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.
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.
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
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!