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Is Running Barefoot a Good Idea?

While running barefoot may seem painful, it could be advantageous for you.

You may have heard about barefoot running or have tried it, but aren’t really sure if it’s a good idea or is safe. Barefoot running is when you run or jog without shoes, and pros and cons exist for this type of workout. Therefore, knowing if barefoot running is right for you is important for injury prevention.


There are several potential advantages when it comes to running barefoot. First, it helps strengthen the muscles in your feet. According to Harvard University, running barefoot improves strength in your arches, which keeps your feet healthy and may prevent arch collapse. One 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports and Health Sciences surveyed 509 runners and found the majority of runners said previous injuries — such as knee, ankle, foot, low back, and hip injuries — went away after switching from regular running to barefoot running. Running without shoes may also make running seem easier, without carrying the extra weight of running shoes.

Potential Drawbacks

Despite the many perceived benefits of barefoot running, potential drawbacks also do exist. For example, running barefoot means you risk running on stones or other sharp objects that can hurt or cut your feet. One 2013 review published in Sports Medicine reports that while barefoot running can be beneficial for some runners, it may increase injury risks for people with certain running stances. Harvard University reports that if you tend to strike the ground with your heels while running, you have an increased risk for developing Achilles tendonitis when switching from regular running to barefoot running (which requires you to strike the ground with the front of your feet instead).

Barefoot Running Shoes

Barefoot running shoes are available and can help you transition from regular running to barefoot running with a lower risk of hurting your feet. Many of these “shoes” are quite thin and fit on your feet more like a glove than a shoe. They can give you the feel of running barefoot, but with more protection than going shoeless.

Bottom Line

Whether or not running barefoot is a good idea for you really depends on several factors, like your running stance and where you’ll be running. Barefoot running appears to help reduce injuries in some runners, but can be problematic if you strike with your heels while running or plan to run on rugged terrain. Using barefoot running shoes is an excellent way to ease into barefoot running (with less risk) to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

[Image via Getty]

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