Is Running Barefoot Good for You?

Whether you should run barefooted or lace up your running shoes is a question that is being heard in the air for the past few years. While barefoot running, walking and playing have been the thing of the childhood play and memories, it is now being considered as a serious factor, when it comes to better health.

Shod Running or Unshod: What’s the Difference?

There have been many researches on whether you should run with your shoes on or if you should run barefooted. The research studies showed the difference that the feet experience with or without shoes.

When you run without your shoes, you actually end up touching the ground with the ball of your foot. This means that your entire stride lands with a flat foot. On the other hand, when you run with your shoes on, due to the support of the modern running shoes that is designed to give you comfort, you end up landing on the heel of your foot. The research studies have also shown that over a longer period of time, when such an amount of pressure falls on your heels, you end up experiencing various problems such as –

Is Running Barefoot Good for You?

Is Running Barefoot Good For You?

Certainly, as per the research studies, running barefoot has many benefits. It reduces the chances of injuries to a great extent. However, there are some factors that must be kept in mind, if you try to switch to running barefoot. These are –

  • If you have run with shoes on for your entire life, suddenly switching to running barefoot can be difficult for you.
  • Switching the weight suddenly to the front of your feet may be difficult for you and increase the chances of injury even more.
  • Landing on the ball of feet may stress the calf muscles and increase soreness.
  • This sudden change may also not very well change the gait and this will cause an impact on the feet and cause injuries.

Therefore, if you want to go barefoot while running, you need to slowly make the switch before ditching your shoes. Starting with lightest of the shoes possible that are meant or designed to mimic barefoot running is the very first step towards this. You should aim at shorter distances at first and then aim at longer distances that you usually run with your shoes on.

Some Research Studies and Real Case Scenarios on Running Barefoot

According to a Harvard University detailed study on the effects of running barefoot by postdoctoral researcher Madhusudhan Venkadesan, from the department of applied mathematics and human evolutionary biology, whenever you run with your shoes on, you strike a huge collisional force on your foot every time you land on the ground by touching it with your heels. Running barefooted or with minimal shoes on, you point your toes more towards the ground and thereby, avoid the collisional force by decreasing the effective mass of your foot suddenly.

Another incidence that requires mention here is about San Francisco personal trainer Kate Clemens. In an 18 mile Pacific Crest Trail race, she could only run for 6 miles and then suddenly suffered from a sharp pain in the knees. However, as soon as she removed her shoes, she felt a difference, relief and comfort in the feet and could complete the run in barefoot.

How is Barefoot Running Better as compared to Running with Shoes?

How is Barefoot Running Better as compared to Running with Shoes?

According to scientists, the feet are generally designed to work hard. When you support the feet by cushiony shoes, you actually make the feet weak by not letting it work hard enough. The cushiony support of the shoes supports the muscles. When you run with your shoes on, your feet do not have to work hard and they become weaker over time. Therefore, even after years of running as a professional athlete or runner, many suffer from different kinds of sprains, strains or other diseases and problems.

On the other hand, as soon as you remove your shoes, your feet instinctively know that there is no cushiony support to your feet and the feet become ready to touch the floor with minimum impact to the bones. The scientists have proven this through force analysis and motion analysis tests in which, the barefoot runners have touched the floor with the balls of their feet or with a flat foot, every time they ran. The test results showed how this generates smaller collisional forces than what is generated when you run with your shoes on.

The bodies and the feet are evolved in this way. It is designed for barefoot locomotion. With the shoe making companies coming up with designs and models that provide more protection to the feet, the shoes are actually making the feet weaker. It is preventing the feet muscles from developing or from growing stronger.


While running barefoot, try to make your feet bouncy, in order to mimic the bounce that running shoes offer. Developing the springy and quick feet takes time. You should also try to land as softly as possible, when you are running on a hard surface. Breathing completely through your nose is also something that should be practiced.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 23, 2018

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