10. Show me the money. Most running shoes have a life span of between 300-400 miles, or 4-6 months, which can add up to several hundred dollars a year, depending on your mileage and shoe model. Add to that the cost of running socks, and over the course of your running career, that’s money you could be spending on, well, anything else. Your feet, on the other hand, come to you free of charge and need no replacements (if you take good care of them of course).
9. No excuses. If you’ve ever skipped a run after work because you forgot to put your running shoes in your car, well the gig is up. Now you just need to keep a pair of shorts and a tank or t-shirt in your car and you’re set to run anywhere, anytime. Running while traveling is simpler, too, when you leave your shoes behind, and you’ll have the added benefit of more room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
8. Your attention please. Whether you abandon shoes completely or switch to minimalist running shoes, you will attract attention. Runners and non-runners alike will want to ask you about your decision, and what better way to promote running in general than to talk about the benefits of doing so naturally.
7. Fun, fun, fun. Let’s face it: Sometimes running is just so much work. If you are logging dozens of miles a week to train for a race or trying to squeeze in one or two runs a week for fitness and health, you would probably benefit from a good dose of fun. Leaving your shoes behind, even if just occasionally, can help keep the fun in running.
6. That’s using your feet. The human foot evolved for running, and putting shoes on it is kind of like strapping a glider on a bird: it might allow them to travel though air, but it does so in a way that is inferior to the kind of flying a bird has evolved to do. Similarly, running shoes interfere with what Science Daily calls the “architecture of the foot.” Runners who go barefoot or run in minimalist shoes land on the middle or balls of their feet, which takes advantage of the foot’s arch to produce a springier step.
5. Run like a gazelle. Most animals that rely on speed for survival have evolved to run on the balls of their feet or on the tips of their toes. While a heel-first gate is efficient for walking, University of Utah biology professor David Carrier points out that, like the fastest animals, the top human runners tend to run on the balls or middle of their feet. Running barefoot promotes this because, without the heel-cushioning that most running shoes include, a heel-first strike is more painful than a mid-foot strike.
4. Feel the earth move under your feet. While running with New York Times reporter Brian Fidelman, Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, remarked that he had special equipment that helped him avoid stepping on dangerous objects when running barefoot: his eyes. McDougall’s quip aside, running barefoot does promote a heightened awareness of your surroundings—including the ground below your feet. Barefoot runners might have to step more gingerly over some surfaces, but studies suggest that going shoeless improves an athlete’s balance and provides feedback regarding foot positioning.
3. Run like a natural woman (or man). As has already been suggested, running without shoes is more natural than running with them, and that means you are working with your body, not against it. Once your calf and foot muscles grow accustomed to your new running style, the gait that eventually results from going barefoot is more efficient than running shod, and that translates into a reduced expenditure in energy.
2. Step lightly, run far. Remember that springy step that our arches promote? Turns out it also leads to a quicker foot turnover, which is what distance runners need to maintain speed over the miles. As running guru and Runner’s World editor Jeff Galloway points out, many runners believe that to run faster, they need to cover more territory with each stride, but the reverse is true—taking shorter steps is the key to going faster. As an added bonus, adjusting your running rhythm to increase foot turnover can also help you fight against the natural slow down that occurs as we get older.
1. Tape less, train more. The most compelling reason to kick off your running shoes is that, in general, running barefoot leads to a reduction in the most common running injuries. While formal, controlled studies of shod and shoeless runners are rare, those that have been conducted indicate that frequency and intensity of injuries is higher among those who run with running shoes.
Photo Credit: Patrik Hamberg on Flickr