Why you should run barefoot*

running barefoot
There’s a lot of advice when it comes to running, from the type of training plan to follow to the type of trainers to wear. There are debates over the best distances to run, the best race series to run, and how much running you really need to do to be healthy.

In the past two decades, running for fun has exploded worldwide. It’s no wonder there is so much global interest in running as a hobby. The known benefits of running are vast. Study after study points to the physical and mental health boost hitting the pavement offers. But did you know that running can actually improve memory and cognitive function?

There’s a catch though. You have to do it barefoot.

Researchers at the University of North Florida found that runners who did it without shoes showed better memory function on basic repeat actions than when they were wearing shoes.

A group of exercise science students were put to the test, running while stepping on place markers with and without shoes. They performed better on the repetition after the markers were removed when they weren’t wearing shoes. Why, though? The researchers hypothesised that it was because it took more focus to physically carry out the task without shoes (and also triggered a more sensory response) than when shoes were on the feet. That extra concentration meant that runners were more in tune with the workout at hand and with the way their bodies were performing, physically and mentally.

More barefoot benefits

Memory improvement is not the only way runners can benefit from going sans shoes. People who choose to run without shoes are more efficient when breathing and have more stable heart rates than their fully-shoe-d peers. It makes sense, really. Feet are lighter without shoes and therefore less energy is consumed to make them move. There have also been tests that proved runners ran faster race times after training without shoes than the same distances with shoes prior.

Obviously there is a reason people normally wear shoes to run – it helps correct pronation and curves in the feet. Shoes also protect the feet from environmental injuries, like broken glass or burning hot pavement. Running barefoot comes with its own set of risks, but for some people it may be worth a shot to improve memory, efficiency and race times.

Running barefoot is a preference, of course, just like which fitness tracker or fuel belt to pick out. But if you’re looking for a faster workout and a way to improve memory beyond playing strategy games, or eating fatty fish, perhaps running barefoot is worth a try.

If you’ve run barefoot before, what benefits (or drawbacks) did you find?

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