When you start out as a new barefoot runner, chances are you’ll start by just walking, at least if you follow our advice! Most of the information provided on our site assumes you will one day make the transition to running barefoot, and that you are probably already a shod runner. But you certainly don’t have to make that transition, and going barefoot has benefits for walkers too. Walking is excellent exercise, and for many people it is a great alternative to running, especially if they are limited by injury or aren’t interested running. If you are a walker – or want to be one – then you can consider adding some barefoot miles too!
The same advice applies to you as a walker when you start out – take it slowly! Start with short walks on smooth and familiar surfaces until you get used to the sensations, your feet toughen up, and your reactions adapt. As you become accustomed to barefoot walking, you will naturally walk further and faster.
There is very little research on the biomechanical benefits of barefoot walking, but you may find that, like runners, you start to walk more on your mid foot or ball of your foot, that you increase your cadence, and that you become more aware of how and where you place your feet, all of which can make your walking stride more efficient and more comfortable.
Also be sure to take the same precautions as barefoot runners. Avoid running in very cold conditions or even in very hot weather if the surface you will be walking on can get hot. Be cautious of areas of gravel, litter and glass, or other hazards. As you are walking and have a little more time to place each step carefully, you might think about getting away from the pavement after a while and venturing out onto some smooth trails or grass paths. This is where barefoot walking really comes into its own – when you step off the sidewalk and onto the trails. If you want to try barefoot walking, but can’t seem to adapt or find you feel uncomfortable with the sensations, then try wearing minimal shoes like the Vibram FiveFingers or Huarache sandals.
So it adds up to some of the same benefits as running; you will reduce the impact of your step even when you wear shoes, and you will place your feet more accurately and can reduce your risk of tripping, stumbling, or ankle strains. Like running with bare feet, your may find that your feet really appreciate being able to move around freely, and that you enjoy the freedom and experience of going barefoot too. Who knows? Maybe after some more barefoot walking you’ll make the transition to running – but you certainly don’t have to!
Photo Credit: Mat Witts on Flickr