The Benefits of Running Without Shoes

Some runners are shedding their shoes and taking up the sport of barefoot running. What are the benefits of running without shoes?

As warm weather approaches, it's natural to want to kick off your shoes and expose your toes to the warm sunlight. But, why just sit on the sidelines wiggling your toes when you can participate in the growing trend of running without shoes? Yes, more runners and are shedding their running shoes before they head out the door and many believe it's made them a better runner. What are the benefits of running without shoes?

Some of the benefits of jogging barefoot are obvious. Running in bare feet can save you money on running foot apparel which is usually costly with a relatively short life span, particularly if you run on a frequent basis. Some experts believe that shoes are the cause of many running injuries. Who hasn't experienced blisters and loose toenails as a result of jogging in new running shoes? It's also thought that running without shoes strengthens the arches and prevents overuse syndromes such as plantar fasciitis. Plus, who can deny that it feels good to have your feet exposed on a warm summer day?

Of course if you're going to run without shoes, you need to pick your course carefully. It would hardly be wise to run on a woodsy running trail with sticks and rocks scattered along your path. One obvious place to try running or jogging barefoot is on the beach. Running on sand gives you a more intense workout and you can enjoy the waves carressing your naked feet. Even the beach isn't always safe from an injury standpoint. You'll have to keep your eyes open for pieces shells, glass, and other debris. If you don't live near the shoreline, a natural grass field or even a golf course is a good option as long as it's well maintained and free of sharp objects that could cut your feet.

If you choose to run without shoes, it's important to start slowly and build up your distance over time. Running without the support of running shoes, will subject your joints to more trauma than running with shoes. Don't try to run your normal distance the first few times you shed your shoes. It's also important to keep your eyes focused on the terrain ahead when you run to avoid landing on sharp objects. You may experience some foot discomfort at first, but most barefoot runners condition their feet over time so that running without shoes is not only bearable, but more comfortable.

If you have a history of leg, knee, or feet problems, you should avoid jogging barefoot or running without shoes. Although many runners are convinced that shoeless running has reduced the number of sports related injuries they experience, there's not enough scientific evidence behind barefoot running to support this claim. The key is to start slowly and do only what you feel comfortable with. Another option? Nike makes a running shoe called Nike Free that simulates the feeling of running in bare feet, and you don't have to worry about stepping on glass.