Guest post by Andy from CleanseAndBlend.com
Running is great exercise for your cardiovascular system, leg muscles, and your brain. Running barefoot is even better. Of course I don’t actually mean going out for a jog with absolutely nothing on your feet. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ll end up with a switchblade or hypodermic needle in your foot in no time.
Instead of actually running in your bare feet, more and more people are lacing up minimalist, “barefoot” shoes, and putting one foot in front of the other.
What Defines a Barefoot Shoe?
Good question! A barefoot – or minimalist – shoe contains a few specific elements that differentiate it from your regular, run of the mill running or athletic shoe:
- Very little padding in the shoe and a thin sole
- They don’t hold your foot steady
- Minimal heel-to-toe drop (i.e., your toes are at the same height as your heel)
- Extremely flexible
- Open toe-box, so your toes can splay out more naturally
There is a broad spectrum of minimalist shoe on the market these days, and you can get any level of hard-core bare-foot-ness you think you can handle. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend you get something that still has a little cushion – especially if you’re actually going to be running, not just working out at the gym in them.
Vibram’s Five Finger shoes really stole the show early on, but I wouldn’t recommend them. They don’t fit well if your foot doesn’t match the shoe exactly, and there are many more barefoot running shoes that aren’t as silly looking as the Five Fingers.
Luckily, perennial favorits like Merrel and New Balance are now getting in on the minimalist shoe act. There are also a few other great companies that really specialize in barefoot shoes, such as VIVOBAREFOOT and Inov-8.
Why You Should Switch to a Minimalist Shoe
Using a barefoot shoe – or just being barefoot – allows your body to work in a more bio-mechanically correct fashion. Your foot is designed to create its own cushioning (a fat-pad on the bottom of your foot), and you’ll begin to land more in the center/ball of your foot, which creates less impact force than landing on your heel as you do in a traditional shoe, and it allows your toes to splay out naturally.
These two phenomena have created many beneficial results for many different people. It can help get rid of or prevent chronic injuries all the way from the foot and ankle, through your shins and knees, to your lower back and hips.
It also helps your balance by allowing a greater connection between the ground and your toes. Building up the delicate muscles needed to balance does two things:
- It helps your balance overall, which is always helpful to any athlete or individual, and
- It helps you avoid injury from sudden, unexpected movements – such as quickly switching your running direction to avoid a tackle on the football field
Building up these underused muscles will also allow you to move more efficiently. This will eventually increase your stamina as well.
However, don’t overdo it when you switch to barefoot running shoes. Your muscles and joints won’t be used to the different stride, so only start with 1/2 mile of running, no matter how many miles you do with traditional running shoes.
Is it Safe to Use Minimalist Shoes?
In a word? Yes.
However, as I started to mention above, you mustgradually work your way into wearing them. No matter how much you currently run, you should only start with 1/2 mile in your barefoot shoes. Feel free to continue on a ways in your regular shoes after that, but don’t overdo it.
It’s not about how strong your legs or lungs are, it’s about how used your body is to a barefoot stride. If you can run 50 miles with no problems in traditional shoes, then start at 1/2 a mile in barefoot shoes. It’s as simple as that. Also, practice strengthening your feet by standing on one foot for a minute each, three times per day.
I’ve exercised barefoot for years in martial arts and Yoga, and the first time I tried to run in barefoot shoes I made it about 2 miles before quitting. The next day I thought I had broken something in my shins, and my calves where on fire like they had never been before. People have injured themselves by going too hard too fast, so remember to take it easy.
Hopefully now that you know a little more about barefoot running and the shoes that enable it, you’ll be able to add it as another arrow in your quiver of health.
Before you try any weight-loss or fitness program, you need to clear out the gunk that you’ve spent years putting into your body. Read Andy’s review of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s 21-day Clean Program detox diet to learn how to help your body heal itself, get rid of chronic diseases, and become a natural fat-burner.