Best Way to Improve Foot Strength for Running

Cushioned, motion control running shoes made my feet, especially my arch, very weak, which is why I ended up with so many foot injuries. And, when you your feet are weak, so are the ankles, and when te ankles are weak,  you become very unstable while you run.

The best way to improve foot strength to common running injuries, such as avoid plantar fasciitis and metatarsal stress fracture, is by going barefoot as doing so seems to be the only source of nourishment for the human foot.

Going barefoot to strengthen feet
When shod runners go barefoot for the first time, there is an uptick in proprioceptive activity which is vital for regulating foot strength and function. In fact, heightened proprioception powerfully affects the architecture of the foot, reducing the risk of injury during running.

Past reports show that going barefoot has profound effects on foot health and habitual shod runners seem to have difficulties maintaining foot strength.

Consequently, habitual shod runners are more sensitive to foot injury in response to usual levels of running-related impacts and loading.


Over the past few decades, research points to the running shoe for much of the running-related perils of the human foot.

Ultimately, cushioned running shoes appears to accomplish less in terms of injury prevention simply because the injury rate among joggers is substantially high.

  • One study concluded that running shoes should not be endorsed as a protective device because of the magnitude of injuries in runners observed by practitioners of sports medicine.

When barefoot, the feet are constantly absorbing information from the plantar surface. This information (proprioception) is responsible for shaping the external structure of the foot, but more importantly, shaping the neural pathways between the proprioceptors and the central nervous system (CNS). This is how humans learn to move safely.

Proprioceptive activity is neglected through constant use of supportive footwear which may even reduce the density of proprioceptors in the feet, according to me that is. Such footwear causes runners to be more vulnerable to a loss of foot strength. Conversely, repairing the foot’s bones and connective tissues springs from the sensory richness of barefoot activity and not from wearing cushy shoes.

Regardless, reports about barefoot runners in international competitions do not mention frequent injury; therefore their records in competitions attest to their extreme durability, according to Robbins and Hanna.

Evidently, we now have the running shoe paradox: the most protective shoe is a runner’s worst enemy because a runners’ health hinges on foot strength and running shoes cannot provide rich sensory detail, a major aspect of the therapeutic process for strong, well-functioning feet and better mechanics.


Robbins SE and Hanna AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1987; 19(2):148-156.

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!

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