The barefoot running trend is growing in popularity as more and more runners are going au natural when hitting the trail. If you are thinking of joining the pact, we provide below six tips for a safe journey.
1. Watch the mileage. A frequent complaint of those just starting to run barefoot is “top of foot pain” (TOFP), which occurs when you run more miles than your feet are accustomed to. It is likely that your calves will also be sore for a bit of time. Remember that your feet have been ensconced in shoes up to this point, so it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to run 10 miles barefoot when starting out. In effect, you will need to build up mileage just as if you were new to running. Start with a quarter mile and build up mileage every week to avoid injury.
2. Don’t wear any shoes if you want to limit your distance, as mentioned above. Running with even light shoes is not the same as running completely barefoot. To make the most progress, transition to shoeless running at the outset. Even light shoes can give you a false sense of comfort and entice you to run longer than you should, thereby increasing the likelihood of injury.
3. Run on a hard or concrete surface. Don’t start barefoot running on grass since these areas tend to be uneven and can lead to ankle injury. Grass can also hide sharp objects which can cause a bad cut and lay you up for weeks.Start by running on hard surfaces such as concrete or along the shore where the sand is hard. Such surfaces can help you gauge how hard you are pushing off with each step and hard you are landing. Your footprints in the sand should be the same and your toes should not grip. Digging your toes in can cause calf pain and also result in blisters if you put in many miles.
4. Land softly and silently. Running on a hard surface helps you measure how hard you are landing. You don’t want to land with a thud as that can cause injury to your joints. Practice landing softly and quietly and roll through the balls of your feet to avoid ankle pain. Try to adjust your pace so that you can run right up to someone without s/he hearing you.
5. Ignore comments. It is likely that your barefoot running will elicit a few comments, but for the most part, these will be positive and supportive. Enjoy the interaction and use the opportunity to educate others regarding the benefits and just plain fun of barefoot running.
6. Enjoy yourself. Barefoot running should be fun, not a chore to be done with as soon as possible.
The goal with any exercise program is to stick with it over the long term to derive the most physical and psychological benefit. Many people find they are able to work out their personal and financial issues when running, as exercise does release certain chemicals in the brain that foster creative thinking.