How Runners Can Improve Their Natural Balance

Because of their thick cushioned running shoes, having good natural balance is a trouble area for most runners.

Sturdy natural balance during running increases your protection against injury and bad performance. Interestingly, recent studies prove that you don’t need to take a lot of time to do exercises to give your balance a boost. You can give your balance what it needs by avoiding wearing cushioned running shoes when running. Instead, run in thin minimalist shoes, like the Vibram FiveFingers.

How Runners Can Improve Their Natural Balance

How Runners Can Improve Their Natural Balance

We now know that barefoot is always best, but if you’d rather skip going barefoot, another great way to stimulate the balance-control nerves in the feet is with the Vibram FiveFingers.

A study by Smith et al. 2015 examined static standing balance in participants that were barefoot, wearing the Vibram FiveFingers, and regular cushioned running shoes with their eyes closed.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the Vibram FiveFingers provided better stability than the barefoot condition. Unsurprisingly, the researchers discovered that participants in the regular cushioned running shoes spent most of the time trying to resist balance disruption, suggesting that cushioned running shoes trigger balance impairments during running, increasing your risk of sore, achy lower leg muscles and joints, and even injury.

More proof from the destabilizing effects of cushioned running shoes came from a study by Menant et al. 2008. The study found that those who wore soft, squishy footwear had the poorest balance control because the shoes actually offered little mechanical support. The researchers concluded that such footwear are detrimental to joint-position awareness, meaning you are less likely to maintain proper lower leg joint position while running! In contrast, balance impairments occurred the least when subjects wore thinner footwear while walking on a balance beam.

To avoid taxing your musculoskeletal system and prevent postural disturbances when you run, steer clear of wearing running shoes with lots of cushioning. Make sure you choose a running shoe that feels barefoot. Here are some examples.

The take home message here is that the bottoms of the bare feet (including the toes) are naturally rich in sensory receptors in-charge of maintaining healthy balance reactions. The thinner your running shoes are, the better these nerves are at sensing the ground, helping prevent lack of balance when you run.

More From Run Forefoot:

Good Shoes for Forefoot Running and the Gym

Examining Mo Farah’s Running Form

How to Properly Swing Your Legs When Forefoot Running

How Heel Strike Running Causes Runners Knee Injury


Menant JC, Perry SD, Steele JR etal. Effects of shoe characteristics on dynamic stability when walking on even and uneven surfaces in young and older people. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008; 89(10):1970-


Bretta Riches

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!