Running Barefoot: So Good, So Paleo

“Barefoot running….that’s for ultra runners, right?”, a client asked recently. Well…sure. But not only for ultra runners. Actually, it’s great for all of us! While it may seem strange at first, as we’re all so accustomed to thinking we need to be in our trainers for each and every workout, integrating at least some barefoot workouts can often provide the balance that may have been missing from your running routine. Beyond that, there are countless examples of runners who’ve gone barefoot and found their chronic foot, knee, hip, back and neck issues have resolved. This is not to say that simply by taking off your running shoes, all issues will resolve as there are many, many factors that can contribute to discomfort when running, as well as side effects that some seem to take as a natural part of the process, even though they’re not really. Blisters, corns, black toenails, tight IT bands, sore knees and weak gluts paired with tight hamstrings are not to be considered ‘just part of what we have to endure as runners’ nor should they be viewed as ‘just part of getting older’. If you’re someone who enjoys running and find that you’re being hampered by any type of mild discomfort to a chronic, nagging injury that keeps popping up and prevents you from regularly running, consider adding some barefoot workouts, but also review everything else that can be contributing including, but not limited to:

  • Running surface
  • Duration
  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Terrain Variability
  • Footwear – different shoes (or no shoes) for different terrain
  • Structural imbalances (getting a gait analysis from a skillet biomechanics specialist was a game saver for me)
  • Diet (hello, Paleo)
  • Sleep
  • Rest
  • Recovery
  • Cross Training

If you’re keen to give barefoot a go, do it in stages and pick your surfaces.  One great choice is the grass area that can often be found inside a running track.  Try it for a very short run first, and just like you’d ease your way into a new style of running shoes, adapt the same methodology in adding barefoot to your routine. Personally, I prefer to wear shoes if I’m running on any other surface than grass or sand, while others go barefoot all the time.  Surely, you’ve seen the one or two token runners at a road marathon running the whole thing sans shoes. Who’s right? Which approach is best? That, my friend, is entirely up to you. I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach for almost anything; try it out, test it throughly and find your own balance. But do consider, at least, the significance of the fact that walking and running are two things we are meant to be doing… as evidenced by the fact that we can engage in both with zero gear. Get moving!