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The Myths Of Running: Is Going Barefoot On A Treadmill Good For You?

 Written by 

Jordyn Snyder

 Last updated on 

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If you complain about having to wear shoes or are simply curious since you’ve seen someone running barefoot on social media we’re about to answer the question, “should you run barefoot on a treadmill?”

The Mechanics Of Running Barefoot

Running might seem like a natural thing we do, but it’s important to understand the mechanics of how your body works when you’re running barefoot on a treadmill. Wearing shoes provides cushion and sports that can alter the way your foot hits the ground leading people to land heel first, which can cause joint issues since it’s the incorrect form.

a woman running barefoot on a treadmill
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When you’re running barefoot you are more likely to hit the midfoot or fore-foot first instead of the heel, which results in a softer landing for less stress on your knees. It’s also important to remember that running barefoot on a treadmill is not the same as running barefoot outside. The belt of the treadmill provides some cushioning and is typically very smooth to reduce chances of injury unlike if you were to run outside which can prove much more difficult. 

So The Real Question…Is It Bad to Run Barefoot on a Treadmill?

Let’s take it one step at a time (no pun intended)! 

Sole Abrasion

Running barefoot on a treadmill means you won’t have to worry about rocks and sticks, however, it can still be dangerous. Running without shoes opens up the chances of you tripping, scraping skin, and additional risks with the repetitive frictional force used with this sort of minimalist running style. 

Treadmill Drawbacks

Even though running on a treadmill barefoot is safer than outside, there are little annoyances that come with running on a treadmill instead of the outdoors like how the belt heats up. The treadmill belt might have great grip and traction, but it’ll get warm after a few minutes of use and can make it extremely uncomfortable doing a barefoot run. 

It’s also harder to practice a proper stride since the treadmill doesn’t go to your gait, it simply moves at the speed that is set on the display unless you invest in a manual treadmill.

Muscle Damage and Foot Injuries

It’s not just some small scrapes and burns you have to worry about. Running barefoot on a treadmill incorrectly can put way more stress on your sole muscles without working the heels, which can cause those foot arch muscles and tendons to be stiff and provoke poor running form. In return, you’ll start noticing things like hip pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and so much more.

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Now, What Are The Advantages of Running Barefoot on a Treadmill?

Just like anything else you can injure yourself if not careful, but what about the benefits of running barefoot on a treadmill? Why should you even consider it?

Muscle Strengthening

You don’t work certain foot ligaments with shoes, removing them means your foot works harder and at a more natural stride. Everything is activated including your calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which means stronger foot muscles. 

Balance And Coordination

Without the use of supportive shoes, you’re forced to be more aware of your body posture and balance and your feet will expand more as a result. Just remember to maximize efficiency with shorter and lighter steps to help if you already have balance issues. 

A More Natural Gait

Learning to run barefoot means learning to run and move as we’re designed to. There’s less chance of joint pain like getting plantar fasciitis and common injuries. Especially when you hit with the ball of your foot first as a natural shock absorber, really it’s overall just better for your body.

Which Treadmill Is Best For Barefoot Running?

Woodway Desmo S Manual Treadmill

The best we’ve seen so far is the Woodway Desmo S Treadmill as it’s known for its quality. A huge benefit is it’s a manual treadmill, which means it only moves when you move it and there are no electrical components. It’s built portable, though at 450 pounds it might not be something you want to move often. It also has an incline feature to simulate other running terrains for training purposes and though it’s a tad on the expensive end, we highly recommend it. 

ANCHEER Folding Electric Treadmill

If you want a cheaper electrical option the ANCHEER Folding Electric Treadmill is a good option as well. Lightweight at only 68 pounds and pre-programmed workouts and options with a remote control watch for easy use means it’s perfect for small spaces. 

Its max speed of 7.5 MPH allows a good pace and can be beneficial for newbie barefoot runners as it’s a great range to get started and with its foldable handles you’ll have full control if you were to misstep. 

Our Top Running Tips For Going Barefoot:

Start Slowly

Start in smaller increments and build those muscles while keeping your attention on your posture and stride. If you do too much too fast you can injure yourself and stunt your progress. You won’t be running 5k races barefoot the first day and that’s okay.

Shorten Your Stride

We tend to take longer steps thinking it’ll make us go faster when it’s completely unnecessary, but for the proper barefoot stride, you should be making shorter strides to prevent striking the ground with your heel. Remember you need to make contact with the ball of your foot first, not your heels or your toes, and have light steps at a steady speed.

Wear Socks Or Minimalist Shoes At First

A barefoot or minimalist running shoe is a completely flat, flexible shoe that basically acts as a second skin to ensure you don’t cut your feet on any sharp outdoor terrain. And socks work well for beginner barefoot treadmill running training, but they’re not recommended for outdoor use as they can easily rip and get wet, and no one likes soggy socks with holes in them. We advise you pick one or the other to start your barefoot running journey as it’ll help you reach your goals faster.

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Whether you’re an experienced runner or simply looking for a functional workout that doesn’t involve traditional running shoes then barefoot running can be for you. It’s a controversial running style, but if practiced slowly and deliberately the risk of injury is significantly less. With all that said, we recommend giving barefoot running on a treadmill a try, and if it’s not something you like then air those running shoes back on!

What barefoot shoes should I try?

This article about The Top 10 Barefoot Shoes is a great start to figuring out which shoe to try for the kind of workout you’re going to be doing. 

Can I run barefoot on sand?

It might seem like a good idea, but it can actually cause serious injuries as explained in this article, “Why You Shouldn’t Run Barefoot On The Beach…”

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