There are more benefits of barefoot running that you probably know about. If you knew them all, perhaps you would quickly toss your cushioned running shoes for a more natural, minimalist pair!
There are the obvious benefits of barefoot running, which most runners know about. These would include: an improved running form that promotes a forefoot landing rather than a heal strike; a quicker turnover rate (cadence) ensuring less impact; a softer landing resulting in less stress on the knees and hips; stronger feet due to a more flexible shoe -- all resulting in fewer injuries. However, there are hidden benefits that only a barefoot runner would know.
I have been a barefoot runner for over seven years. My minimalist shoe of choice is the Vibram Fivefingers. I chose that shoe because it provides the most natural experience other than going completely barefoot! It is very light weight and provides protection against sharp objects while still allowing me to feel what my feet land on. This helps me to re-adjust how my foot lands if needed. I know immediately if I am landing too hard!
The 5 benefits of barefoot running that are not so obvious are:
1. Improved Blood Circulation
Minimalist shoes promote stimulation of the feet and the use of muscles previously not used with other running shoes. This results in improved blood oxygenation and circulation and also reduces the likelihood of varicose veins.
2. No Black Toenails or Bunions
Minimalist shoes tend to have a wider toe box which allow toes to spread freely. In the case of Vibram Fivefingers, the toes are completely free to move as they wish. Because the toes have lots of room to move about, there is nothing to cause black toenails or bunions.
3. Minimal Running Shoes Last Longer
These shoes do not have any cushioning so there is nothing to wear down and the soles are strong and durable. I replace my Vibrams only when there is a hole in the bottom. Even then, they don't need to be replaced right away. I wore my last pair even after there was a hole in the sole. However, then I realized that my socks were getting ruined, so then I decided to replace my shoes immediately. I love my Injinji toe socks!
4. Better Balance
Barefoot running allows the full movement of the foot. This results in much stronger feet and stronger feet provide better balance. This may not seem important to you now but think about how important good balance is to the elderly. How many elderly people do you know who are nervous walking down stairs and need to constantly look down at their feet? I want to have confidence in my balance for however long I live.
5. Free Reflexology
My new summer running shoes (Fivefinger KSO EVO) have a very thin sole. Therefore, whenever I run on a stone trail or on an unpaved road, I feel like I am having a reflexology treatment! Once I have adjusted my foot to land more gently, it became very enjoyable because my feet were being stimulated so much -- very similar to having a foot masage or a reflexology treatment. Having these types of treatments often result in reduced stress, more energy, better sleep and the elimination of toxins -- all this for free when you run over stones in a thin soled running shoe!
Reflexology gardens (shown below) have been used for hundreds of years in Asia and they are still popular today. The people who use these know about and experience the benefits of walking barefoot on stones.
So there you have it -- even more reasons to consider giving barefoot running a try!
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post below.
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