Ease Into Barefoot Running With Foot-Strengthening Exercises

Ease Into Barefoot Running With Foot-Strengthening Exercises

Barefoot running may be better than wearing sneakers, but our feet are more accustomed to wearing shoes. To make the transition into barefooting easy, Mark’s Daily Apple offers some foot exercises and a way to reduce tightness in your calves with a lacrosse ball.Photo by Liji Jinaraj.

Use the lacrosse ball, Mark writes, to reduce the tightness in your feet (the plantar fascia, to be exact, which supports the foot arch):

Place a lacrosse ball on the floor, stand on it, and roll around. Just explore your foot with the ball. It’ll be really painful at first, but that’s how you know it’s working. Roll each foot twice a day for about five minutes. Be sure to flex your foot and move your toes around as you roll over tight spots — try to put your foot through every possible range of motion it might see in the real world.

For your calf muscles, sit on the ground and roll the ball under your calf. After about a week of these exercises, your legs and feet may be better primed for barefooting.

Several foot-strengthening exercises are also offered in the article, such as holding an object between your toes and squeezing them together. The entire post is a must-read for new barefoot runners, since there are also valuable tips on form and how to get started (some of which we’ve also previously mentioned with other barefoot running advice).

Are you a barefooter? Share your tips or suggestions with us in the comments.

How to Prepare for Barefooting [Mark’s Daily Apple]


  • Im a barefooter. But at the gym I have to wear shoes, so I wear the Vibram Five Fingers.

    My bit of advice. . . when you first start, the following morning, your calf muscles will be screaming in pain! For a good few days too.
    Go easy. Its because you have never used your calf muscles to run before.

    Barefoot running will massively strengthen your calf muscles.

    • Haha I think everyone overdoes there first barefoot run. I tried to take mine easy but it felt so good I kept going. I was walking spastic for the next three days.

      Another good exercise is jump rope/skipping. Your foot landing while skipping is similar to how it will land when running barefoot.

  • Also, dont just run barefoot.
    When Im at home Im barefoot all the time (or in socks for the cold winter days).
    Even when walking barefoot be concious of how you walk. Dont heel strike.
    When walking barefoot you shouldnt be hearing “thud thud thud” with every step. That ‘thud’ is your heel slamming on the ground and impacting your knee.
    Stay light, on the balls of your feet. When you walk it should be silent.

  • Off memory, from Lee Saxby’s Proprioception book regarding barefoot running.

    Walking is heel to toe.
    Running is balls of feet then heel and toes.

    I think the issue he raised was jogging technique which used the walking heel to toe technique but with the impact loading of running. That brings about the extra cushioning in the shoes these days.

    In anycase, he suggests doing squats with correct posture -> walking with correct posture -> barefoot running with correct posture.

    Generally increasing the distance covered by 10% to break in the barefoot running shoes/technique.

    • People run heel to toe because thats how we have been taught (forced) to run with todays running shoes.
      The calf muscle is suppose to be used as a shock absorber when running. But when you heel strike you are pounding twice your body weight into your heel, up your shin (shin splints) and into your knee.

      Lie on your back, leg in the air. Ill put a one inch piece of rubber on your heel and hit it with a sledge hammer. Doesnt sound too good? Well, thats what you are doing when you heel strike.



  • Barefoot Running has had such a great revival in the past few years (many people refer to it as the “Runaissance”…)

    There are so many good resources out there. A few big players in the market for barefoot-style footwear have invested huge dollars into guides/instructions that take people through it. Our top suggestions:
    http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/ (and the associated book here – http://www.tbfrb.com/)
    ** note Jason is open about his association with Merrell, but our understanding is that he started on his own, then worked with Merrell to produce a range of useful resources including:
    http://www.merrell.com/US/en/BarefootConnection (+ an associated iPhone app, that is pretty good..)
    + New Balance have some good stuff too

    Again, there are loads of websites, blogs, videos, e-books etc. out there, these are just a few that specifically look at the same theme as this post.. easing into barefoot running.

  • Vibram, the company that make the Five Fingers barefoot running shoes are actually the developers of the soles on all the leading sports shoes. Nike, Asics, Reebok, etc. . . So its not like they dont know what they are doing or talking about.

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