How to Run Barefoot

Two Parts:Toughening Your FeetPracticing Proper Stride

Whether you’re an avid runner looking for a new challenge or just looking to stay active while connecting to the earth, barefoot running can help with both mental and physical well-being. Running barefoot can not only strengthening your feet but also improve your mobility. The key to running barefoot is emphasizing technique by understand how to stack your joints properly during the run. Even without the cushioning technology of a shoe, you can still can reduce harmful impact on your feet and joints with mindful running habits..

Part 1
Toughening Your Feet

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    Ease yourself into running barefoot. Like an strenuous activity, slowly build up your resistance and stamina. If you train too vigorously before getting your weak muscles acclimated to the work, you will strain your body and surely feel sore and stiff. This is especially true the older and less active you are so prepare your foot and calf muscles and don’t do too much too soon.[1]
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    Start with bare feet on a hard surface for minutes at a time. Whether you run completely barefoot or with thin shoes that simulate the same sensation, try running on a hard surface slowly. Only move for a few minutes to get use to the sensation and activity.[2] Go slowly or incorporate this at the end of a regular run if you are already an active runner.
    • If you’re not a regular runner, first get your body and feet use to running in general. Run a very short distance for only a few minutes to being acclimating your body.
    • Running on a hard surface suits first time runners because it emphasizes natural running form. Shoes can compensate for improper form that pounds your heels and overextends your legs. Barefoot running gives no cushion so your heels may hurt as they impact the hard surface. Run as light as you can by landing softly on front and middle of your foot.[3]
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    Acclimate yourself to different terrain. After running with shoes, your body will need to dramatically alter your stride. While running on a hard surface can help with this, it can also mean injury from broken glass, and other dangerous debris found on hard city streets.[4] Running on soft grass or sand can protect your feet but induce poor form resulting in other leg injuries.
    • If you have the money and time, get a thorough physical exam from a health professional and biomechanics assessment from a running specialist to ensure a safe and healthy transition into running barefoot.[5]
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    Schedule yourself to run a quarter of a mile to a mile. During your first week of training, schedule your training session to run barefoot for about a quarter mile to a full mile. Try to do this every other day so your body gets use to the rigors of increased distance.
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    Increase your distance each week. Try to run further each week, increasing your distance by about 10%. You don’t want to hurt yourself so gradually build your endurance. If you are sore then don’t increase the distance. Take time off to mend or maintain your regular training regiment until your soreness subsides.
    • Consult a doctor or healthcare specialist if the soreness you feel increases in intensity without further activity.
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    Listen to your body. Stop training and allow your body to recover if you experience pain. There is a difference between having sore muscles that are fatigued, and bone, joint, soft-tissue, or chest pain. Contact a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any chest pain.
    • Be patient with your training. Depending on a number of factors, including age and activity level, it may take months to attain the goals you want.

Part 2
Practicing Proper Stride

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    Stretch your lower extremities.[6] While preparing your feet is crucial, focus on stretching your calves, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings as they are the major muscles used for running. Massage your muscles and the arches in your foot to break down scar tissue to help heal and strengthen them.
    • Yoga can be a great way to keep yourself limber and help your muscles recover faster.
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    Emphasize the length of your stride.[7]Keep your strides short making sure not to extend your legs like you would while wearing shoes. Keep your balance by running with a straight posture and picturing yourself running in place. Position your feet so each step is under your hips and shoulders.
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    Know where you’re landing.[8] The first part of your foot that touches the ground should be your forefoot and midsole. Be sure to balance your weight as too much emphasis on your forefeet can negatively affect your calves. Shorten your stride so as not to land on your heel.[9]
    • Traditionally, land heel first when in shoes but you want to land on your forefoot first when running barefoot because it keeps the landing gentle. Try to land on the ball of your foot.
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    Aim for a gentle landing. Gradually lower your heel followed by your foot and lower leg. Your calf will flex your ankle to control the landing so make sure to stretch and strengthen your calves to help lessen the impact.[10]
    • Similar to the conclusion of a jump, flex your hip, knee and ankle as you embrace the impact. Your landing should be as soft, springy, and comfortable as possible.
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    Stay light on your feet. If you feel like you’re plodding or pounding the ground, you could be hurting your joints. Add more spring to your step and imagine that your pounding footsteps are creating a loud sound with each step.Emphasize running as quietly as possible. Imagine yourself being a deer bounding through a field trying not to attract attention. [11]
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    Examine your technique by running barefoot on a hard, smooth surface.[12] Run on a surface that is free of debris and smooth so that you can feel which parts of your foot and landing correctly. If one part of your foot is more sore that the others or if it leaves more of a mark, examine whether improper form is the cause. If you run barefoot on a soft a surface like a sandy beach, your body will compensate for the terrain and your muscles will adjust your running form. Always use proper technique no matter what the terrain.
    • If you have access to special equipment, sensory feedback will quickly tell you what needs to be corrected.


  • Running barefoot strengthens your foot, particularly, the muscles of your arch. Having healthy foot muscles will pronate your foot less and keep your arches from collapsing.[13]


  • Running can be extremely hard on the body depending on the terrain, duration, and the individual. Make sure to let injuries heal before continuing any type of workout routine otherwise you may risk creating permanent issues.
  • Be aware of any pre-existing health issues. If you have diabetes or can’t feel your feet, do not run barefoot. Similarly, those with structural issues in their bones, those who have suffered broken bones that haven’t healed properly, those with abnormal feet, and those with rheumatoid arthritis should refrain from running barefoot.[14]
  • When learning to run barefoot, it will take time to switch from the heel strike to the forefoot or midfoot landing. Be aware that making this switch may increase the risk of developing Achilles tendonitis[15]

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Categories: Running