How to start running barefoot: A guide for runners and non-runners
From our previous post, you already know why runners are switching to barefoot running. When you run barefoot in a healthy way, your feet feel like they can protect themselves against injury – and you achieve better performance.
Are you ready to start running barefoot? Great! Let’s take a look at how to get started with barefoot running safely and healthily. We’ve put together some helpful tips for both runners and non-runners who are already barefoot lovers or those who are just getting into barefoot footwear.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- Helpful tips for everyone
- I wear barefoot shoes, but I wear regular running shoes. How do I switch?
- I wear barefoot shoes, but I don’t run at all. How do I start?
- I wear regular shoes, but I want to start running in barefoot shoes.
Helpful tips for everyone
You don’t have to run completely barefoot, but shoes matter.
Try taking the insole out of your ordinary running shoes sometime. Stand on it and put your full weight on your foot. See how your toes stick out over the end? Now, you can see why your shoes are ruining your feet.
This is the fundamental problem of classic shoes: Beyond a thick sole, more importantly, your feet simply don't get enough room. That’s why it’s important to start by choosing running shoes that:
- Give your toes plenty of space.
- Adapt and flex to the natural movement of your feet.
Don’t be fooled into buying "barefoot" running shoes with a minimalistic outsole and a narrow toe box that squeezes your toes. Instead, select shoes that let your feet function healthily and naturally. Check out our Chitra Run shoes, which were specially designed for runners.
In the right shoes, your feet are centered and can function properly.
Feel and train stability
The better you can feel your better, the better control you have over it. When you run the healthy way, your feet feel the terrain – and your brain knows exactly how to use this information.
So, start slowly and focus on actually feeling your feet (and your toes) and using them. We recommend trying out some practical exercises from Lukáš Klimpera’s ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking (you can download it for free).
You can also train stability right from the comfort of your home. A half roller – a physiotherapy tool for improving balance – can help. You can try standing on it with:
- Both feet
- One foot
- Your eyes closed
You can improve stability with just a few minutes of exercise per day.
If you do yoga or Tai-chi, you’ll have an extra advantage because these types of activities already train balance and breathing. If you don’t already practice regularly, you might consider introducing yoga into your life on a daily basis. We highly recommend system Yoga in Daily Life, which a yoga master created in collaboration with European scientists and doctors.
Reading tip: Why do yogis go barefoot?
I wear barefoot shoes, but I wear regular running shoes. How do I switch?
If you’ve already mastered walking barefoot, you’re halfway there. But before you start barefoot running, make sure you’re really walking healthily. Our ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking can help (you can download it for free).
What should I focus on?
- Check if you’re bouncing off your toes and activate them as much as possible. Here’s an easy exercise to try:
Stand with both feet on the ground and try to use your toes to lift your body up onto your toes. Be careful not to lift yourself using just your calf muscle alone. It should assist your toes. You’ll know you’re doing this exercise correctly if you feel the same amount of fatigue in your toes and your calves.
- Be aware of where movement comes from. Many of us like to throw our legs and feet in front of us from the pelvis and hip area. However, the correct way to move forward is bouncing off of our toes.
- Start running slowly. Wake up your feet first — for example, you can stimulate them with a massage (described in our ebook). That way, your brain becomes more aware that it can use your feet. Then, you can start slowly jogging to warm up your feet and get your blood moving.
- Do you keep your torso straight, relax your shoulders, and breathe freely when you run? When your feet work properly, you’ll straighten up and start breathing deeply, spontaneously and automatically.
- After a faster sprint, be sure to slow down and check that you are still bouncing correctly and your torso isn’t collapsing.
Breathing freely and joy from movement means you are running correctly.
Expert advice: You might feel a little weird when you first start running barefoot, but don't worry – it's completely normal! You feel different because you’re engaging other muscle chains. Keep going and you’ll soon see that you can run more easily and with less effort.
I wear barefoot shoes, but I don't run at all. How do I start?
You’re off to a perfect start. You know how to walk naturally, and you don’t have any unhealthy running habits yet. To start barefoot running, you should first check out our ebook and make sure you’re really walking healthily. From there, the transition to running will be safe and easy.
What exercises will help you?
- The exercises mentioned earlier in this article: Stand on your tiptoes using your toes and practice standing on a balance tool like a half roller.
- Stand up and feel that your feet are actively carrying you. Lean forwards, backward, and to the side. Your feet will actively react against the tilt, engaging individual parts of the sole of your foot. For instance, when you lean forward, your toes should have the biggest response. Can you feel it?
- Jump in place using your toes to push off the ground and cushion the impact. It should be quiet and soft – like a cat jumping.
- Before any run, activate your feet with the help of, for example, an exercise like “raking.” Stand up straight, put one foot back behind you and rake your toes like a cat scratching sand. After completing this exercise, take a few steps and feel how your foot is more engaged.
Start with shorter runs at a slower tempo. Jog slowly and make sure you feel the correct bounce and absorption of impact across the front part of your foot.
Observe where you feel the most tired after you run. These spots are usually where your foot has the most weakness. Before you run, make sure you spend time activating and engaging these parts of your feet within the context of your entire body. To achieve a healthy running style, it’s important to make sure your muscle chain as a whole is functioning together.
Don’t forget to warm up for your run.
I wear regular shoes, but I want to start running in barefoot shoes.
If you’re not used to walking barefoot, you should start there. Walking in ordinary shoes gives you unhealthy habits, which could cause injury if you switch straight to running barefoot.
That’s why you need first to get used to using your toes to bounce and softly absorb impact when you walk. You can learn how to do both by reading our ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking. Download it now for free.
The good news is that you can start learning how to walk healthily right away. Physiotherapists designed our Comfort shoe line with a special soft insole or cushioned outsole, which absorbs harsh impacts. It will protect your feet until you have had time to perfect your natural stride. At the same time, our Comfort shoes free your toes, and you can learn how to use them properly with ease.
This is what safe and healthy running shoes look like. Do you already have them?
So, how do you start running barefoot?
- Download our ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking by Lukáš Klimpera to learn how to walk healthily.
- Check out our Comfort shoe lines for men or women to start walking barefoot safely.
How will I know that I’m running the healthy way?
Above all, movement will make you happy. It’s natural and sets your body position to be healthy and correct. You’ll straighten up, your chest will open up, and you’ll start breathing freely. Natural breathing and upright posture automatically improve your mood.
Also, you shouldn’t have any pain. Barefoot walking and running help to prevent common injuries like runner’s knee: your whole foot acts like an interconnected chain – no part gets overloaded and, therefore, causes pain.
If you are unsure about running or have questions about anything else that’s not working well, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help!
Cheers to running barefoot!