Health Benefits of Going Barefoot

barefoot-running

With so many great options for running shoes, it can seem crazy to even think about running without shoes.

In fact, why would anyone even WANT to run without shoes? That was certainly my reaction at first. Turns out there are several benefits to running, walking or just hanging out without wearing shoes.

Less Injury

Statistically, most of us wear cushioned, supportive shoes with a positive heel (meaning the heel is higher than the toe of the shoe). Typically, the dressier the shoe, the more noticeable the positive heel (especially for women) and the more “athletic” the shoe, the more cushioned.

Heels and supportive running shoes are the norm, but it appears that they may cause more harm that good!

Cushioned running shoes, which date back only to the 1970s, may seem comfortable but may actually contribute to foot injuries, say Daniel Lieberman, PhD, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, and colleagues.

Supportive and cushioned shoes encourage the wearer to land on the heel of the foot when walking or running, as the shoe absorbs the impact. This alters the natural step and posture (watch babies who have just learned how to walk to see the difference!) and creates a different walking pattern.

Proper Running Form

The book Born to Run popularized the idea of barefoot running as the author, Christopher McDougall, chronicles his search for pain free running and how he found a primitive tribe that ran great distances barefoot or in minimalist sandals.

As The Art of Manliness explains:

The publication of the book coincided with a Harvard study by Prof. Dan Lieberman, which showed that people who grow up running without shoes run differently than those of us who run shod. Though the study did not speculate as to whether barefoot running was better or worse than running in shoes, it did demonstrate that making the switch resulted in softer landings and reduced impact force.

In other words, running/walking barefoot or in barefoot-type shoes is an easy way to improve walking posture and help avoid joint problems. From my personal experience, I noticed that my running/walking form changed when I switched to these types of shoes and that my old joint injuries from soccer bothered me much less.

Earthing/Grounding

I’ve written before about earthing/grounding and the benefits of being in direct contact with the earth. From that post:

According to the book “Earthing” the practice of earthing basically involves coupling your body to the Earth’s surface energy by walking, sitting or sleeping outside in direct contact with the Earth or using a device that creates the same response while indoors.

When in direct contact with the Earth, your body becomes suffused with negative charged free electrons and equalizes to the same electric energy level as the earth.

According to emerging research, Earthing can be beneficial in:

  • Reducing inflammation by defusing excess positive electrons
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Improving Sleep (I can vouch strongly for this!)
  • Increasing Energy (I noticed this also)
  • Lowering stress and promoting calmness by reducing stress hormones.
  • Normalizing biological rhythms including circadian rhythm
  • Improving blood pressure and blood flow
  • Relieving muscle tension and headache (I noticed this)
  • Lessens menstrual and female hormone symptoms
  • Speeds healing- used in some places to prevent bed sores
  • Can eliminate jet lag
  • Protecting the body from EMFs
  • Shortens recovery time from injury or athletic activity
  • Reducing or eliminating snoring
  • Helping  support adrenal health

Barefoot Shoes

I’ve reviewed my favorite barefoot shoes before, but my favorite option (at least for summer) is Earthrunner sandals.

Earth Runners combine minimalist design with grounding for a shoe that reminds me of what might have been worn long ago. These shoes are actually made by hand according to your foot trace to get a perfect fit and have a non-cushioned minimal sole and added copper grounding elements.

Do you spend any time barefoot? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Is the code good for registration in other cities? I don’t run barefoot, and not interested in trying, ouch! but I love that they’re collecting shoes for those who need them. I’m thinking about getting a team together for the Grand Rapids race!

    • I’ll verify, but it should be good in any location…

  2. I’ve never run barefoot (at least not since I was a kid and spent all summer barefoot) but I’d certainly love to give it a try!

  3. I would love for this to be my first post-baby-#2 5K! Soles for Souls is a great organization!

  4. I love being barefoot and when I got some merrel barefoot shoes for christmas I knew I found my for life shoe! I use them dor running and everyday life if I need a bit more protection for my feet. My hubby recently got some and his feet issues have resolved by using them! Can’t wait for the big run in denver.

    •  liked and shared!

  5. i love walking around barefoot and i would run barefoot 24/7 but my only issue with being barefoot are those sharp little rocks that magically appear out of nowhere for me to step on!

  6. So exciting. I just recently found out about the nakedfoot 5K and was planning on road tripping to Denver to run with a friend there. Love my Merrill minimalist shoes!

    • Plus I shared with a friend on facebook!

  7. I’m not a runner but, my kids and I have been walking around barefoot in our yard and garden since your last post.  No races near me, but I will hold a shoe collection at work to donate.  Thanks.

  8. I would run with naked feet, just never done it before and what should I do to prepare???  I want to do the DC run and have a daughter who loves to be barefoot, so she’ll be up for the 1k.  I’ll take a free entry too!

  9. I’ve been running barefoot for 2 years now and will complete my second half marathon in VFFs in June. I love it; it’s made running fun for me again!

  10. As a full-arched mother of 4 flatfooted babes who LOVE to be barefoot, I’m glad to know that it is better for them (and me!) to be barefoot everywhere (not just preggo in the kitchen lol)

    •  i’m a flatfooted mom of 5 and i’ve benefited from going barefoot. 

  11. Never tried but would love too.

  12. I tried it on my treadmill once, bad idea! 

  13. i go barefoot (for all exercise and leisure)!  i started about 2 years ago.  i ditched my shoes in frustration because of my lower back pain, shin splints, blisters, and other aliments.  i’ve been barefoot and pain free every since. my max barefoot run is 15 miles. 

  14. Never tried it!

  15. Never tried it for distance…. but will now! 🙂

  16. I dont barefoot run, but think it would be good to try on the correct terrain. lnb1191(at)aol(dot)com

  17. Have always wanted to try but haven’t!

  18. I think I’m too fat, but I’m willing to try! 

  19. i’ll try anything!

  20. I walk around barefoot all the time, does that count? I’m not much on running, but maybe I would be if I had some super comfy running shoes….  😉

  21. I have run barefoot on beaches before, and recently ran barefoot after needing to walk a long long way and only have flip flops, decided that barefoot would be the better route. But have not ran very long for long distances barefoot.

  22. I started wearing vibrams 5 fingers in February when I started doing crossfit.  I LOVE them!  The pain I had in my knees disappeared almost overnight.  I would love to try a barefoot race!  How fun!

  23. I love being barefoot. I hate shoes and so do my girls. I actually only own five pairs of shoes lol. Boots, two pair flip flops and two pair tennis shoes. I love the idea of this race and the fact that they get kids involved!! I will be chicking it out and seeing if there are any races near me. Would love to do 1k with my daughters!!

  24. great article. I have been running barefoot for about 2 years now. Its the best thing in the world. I now enjoy running and I never get injured. I remember when I was in high school I would get injured all the time, and I gave up because of that. But now I have toe shoes to run in or just my bare feet. I really encourage everyone to try barefooting.

  25. I’m not a runner do to fibromyalgia but i love walking barefoot just got in from one mile with my dog Jr.

  26. I was barefoot all the time as a kid, even in 110 degree weather. I loved it! When I am in the back yard I go barefoot and I go to the beach a lot just to walk around barefoot. It feels wonderful to connect to the earth.

  27. This is hilarious! I’ve been running barefoot everyday for going on 3 years. My mom (I’m 16) is always telling me its not good for my feet! lol But I personally find it much more comfortable then running with shoes. I do run in the grass. The main reason I started running barefoot was i was to lazy to put on shoes. I go barefoot 99% of the time so it was pain to actually put shoes on!

  28. I am new to this sight, but have a serious question.
    I am a dental assistant. Feet are killing me.
    Never thought of running barefoot. Exercise yes I love to exercise barefoot.
    Any suggestions for shoes to work in..
    So many out there.
    Tired of spending a lot of hard earned money on shoes?

    • Not sure what you are allowed to work in, but Merell’s barefoot line is really the best on the market. Vibram fivefingers are great as well, but garner weird looks (ask me how I know…)

  29. I’m been making an effort to go barefoot since reading Earthing a couple years ago. I love it! Especially going barefoot in water (like a creek). My head always feels clearer and I can sense my heartbeat more strongly.

  30. Have gone barefoot all my life. Now at 56 foot problems. Any thoughts on plantar fasciitis?
    Suzie

  31. For the last three years I am practicing bare- foot therapy.At least one hour morning and evening walk. No substitute for bare-foot walk.

  32. I have been practacing earting for several months now, and noticed a change in my posture, not to mention it helps to keep plantar warts away, which i used to get frequently before going bare

  33. Going barefoot is one of life’s simple pleasures. I have found that I get almost nothing but positive responses to being barefoot, as opposed to the fearfully expected chastisment and nasty comments. There is no reason to not give it a try! I’ve never found a pair of shoes that feel as good as no shoes at all!

    • Yeah, people are concerned of the reactions they’ll get, but IF I get a comment it will be either curious or positive.

  34. I have Vibram barefoot shoes. They make you feel civilized, yet you are still reaping the benefits of the earthing of your foot. They have various styles, and Vibram even came out with a more feminine version. I LOVE them! Thanks Katie for the info!
    Sierrah

  35. I’m still a teenager, so I can’t really complain about any of these health issues yet, but I have always gone barefoot (and my mother always yells at me, lol) and I can definitely tell the difference between shoes vs. no shoes. Whenever I walk barefoot, I feel so much more comfortable. With shoes, it’s unnatural for me, not to mention the pain and muscles I always pull when I go shod.

  36. I will be 70 soon. I have loved being barefoot for as long as I can remember. I live in a city and do not recommend going barefoot on city streets and sidewalks though I did so for years. Beaches, parks, lawns are wonderful barefoot experiences. Gravel? Not so much for the shoe accustomed. The closest to barefoot “shoes,” made in the USA, that I have found, are Sass. One of my friends did not like them, but I recommend “try before you buy.” There are other brands. I will be checking out Mamas recommendation. (Yes, I am barefoot right now. Shoes come off as soon as I get home.). Thanks Wellness Mama and everyone. Great read!