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Barefoot Running Experiment With Video

Barefoot Running: I Tried It

For some it's a lifestyle thing about getting back to nature, for others it is all about efficiency; regardless of the reasons, barefoot running is taking off. When teaching Pilates, I often preached the merits of strong feet and walking barefoot. Every time your foot hits the ground when taking a step, the contact initiates a chain of muscular events that create dynamic support from your heel all the way to your lower back. Shoes damped the effectiveness of the natural muscular pattern, and confused muscles can lead to those dreaded overuse injuries. Prior to having my gait analyzed by running coach Lee Saxby, he explained that when we encase our feet in puffy sneakers they interfere with correct body mechanics, allowing us to jog, striking our heels heavily into the ground with each step. Saxby said running is more efficient bio mechanically than jogging, which blends the motions of walking with running. But running also uses up more calories than jogging, and the body likes to conserve calories — remember as we evolved, food (aka calories and energy) was pretty scarce. So we allow ourselves to jog, and the shoes, in his opinion, aid this disastrous technique.

Learn what I thought about running with no sneakers and check out a video of how my gait changed without them when you


After reviewing tape of me running in sneakers, I hopped on the treadmill sans shoes. The first issue to address is posture; our desk time has really interfered with our ability to stand up straight. Lucky for me, years of dance training reinforced by years of Pilates helped get my posture in line. But I needed help with my rhythm and to increase my cadence, or turnover. The longer your foot is on the ground the longer time your ankles and knees have to veer off course, eventually creating chronic injuries. After having me hop in place on the treadmill (this is no easy feat), Lee set a metronome to 180 beats per minute and had me run to the beat. It was a challenging pace but felt great. Next issue to address was the tension in my upper body; it's a "passenger" along for a ride so it's important to keep it loose and relaxed.


I ran, with Lee coaching me, on the treadmill for 10 minutes barefoot. It felt great. I really thought my feet were going to hurt, or my knees ache, but none of that happened. Then I tried the Evo, a minimalist running shoe by Terra Plana, that felt like rubber ballet shoes except with plenty of room for my toes to wiggle. I really like being able to feel my foot make contact with the ground, or rather the belt of the treadmill, but I am not sure when I will venture out into the world in them. I would like to think something as simple as chucking my sneakers would ensure that I could run injury free, but I don't think it's likely. And honestly it's not a gamble I am willing to try. I did learn to let go of all that padding though, and I think I will run occasionally without shoes. But only on a treadmill.

Here's a little video of the experience. You can totally see how my gait changed without shoes.

Have you tried a minimalist running shoe or gone completely barefoot for a run?

Source: Flickr User Taina Linda

Join The Conversation
Barefoot-Chick Barefoot-Chick 6 years
I don't really run all that much, but I do alot of walking, and about all of it barefoot. I have run on trails and paths with barefeet, and I feel like it is more natural and less restricting. Also at college, going barefoot is not a problem, like to classes or around campus and town.
TheBestRedDress TheBestRedDress 6 years
Hey if it works for you. I don't run outdoors. And I'd rather speed walk anyway. In general though being barefoot outside with your feet on the grass is always a pleasant experience.
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
Oh! I forgot to mention that I've also definitely improved my running form. I haven't had anyone analyze me to tell me whether or not my form is "good," but I definitely kick my feet out to the sides a lot less. In clunky gym shoes, I have a tendency to scrape the ground and am terrified of tripping over my own feet, so I've always had a tendency to kick out a little bit when I know I should be kicking back. :( In minimalist shoes, I'm not as afraid of running with my feet a little closer together.
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
I've been learning to run in Vibrams. Honestly, I feel so much more graceful - when I'm on the pavement, my stride is larger and I sometimes almost feel like I'm bounding like a gazelle, lol. The only problem is that I've never been a runner, so my calves hurt for DAYS after and the first few weeks that I was using them, I did suffer from a lot of foot pain. Now, my feet handle it fine - my calves just need to catch up! Anyway, what I'm loving about this is that I can feel that my body is absorbing less shock. When I run in sneakers, I feel pain in my back and I actually get headaches. I don't have this same experience in vibrams or barefoot. I know that running barefoot outside seems really scary, but I recommend that in the spring, start spending more time walking barefoot to toughen up your soles. Eventually they'll adjust and as long as you're looking a few feet ahead of you, dodging anything damaging should be easy. At some point you'll find that even if you step on a little bit of glass, it won't penetrate (you just might have to stop to brush it off). The only reason I run in Vibrams and not truly barefoot is because my feet are painfully sensitive to hot/cold. :(
nikkecole nikkecole 6 years
Yes!! and I LOVE it. I run only in my five fingers outdoors...(road and trail) and I'm HOPEFULLY getting a pair of Nike free for Christmas for the treadmill. I like using the Nike + system on the treadmill to keep track of runs...and I use Runkeeper outside.
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