Photo Courtesy of Patrick Sweeney
The barefoot and minimalist running movement is becoming more popular as people try to shed their shoes. If you’re curious about experimenting with barefoot running, use these five tips for a healthy and safe transition.
1. Keep your mileage low.
A common issue with those starting out is what is referred to “top of foot pain” (TOFP), which occurs when you do much more than your feet are able to handle. Your feet have been supported by shoes all your life, so it is unrealistic to go out and run six miles without that support. Scrap whatever mileage you have built up and start all over.
Try just walking barefoot around the house for a day and see how you feel the next day. Maybe do a slow jog for a 1/4 mile and see how you feel a day later. More than likely your calves will become sore as well as your arches. It is important to start off very slowly to avoid injury.
2. Start completely barefoot.
Running with a minimalist shoe is not the same as barefoot running. By starting completely barefoot, your running will progress much faster due to the feedback your soles will give you. Sometimes minimalist shoes can create a false sense of comfort and you are more likely to overdo your mileage or become injured.
3. Start on a hard surface.
Do not start on grass. Being new to barefoot running, your ankles may be weak due to years of wearing shoes. Grassy surfaces are usually uneven and can cause you to roll an ankle quite easily if you are not careful. Grass can also hide harmful objects which can put you on the shelf for days.
Instead, try running on concrete or hard packed sand. Hard surfaces are a good gauge on how you are landing and your footprints in the hard sand can be a good measure of how you are pushing off.
Your footprints should be light and uniform and your toes should not be digging into the sand. Pushing with your toes is a common mistake that may lead to blisters over longer distances.
Also check to see if the heel print is deeper than the forefoot. This can mean that you are heel striking, which is a shock to your joints and may lead to injury. All these issues can be easily corrected with practice.