Just over 4 months ago, I noticed that after 45mins of exercising in my expensive running shoes, my feet ached for the rest of the day. Rather than buy a different pair, I wondered about exercising barefoot. It was a complete success and since then I’ve been barefoot for part or all of each day. I am really pleased with the results so wanted to share them with anyone wondering about trying it.
However, this does come with a disclaimer – on asking around, I’ve discovered that some people who try going barefoot have really bad results. Hopefully it’s possible to have a go, but stop if you think it’s not for you or you notice damge
I was apprehensive about barefoot exercise because I assumed that sports shoes have cushioning for a reason. So I researched the matter and found that changing the way you land on each foot, so that you don’t land on your heel, allows the muscles in the leg to engage and prevent jarring. This is naturally done barefoot, whilst the shape of shoes encourages a heel-striking stride.
I suddenly remembered that this was how I used to walk as a teenager, when I’d spend each summer barefoot. I also remember a sporty friend teaching me the “correct” way to walk by heel-striking, and subsequently losing my natural stride.
So I switched to bare feet 4 months ago, and found that my stride reverted automatically. This is because it’s hard to heel-strike without shoes because it either hurts or feels very jarring to do so.
I had to build up slowly, both to give my soles the chance to harden up, and to give the muscles in my feet, ankles and legs the chance to re-strengthen for movements they haven’t done in years.
Here are the benefits I’ve experienced.
- Feet don’t ache or smell
- Better grip, especially for climbing
- Enjoying the sensations of walking on different surfaces (once soles are thick enough)
- Stronger feet and ankles – injury less likely and can grip the ground for better balance. I actually twisted my ankle (as in landed sideways on it) the other day without injury.
- Silent stride – great for sneaking around the house when others are asleep.
- Smooth stride – noticeably less jarring on all joints, both when walking, running and even jumping.
- Better circulation – I now find it too warm to wear shoes at temperatures that previously had me reaching for my boots. Will be interested to see how this pans out in winter.
- Walking/running faster – no heavy shoes.
Yesterday I went out for my longest barefoot walk yet – 2 1/2 hours, on asphalt and gravel. I actually enjoy the sensations under my feet believe it or not. Walking barefoot feels like regaining something natural, even if many walking surfaces are man-made.
But what about the downsides? Dirty feet? Danger of injury from sharp objects? Objections from others? Yes, actually these are all quite real problems. I’m selective about products I recommend but what’s solved these problems for me is Xero Shoes. They are basically the most minimal sandals you can get – thin enough not to interfere with your natural barefoot stride, but thick enough to protect your feet from sharp objects and dirt. I leave the house barefoot, but carry these just in case. I reckon they are good for the environment too since they take less volume of materials to make than shoes and come with a 5000 mile guarantee (that’s 10 years at 10 miles per day)
Please share your experiences of walking barefoot.
Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog
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