Improve Your Running By Doing It Barefoot
By Paul Rothbart
Athletic shoes have become a huge business. Footwear for basketball, tennis, and walking fills the shelves of stores both online and brick and mortar. One of the best-selling types is running shoes. They are padded and cushioned, designed to absorb the shock of your strides while providing traction. These shoes exist to make your runs more comfortable and more effective. Ironically, one of the best ways to improve your running is to do it barefoot. It may seem like a practice that could damage your feet, but Abebe Bikila, a runner from Ethiopia won an Olympic gold medal in the marathon running barefoot. You don't have to churn out 26 miles without shoes, but there are benefits to doing some running barefoot.
It Strengthens Your Feet and Lower Legs
When running barefoot, you don't have a shoe to support your feet, they work harder, as do your calves. The first time you try running shoeless, those muscles will be sore. That's a good thing because it means they are getting stronger. Running barefoot also engages muscles that are not used in shoes. Your feet and lower legs may have more endurance and be better equipped to handle the rigors of running.
It Can Improve Your Balance
More strength generally means better balance. With your feet beefed up from running barefoot, all those muscles in the soles and around the ankles are better able to make the subtle adjustments needed to balance properly. Better balance can make strides more efficient, helping you to run faster and longer. You can also strengthen your feet with exercises such as raising up onto your toes or pressing against a towel held in your hands. Strong feet are a great asset to running.
How to Start
Experts recommend not just jumping in and running your regular route and distance barefoot if you've never done it before. Run on a soft, grassy surface, such as an athletic field. Try a short, barefoot run to cool down after your regular run in shoes. A high school or college football field encircled by a track is ideal. By doing this twice a week, you can increase the distance if you like. Even brief barefoot runs will be very effective.
Runners tend to be a dedicated group, sticking to their routines, and buying quality running shoes. For most, doing all of their running barefoot would not be a good idea. But brief runs at a casual pace shoeless may help you improve your overall performance.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downers Grove, Ill.