If you're into running, there's no doubt you've heard the buzz about barefoot running. It's become trendy for a reason: running barefoot can help you have better form and technique, preventing injury and pain. Runners aren't the only ones who can benefit from ditching their footwear. If walking is your exercise of choice, here are some reasons you'll want to try going barefoot.
- Active and engaged muscles: Slipping on shoes may protect your feet from dangers, but it also means the muscles in your feet don't have to work as hard. The cushioned sole of a shoe absorbs all the sensations and pressures, which means your feet have become more passive over time. Because weak muscles are more prone to strain, pain, and injury, walking barefoot allows you to engage your body more, making feet stronger and better able to handle workouts.
- Better walking form: One way a walker can have incorrect form is by roughly pounding the ground with each step. Cushiony sneakers absorb the force, so you're not even aware that you may be walking incorrectly. Remove your shoes and you'll instantly walk lighter, causing less jarring impact on your joints. Even though walking is considered a low-impact sport, it's still hard on your feet. Improving form means less risk for injury.
- Busting through the walking plateau: Walking the same way, day in and day out, means using identical muscles every time you head out for a walk. Your body quickly strengthens the muscles in use, easily adapting to the demands placed on them. Without the opportunity for new challenges, muscles won't become stronger and can actually become injured from overuse. Walking barefoot forces your body to use other muscles not normally used when walking with sneaks, which helps you achieve a more effective and different type of workout. You'll especially feel the difference when walking barefoot on different surfaces.
Keep reading to learn how to start barefoot walking.
Don't throw out those sneakers just yet — starting out slow is a must. Stick to smooth, even surfaces like a treadmill belt, and start off with five to 10 minutes per workout to prevent muscle fatigue and blisters. Gradually increase the duration as your feet become stronger (it also takes time for the skin on your soles to toughen up). Experiment with other safe surfaces such as walking along the shoreline in wet or dry sand, on warm grass, or on a paved walking or bike bath. The sidewalk in your quiet neighborhood might also be a good option, just be sure to watch out for pebbles, bugs, and glass. No need to switch over to barefoot walking completely. If you're used to walking five or more days a week, you'll benefit from going sans sneakers for one or two of those workouts.
Have you ever tried barefoot walking?