Are There Benefits to Running Barefoot?

The benefits to running barefoot are endless! For one, running barefoot is the best way to improve running form, allowing you to avoid heel striking and adopt a forefoot strike which is proven to be the safest, most efficient way to run, especially at fast running speeds!

Even better, with more barefoot running experience, the more the proper forefoot running technique becomes hardwired in your muscle memory, making it easier for you to uphold optimal forefoot striking mechanics when running in shoes. This is why I always like to say that barefoot running makes you a better shod runner!

Are There Benefits to Running Barefoot?
When it comes to injury prevention and movement efficiency, barefoot running gets the most attention because it optimizes your neuromuscular system on multiple fronts at once vs cushioned running shoes.

Secondly, barefoot running activates a range of motor nerves that switches on a range of reflexive responses that optimizes ankle, knee and hip mechanics. This in turn results in far less impact and abnormal foot motions than running in cushioned shoes which actually cause you to strike the ground harder and force the feet into extreme, straining positions. This is why despite all the advancements in running shoe cushion technology, injury rates have gone nothing but UP, not down!

Even better, running barefoot with a forefoot strike results in a contact with the ground that’s so brief that certain impact force variables and other physical stresses are not fully produced or produced at all! 

In that regard, here are all the injuries and mechanical ailments caused by cushioned running shoes that are perfectly prevented with barefoot running:

Stronger Feet – The most obvious benefit to barefoot running is it makes your feet stronger than ever! It’s also evident that barefoot running makes your feet more energy efficient by improving the spring properties of key components in the foot! Read more here!

No More Overpronation – Over-pronation is a well-known risk-factor for running injuries because it means the foot is shifting into extreme positions during stance whereby running barefoot was found to work best for engaging the most controlled pronation vs cushioned running shoes! Read more here!

Hip Injuries – If you are worried that running without shoes will hurt your hips, think again! Barefoot running actually reduces hip internal rotation and torque. Read more here!


Shin Injuries – For many runners, shin splints just wont go away! Running barefoot helps position the foot in a way that removes stress and strain from the tibialis anterior. Read more here!

Rock Steady Balance – You will always be more balanced when running barefoot than in cushioned running shoes because you have the closest, most natural connection with the ground without any mechanical interference from an unnatural substrate: cushioning! Read more here!

Stronger Microstructures in Foot – As it turns out, the ground-feel from being barefoot is the ONLY way to immediately improve the strength of the intrinsic muscles, soft tissues, blood vessels and nerves deep within the foot! Read more here!

Low Back Pain – Many runners who grew up running barefoot, such as Ethiopian runners, allow their torso to sway back and forth. Torso rotation is part of the barefoot running technique and is essential for deflecting impact loads from the back. Read more here!

Sciatic Nerve Pain – Stimulating the bottoms of the feet via barefooting essentially ‘wakes up’ under-active nerves, not only in the feet, but in the back, too. By running barefoot, you correct dysfunctional neural pathways between the feet and the back which may alleviate sciatic nerve problems. Read more here!

Proprioception Disorder – Here is another major problem in most shod runners. Their feet have lots the ability to feel the ground and as a result, the communication between the feet and the lower leg joints become extremely frayed. Gaining better proprioception is the healthiest part of going bare. Read more here!

Foot Pain After Running – You will be stunned to find out how going barefoot is a direct route to accelerate recovery after a long run. Read more here!

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Chronic Foot Discomfort – Once your feet are weak, they are unable to tolerable normal weight-bearing loads, thereby causing persistent pain. To strengthen your feet, make sure you walk barefoot on uneven surfaces as this will guarantee to strengthen every aspect of your foot! Read more here!

Here Are the Never Ending Benefits to Running Barefoot:

Prevents Heel Strike When Running – Barefoot running is the best way to train your brain to avoid heel-pounding and instead, it forces you to land with a forefoot strike. Even better, the more you run barefoot, the more the proper forefoot running technique is hardwired in your muscle and reflexive memory, which in turn, help you run more optimally in shoes. Read more here!

Better Balance –  The heightened sensory input when barefoot translates into improvements in balance, resulting in quicker adaptations on uneven terrain. Read more here!

Functionally Stronger Feet – Being barefoot is the only way to ensure the muscles, soft tissues, nerves and blood vessels in the foot remains strong and healthy. Read more here!

Faster Feet – Barefoot running was found to make your feet more energy efficient by unlocking certain areas of the foot which enabled the foot to store more elastic energy, resulting in less muscular effort to pull the foot up into the next step. Read more here!

Optimal Knee Mechanics – Barefoot running provides the natural stimulus for optimal neuromuscular and reflexive responses in the knee-joint that result in a faster acquisition of improved functional mechanics that are not only safer on the knee, but reduces energy costs. Read more here!

Safer Load Balance –  Load balancing and impact-moderating behaviour were optimized under barefoot conditions vs thickly shod conditions. Research has found barefoot running helps you avoid damaging load imbalances by naturally improving ankle-joint stability and your sense of forces acting on the ankle-joint. Read more here!

Earthing – The great thing about going barefoot is that it helps drain free-radicals into the earth and replaces them with free-electrons which helps reduce inflammation. Read more here!


Boosts Brain Power – In addition to strengthening the feet and lower legs, running barefoot also strengthens the mind by boosting brain power. A new study found a remarkable breakthrough in that running barefoot led to better cognitive performance than shod running. Another study also found a relationship between barefoot activity and heightened cognition (learning) in children. Read more here!

Stronger Glutes and Hips – According to senior physiotherapist Dr Senthil Venugopal, walking backwards while barefoot, especially on rougher surfaces, helps build stronger butt and hip muscles. Read more here!

Running barefoot for minutes a day is really important in keeping your feet strong and your forefoot running form in-check.

Running barefoot also protects the joints far better than any running shoe. For instance, barefoot running improves:

Tips on how to run barefoot with a forefoot strike:

Just when you think going barefoot couldn’t get any better, here are more reasons going barefoot is incredibly important for your well-being.

Dont want to run barefoot all the time? Running in barefoot like shoes has similar positive effects on foot health and biomechanics as barefoot running. Here are the best shoes that feel barefoot.

If you’d like, You can show support and help keep Run Forefoot going by making a donation in any amount of your choosing:

Or, you can support Run Forefoot by shopping at the BEST Barefoot Shoe Brands, and be sure to bookmark these links 🙂


Vibram FiveFingers:


Be Lenka:

Xero Shoes:


Soft Star Shoes:

Wilding Shoes:

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


  1. hi i been running three years now 2 barefoot i run barefoot 10k 3 times a week, the other day it g was cold and raining so i wore my meral trail shoes i ran a kelometen and my shinsplinds were killing me i took my shoes off and ran 9k barefoot with no pain what i dont know what i will do come winter.

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  3. Hi, just wanted to silently mention an error in the proprioception part. Lots should be lost. Also nice stuff here, thanks!

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