Barefoot Running Benefits
If you have ever seen a Kenyan runner dominate a marathon without sneakers then you are likely curious about barefoot running benefits and the affects of running barefoot on the human foot. Truthfully, barefoot running has many benefits because it actually minimizes the force of impact on the foot and therefore minimizes foot stress. Barefoot running helps facilitate a more natural stride, but runners accustomed to wearing heavy soled shoes may have a difficult time adjusting to running barefoot.
The difference between running with a thick-soled running shoe versus running barefoot or with minimal footwear comes down to a difference in the way the foot strikes the running surface. When running barefoot, the runner strikes toe first, or lands mid-foot, which reduces stress on the foot and ankles and strengthens foot and calf muscles. Running with substantial footwear causes runners to strike heel first, which is more stressful and less efficient. Running shoes have thick cushioned heels to offset this increased stress.
Barefoot running benefits include reduced foot stress, a more efficient stride, and reduced footwear spending. Since most western runners are accustomed to running in shoes, it may take some time to transition to running barefoot. In order to reap all barefoot running benefits, it is important to transition slowly to avoid injury. Once you have built up calluses on your foot, you should be able to run barefoot comfortably on most any surface, although barefoot running on glass, gravel, and ice will always be problematic. The best way to ease into barefoot running is by either running in lightweight, flat-soled, minimal running shoes or by running barefoot on a hard, flat, smooth surface.