The health benefits of running have long been explored — and enjoyed — by scientists and fitness buffs alike. But what about barefoot running? While there are some health risks to be considered, the practice may be just the thing to give your running routine a boost.
Barefoot running combines the popular form of exercise with the practice of earthing. Increasingly popular among alternative wellness circles, earthing involves walking barefoot on natural surfaces like soil or sand in an effort to make direct physical contact with the earth’s electrons. Recent studies have found that doing so promoted health and well-being in a variety of ways, said an article on MindBodyGreen.com.
It should follow then that running barefoot is the ultimate fitness fix that combines the cardiovascular benefits of running with the energizing effect of earthing. However, fitness experts approached the idea with caution, arguing that not having enough support for the arches and ankles when running could lead to a lot of injuries. Protection and some form of shock absorption, they said, is necessary particularly for people running on pavement. “We don’t all live in the woods or along soft meadow dirt trails. In the concrete jungle, a level of protection is necessary to absorb the shock impact of each running step,” health coach and trainer Michelle Cady said in the article.
Still, those who are determined to try barefoot running only need to take a few precautions. Adapting to minimalist running shoes (also called toe shoes) is a great starting point. Toe shoes are designed with a very thin sole and separated toes so that you’re as close to barefoot as possible while still being protected from potential hazards like shards of glass or small rocks. It is important to adapt to toe shoes slowly, initially using them for a short period of time and then gradually building. This can reduce the risk for injury.
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Eventually, barefoot running can be done, but only on soft natural surfaces such as the beach, a grassy meadow, or a dirt path — which is the principle of earthing anyway. Barefoot running on pavement, while it can be done, carries the risk of cuts and has a harder impact on joints.
Down to earthing
Even if you’re not running, going barefoot can be a great health boost — but again, only on natural surfaces. The benefits of earthing has recently been the subject of much curiosity among scientists, and more and more studies are looking into the benefits of this practice. One study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health pointed out that modernization has disconnected humans from “the primordial flow of Earth’s electrons”, and mundane modern conventions such as shoes, beds, and insulation have kept us away from the Earth’s energy field. It also noted that chronic diseases have increased in recent decades.
The study then looked at historical efforts to reconnect with nature, including a late 19th century movement to go barefoot outdoors, and a 1920s study that proved that sleeping on the ground led to better sleep. Earthing is a continuation of these ideas, directly tapping into the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot or if staying indoors, connecting to systems that carry energy from the ground to the body. The study found that doing so is a boon for health, providing some form of relief for poor sleep, chronic pain, and stress. These findings suggest that the earth could be a powerful health resource that humans have yet to tap, a simple but powerful remedy to many debilitating health problems.
So whether you choose to get into barefoot running, or you’d rather stick to simple earthing, it’s a great time to kick off those shoes.
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