Cross Training for Barefoot Running

by Summer on October 18, 2010

When winter comes and the weather take a turn for the worse, many runners try to find ways to spend more time indoors. Some opt for treadmill running, but those who get bored easily usually try to find other gym activities they can do during the winter to keep their fitness – this is what we call cross-training. Here you’ll find some of our suggestions adapted from the barefoot running book by Dr. Craig Richards.

As a barefoot runner, are there other indoor activities you can do that will help your fitness, and even improve your barefoot running? Absolutely – so let’s take a look at some of the best indoor options for barefoot runners.

Core training

Barefoot running is all about form and to prevent injury and get the most of your barefoot miles, you need to concentrate on good form. That means a shorter, quicker cadence, careful foot placement, and good balance. Building up your core strength and your balance will help improve your barefoot running, and winter is a great time to get back to the basics of core training.

Stretch it out in a Pilates class - no shoes required!

Most gyms today have special ‘core training’ classes, which usually include a mix of weights, flexibility exercises, and strength and balance training. If your gym doesn’t offer core classes, try looking for Pilates or yoga classes, which will focus on core strength and balance. Best of all, they both will help you learn more about your breathing, which pays off with more efficient running. If your running schedule last summer didn’t leave time for a couple weekly Pilates classes, now is your chance! It’s more of a workout than you may expect, and it will pay off when you up the mileage next spring!


Many runners don’t think of dancing as a real workout, and that’s a shame. For barefoot runners, taking a dance class or two at your gym (such as Zumba) or even taking up a couple classes at a dance school can bring some real benefits. Dance classes combine a tough cardio workout with core strength, balance, and flexibility exercises – all of which will help improve your barefoot running form. Most dance classes you can do barefoot too, so if you are looking for a winter activity where you can take your shoes off then dance is perfect. Best of all, it is a lot of fun, and brings some much needed variety to endless winter indoor training sessions.

If you really don’t think you can dance – or you are just too shy – then why not try a martial arts class like karate or tae kwon do? Like dance, you’ll get an all-around workout with cardio, flexibility, strength and balance training, and best of all, it’s fun!

Indoor rock climbing

If your gym has an indoor climbing wall, or you have one of the increasing number of indoor climb centers near you, then why not give this a try? Just like the other activities we’ve mentioned, regular indoor climbing will build up your core strength, your flexibility, and your muscle control and balance. It’s also a great activity to hone your ‘eye’ – just like with barefoot running your eyes and brain will need to plan ahead as to where you are going to put your feet – so here’s another skill you can work on all winter that will pay off when you get back to your barefoot miles in the spring.

Weights and cardio

Of course, the old standards of the gym have their place in winter too. If you like to have a routine to your training, then use the winter months to build your cardio and strength base with the equipment at your gym. Bare feet have no place around free weights or weight machines though – so here’s one situation that we recommend you to keep your shoes on. The same goes for most cardio equipment, too – with the exception of treadmills, which can be used barefoot with some precautions- most cardio equipment really requires shoes if you plan to keep all your toes.

That said, the most important thing you can do this winter, whether you are a barefoot runner or not, is to keep moving and keep working out. You don’t need to do anything different or fancy, but you never know, you might really enjoy it!

Photo Credit: familymwr on Flickr

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Howell November 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

I don’t lift weights (if you looked at my body that would be abundanty clear), but I understand that the best weight-lifters did so barefoot – at least in the good old days. Just ask Arnold!

Check out this article at T Nation:

Muscle Building Resorce Site February 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm

For me, wearing shoes is essential, it can help strengthen the ankles and feet. I knew an expert about barefoot running. Jason is gives great advice and information for those who are interested in barefoot running. Well check out this website for more information.

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