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Barefoot running, Warden and other experts tell us, decreases the risk of injury to the feet and legs. But, wait, they also tell us that barefoot running also increases the risk of injury to the feet and legs. How can barefoot running make sense?

Running Barefoot Is So Easy a Caveman Could Do It

Neglecting to make any apologies for possibly offending the caveman community, Dr. Stuart J. Warden, an associate professor of physical therapy at Indiana University, gave a cutely titled presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver: "Barefoot Running: So Easy, a Caveman Did It," playing off an ongoing comedy line on American TV's GEICO commercials.

It sounds like pseudoscience or something a New Age guru would say to get people to come to a high-priced retreat, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence that perceiving the earth's frequencies through bare feet "resets" the body in ways that enhance health. Running is not necessary to experience the benefits of "earthing." Here the simple steps.

  • Start by taking off your shoes and simply standing on sand, gravel, grass, or unpainted concrete. All of these surfaces, experts in earthing tell us, transmit the healing frequencies of the earth. If you don't have the energy to stand, at least sit down with your heels and hands on the ground.
  • Simply relax and enjoy. The earthing experts will tell you to do a guided meditation to let your mind clear while your body absorbs the energies of the ground, but it does not have to be even that complicated. Simply let the earth do the work.

Here are 10 reasons you should start running barefoot: 

1. Barefoot running as a moving meditation

Barefoot running, for people who learn to do earthing, becomes a moving meditation of catching something similar to musical notes from the earth's frequencies. Moving the foot off the ground creates a kind of energy silence while placing the foot back on the ground creates a staccato of earth music.[1]

But let's suppose you just aren't into any health practices that are quite that "natural." Are there any other aspects of running barefoot that are positively healthy?

2. Barefoot running decreases forceful impacts

When runners run barefoot, they run on the balls of the feet or the middle of the foot. This way barefoot runners avoid forceful impacts, equivalent to two to three times of body weight.

3. Barefoot running can be comfortable 

Yes, barefoot running can be comfortable, although most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts. However, you do need to prepare your feet for this rebirthing experience and start run barefoot on the world’s hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain.

4. Barefoot runners have different striking pattern - they point their toes more at landing and minimize forceful impacts on their feet 

Barefoot runners do not strike with heels and they point their toes more at landing, avoiding the collision effect. This way they decrease the effective mass of the foot that comes to a sudden stop when you land. A consequence of barefoot running is more compliant and springy legs. That's a good thing. [2]

5.  Running barefoot improves balance and proprioception 

Running barefoot may improve balance and proprioception by activating the smaller muscles in the feet, ankles, legs, and hips that are responsible for better balance and coordination. Although an 8-week research didn't prove statistically significant changes, researchers do not exclude possibility that it may take months or years to observe positive changes. [3]

6.  Running barefoot reduces tension on the adductor muscles

The adductor muscles help the lower half of the body move "outward." The adductor brevis muscle helps us move to the left or to the right from the hips. The adductor magnus muscle helps us move to the left or to the right from the thighs. This is the muscle involved in pulling a hamstring. The adductor longus muscle helps us rotate the femur to the left or to the right.[4]

When these muscles don't work properly, the body tries to turn left or right from the knees rather than from the hips, increasing risk of knee injury. Toning these muscles is one of the ways barefoot running helps prevent knee injury.

7. Running barefoot helps compensate for short toes and short feet

Unusually short toes and short feet don't create as much traction with the ground and focus more energy on the heels when the foot contacts the ground. People who have short feet and toes can move faster when they run barefoot, placing less force on the heel.[5]

8. Running barefoot protects fragile bones

Both men and women can develop osteoporosis after 50. Sometimes efforts to get back into shape are the precipitating event behind bone fractures. Running barefoot rather than shod reduces stress on the bones and the risk of stress fractures in undiagnosed osteoporosis. However, a quick switch to barefoot running without adaptation period can have a negative effect on your health, including increased calf and shin pain, increased foot bone marrow oedema and a higher injury rate.[5

9. Running barefoot allows the foot to spread out

New running shoes can constrict the middle of the foot. There may be no loss of running speed, but there is increased risk of injury to the middle of the foot. You never have to break in shoes you don't wear.[2,3,4]

10. Running barefoot keeps ankles from becoming stiff

Shoes increase the range of motion from the knees but limit the range of motion from the ankles. If ankle stiffness is the problem, running barefoot may be the solution.[5]

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