbed, the knees, hip joints and spine will begin to suffer along the chain, because it is the arch of the foot that was created by nature to “achieve” the landing. .

Read on the topic: What is pronation and supination of the foot when running

But it’s impossible to avoid shoes if you don’t live in the countryside, if only because they protect you from dirt, sharp objects and the cold. From then on, you quickly get used to the boots, with all the consequences of muscle underdevelopment that follow.

Add here a predominantly sedentary lifestyle and get a typical picture of a modern person who wants to “air his head” at least several times a week while jogging.

Of course, few people, before starting to run, do long and hard exercises for the foot in order to develop the corresponding muscles. As a result, the pain, injury and discomfort of running. This is where sports brands come to the rescue, acting as “saviors”: they promise that in their sneakers with advanced cushioning technologies, the knees and spine are reliably protected.

Running barefoot: useful or dangerous?

However, it really works: the sole takes some of the shock load, and at first it really makes life easier – it’s softer, more comfortable, the knees don’t hurt. But you need to change your sneakers every 500 km so that they do not lose their properties. And if you start running more and faster, you still can’t do without working your feet and stabilizing your muscles.

Plus, cushioned shoes allow you to run comfortably with the wrong technique, which means running is less economical and more injury-prone. It turns out a vicious circle.

Useful: Expiration date: how often to change your running shoes

why run barefoot

Try running barefoot from the heel up, and you’ll soon realize that it’s impossible: without a soft sole, it will hurt. Barefoot, we automatically begin to run correctly: leaning the body forward and landing on the front side of the foot. With such a run, the “correct” muscles created for this by nature are included in the work, the load is removed from other parts of the body. In other words, the correct and natural running technique is developed.

However, it must be understood that if one does not grow up among Kenyan runners or in the tribe of Tarahumara Indians, who from an early age run either barefoot or in thin-soled sandals (or old worn-out sneakers), then suddenly start running barefoot will be dangerous. The necessary muscles have not been worked out and, having received a strong load, they will not be able to “train”. Injuries will be an almost inevitable result.

To read: Long distance running technique: 5 basic rules

Running barefoot: useful or dangerous?
photo: Annie Spratt, source: durmagazine.com

Benefits of running barefoot

  • The main benefit is the development of correct and natural running technique, which will improve results and protect against injury in the future.
  • When we run barefoot, we receive a foot massage, that is, we act on a number of points and nerve endings that are connected with the rest of the body, which improves the coherence of the body.
  • Running barefoot develops the muscles of the feet, thereby correcting posture, relieving stress on the knees and spine, not only in training, but also in everyday life, which will prevent problems in the musculoskeletal system.

Disadvantages of running barefoot

  • You can injure your leg and get an infection, and walking barefoot through dirty city streets is just plain unpleasant.
  • In winter and in cool weather, you cannot run barefoot.
  • Even in nature, it is far from safe to move around without shoes everywhere: stones, roots, thorns and other sharp objects can easily ruin a workout.
  • If you start running barefoot suddenly, unprepared, you may have more problems than benefits. Therefore, if you want to go down the path of natural running, thus improve your technique and stop using padded shoes, you need to do it gently and carefully, following a number of rules.

barefoot running rules

The main premise of barefoot running is to start gently and with minimal volumes. At the end of your regular workout, take off your shoes and run 300m barefoot at an easy pace. Next time increase this distance to 500m, then a bit more. Listen to your body and take breaks if something starts to hurt.

After increasing the barefoot running distance to several miles, you can start doing individual barefoot workouts. However, remember that in the beginning you do not need to accelerate, volume growth is already a considerable burden. Only after a long period of time, when you can confidently cover the familiar barefoot cross-country distance, can we speak of some kind of high-speed work.

However, few people make the effort to switch completely to barefoot running, which is a priori difficult to do in an urban environment. Therefore, it is advisable to add barefoot segments to regular workouts several times a week.

It is very important to do foot exercises regularly in parallel with bare running, and better yet, to start them in advance.

On what surfaces do you run barefoot?

It is best to run barefoot on grass, dirt, sand or other natural surfaces. At the same time, it is advisable to choose routes where the danger of stepping on glass or a nail is minimal and to carefully watch where you step. In the city in winter, you can use the covered carousel.

Running barefoot: useful or dangerous?

There are also sneakers that have no cushioning at all, but only protect against mechanical damage. For example, Merrel Vapor Glove or Vibram Five Fingers. Of course, for our pampered feet, it is a real salvation against cuts and abrasions.

For whom running barefoot is contraindicated

As already written above, we were born barefoot, so there are no strict contraindications against running without shoes. However, people with problems with the musculoskeletal system should be careful with such a run and pay special attention to exercises on the feet and smoothness of the whole volume.

Overweight people and the elderly are also at risk.

What is the best way to run barefoot

As with many things in life, when it comes to barefoot running, it’s best to strike the right balance: patiently approach all of the volumes and don’t completely switch to such running, but introduce it rather in your regular workouts. This will allow you to avoid the limitations imposed by running barefoot (selection of a safe route, climatic characteristics, hygiene), but at the same time it will help to pump the muscles of the feet, straighten the technique and pass smoothly to flexible movements and minimalist running shoes.

Running barefoot: useful or dangerous?

In order not to injure yourself mechanically, it is advisable to use sneakers-gloves.

In general, the earlier on your running journey you start including barefoot running in the training process the better, but it’s worth remembering to start small, listen to your body and don’t look for quick results.

Read more: Natural Running: Danny Abshire’s 7 Commandments