Barefoot Walking and Running Outdoors Lead to Massive Improvements in Foot Strength

Because of the common foot-related injury-rates in runners, many runners and experts are finally recognizing the risks of cushioned running shoes. This why many runners have decided to engage in more barefoot activities outdoors as barefooting is a force for better progress in foot health, resulting in a stronger foot architecture that is durable and dynamic enough to fully adapt to physical threats of weight-bearing activities.

Walking barefoot outdoors or running barefoot outdoors is the pillar of stronger, healthy functioning feet which makes long distance running easier. Ultimately, walking/running barefoot outdoors strengthens the feet because it delivers oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to deep muscles and soft tissues in the feet. This why barefooting really lives up to what its suppose to do, which is stimulate foot strength, making it an ideal first-line form of treatment for weak, achy feet.

Barefoot Walking and Running Outdoors Lead to Massive Improvements in Foot Strength

Barefooting immediately accelerates foot strength better than any running shoe, and the central element to that is barefooting boosts blood flow in the feet which is novel for sustainable foot strength. But, it is unfortunate that when it comes to sore feet, many runners have done the wrong thing!

Sadly, most people resort to stiff, cushioned, arch-supportive narrow running shoes to relieve painful feet, but traditional running shoes actually encompasses foot muscle remodeling that plays into poor foot strength and function. This is why long-term use of traditional footwear is risky because these shoes weaken the foot’s infrastructure, leading to widespread atrophy or withering-away of foot muscles, and the unacceptably high injury rates in runners is a constant reminder of this. But the problems don’t stop there.

The traditional running shoe tears at proper foot function by possibly causing nerve function abnormalities in the foot and weak, poorly functioning foot muscles maybe a consequential by-product of that and here’s why:

The nerves that line the bottom of the feet are the fundamental force that holds foot strength together and these nerves play an integral part in stimulating stronger foot muscles. This is the role barefooting plays in providing the natural resources, in terms of sensory input, that feeds the feet to counter foot weakness. In contrast, cushioned running shoes are an inconvenience for deepening foot strength because thick underfoot cushioning gets in the way of muscle-strengthening sensory input.

One of the signatures of being barefoot outdoors is the robust sensory processing in the nerves in the sole of feet.

  • The excitability/activity level of the nerves that line the bottom of the feet can either increase or decrease blood flow to surrounding tissues and muscles in the foot.
  • Therefore, the activity of the nerves that line the bottom of the feet, regulates blood flow to deeper tissues, allowing them to receive nourishing blood and oxygen which is powerful for shaping foot strength.
  • This how barefooting contributes to the solution for weak feet, whereas cushioned running shoes undermines the capacity to usher-in adequate flow of nutrient-rich blood to key areas in the foot, and this is a dominant factor in how foot weakness arises.

Barefooting is of special importance because the research is filled with many concrete examples of how the nerves in the feet are most activate when you are barefoot. Thus, when you go barefoot, the ongoing sensory assistance delivers more blood to the soft tissues and muscles in the foot, thereby creating conditions for sustainable growth in foot strength. Simple as that.

So, I just like to remind everyone that your foot strength is limited by your footwear. How the traditional running shoe robs the foot of strength is that the nerves that line the bottom of the feet are sitting quietly waiting to detect the sensory input that they are normally and naturally thirsty for and this is where poor foot strength stems from: the excessive impairment in nerve processing and the lack of nerve excitability fails to fully serve the muscles and tendons with oxygen-rich and nutrient rich-blood that is so necessary for foot strength.

Since there is less sensory exchange/nerve activation in traditional running shoes, could cause inappropriate opening/closing of blood vessels which may restrict proper blood flow and nourishment to deep muscles within the foot.

This is why going barefoot more often is a constructive force because it boosts nerve and blood vessel engagement which has a strong muscle strengthening component that cannot be matched by the traditional running shoe.

By increasing your outdoor barefoot activity, the sensory input window widely opens, getting foot muscles more engaged in a healthy way, whereas cushioned running shoes creates a physiological atmosphere that diminishes nerve activity, sequencing under-engaged, under-active foot muscles, leading to a collection of pain and discomfort in the foot.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!