What is barefoot running?
Barefoot running is both form and function. It is a return to our roots, and for many, a new way of thinking about the sport. The foot is a complex structure containing 7200 nerve endings, 26 bones and 150 ligaments. At its essence, connecting the foot to the ground brings about various benefits for runners of all types. Free from shoes, the foot is able to flex and respond to the environment, sending messages throughout the nervous system, promoting balance and a healthy posture, and strengthening the entire body from the ground up. It is the ideal way to develop proper, efficient natural running form. This natural movement can prevent and alleviate injury, as well as gradually improve performance.
For many who give it a try, training without shoes can become the preferred method of choice. For others, it is a part of their overall program or a way they transition to minimalist running. No matter how it is used, it is a way to teach the body to run naturally without the bulk, motion-control, and structural limitations of traditional athletic footwear.
Regardless of where you are in your barefoot journey, incorporating bare routines into your training will benefit you in many ways. One of those is in the feedback you'll receive. When bare, you'll immediately adjust landing and notice right away if you do something wrong. Discomfort and pain are good indicators that you should stop before an injurious setback occurs. A heavily shod foot does not sense pain to the same degree as a bare one-it actually tends to mask it, thereby creating a greater risk of an overuse injury.
The benefits of natural running is not limited to a simple bettering of form. The process of learning to run barefoot involves walking and exercising on various surfaces, from carpet to cement to trail. Before attempting minimalist running, where ultra light, flexible footwear that allow the feet to move as naturally as possible are used, athletes should first take the time to increase their foot and lower-leg strength, build up strong pads, hone proprioception, perfect their natural running form, and be able to reliably listen to the body's signals. A realization of the benefits of choosing minimalist endeavors can often lead to an increase of daily shoeless activities, from walking barefoot to living a minimalist and barefoot lifestyle.