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Working up the motivation to do cardio can be a challenge. So, when you’re on a treadmill, you’re likely looking to be as comfortable as possible. For many people, that might mean wearing loose-fitting or hassle-free workout clothes. For others it might mean putting less work into fixing their hair or worrying about their appearance. Comfort can look different for different people. Some people feel most comfortable when they’re barefoot.
If that sounds like you, and you’ve wondered whether walking barefoot on a treadmill is a safe and plausible option, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you can look forward to:
Is walking barefoot on a treadmill okay?
Generally speaking, it’s recommended that you wear shoes while on a treadmill. There are many reasons for this, and we’ll cover them below, but hygiene is certainly one of them. If you’re in the comfort of your own home and the treadmill machine is your own, it’s entirely your decision on how to use it.
Some people prefer minimalist running, also called natural running, where the person walking/running isn’t wearing shoes. Everyone has a different walking or running style, and it’s possible to safely run on a treadmill barefoot. In fact, there are some benefits to it. With that said, there are certain shoes that you can purchase that, compared to “traditional” running shoes, mimic the way that your bare foot shifts and moves while you run or walk.
If shoes don’t interest you at all, and you want to start barefoot running or walking, then it’s important to start slowly. Since most people are more familiar with the sensations and movements required on the treadmill with shoes, it will take some adjustment and time to become comfortable without shoes. As you build on your experience, you can slowly increase your speed and intensity.
Benefits of running barefoot on a treadmill
Now, we’ll look at some of the benefits of running on a treadmill barefoot:
1. Improve your natural gait
Being barefoot while on a treadmill can improve your natural gait by correcting your running form. When you run barefoot, your body naturally adjusts its gait to land on the forefoot or midfoot instead of the heel. This can reduce the impact forces on your joints and potentially prevent injuries.
2. Strengthen your muscles
Running on a treadmill barefoot can strengthen the muscles in your feet and legs because it requires your body to adjust to the lack of cushioning and support provided by shoes. When running with shoes on, the cushioning and support of the shoes can mask underlying weaknesses and imbalances in the feet and legs. However, when running barefoot, these weaknesses and imbalances become more apparent and the muscles are forced to work harder to maintain proper form.
3. Improve balance, stability, and coordination
Running barefoot can help to improve balance, stability and coordination, as the muscles in the feet and legs work to stabilize the body on the moving treadmill. This can lead to improved overall athletic performance and reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
Drawbacks of running barefoot on a treadmill
Although, as we saw above, there are some potential benefits to running barefoot on a treadmill, there are also potential downsides:
1. Increased risk of injury
When you’re exercising, shoes provide cushioning and support. Without cushioning and support, your feet and legs will be more susceptible to impact injuries and stress fractures. Also, considering the fast-moving treadmill belt rubbing against your exposed feet, there’s an increased risk of sustaining cuts, scrapes and bruises on your feet which may take time to heal. Running barefoot on a treadmill can damage your skin and cause blisters. Since blisters are painful and take time to heal, this may disrupt your exercise routine.
2. Less comfortable
It’s much less comfortable to run without shoes on. Though this may be something that you can get used to, in general, the lack of cushioning and impact on a hard surface can be rather uncomfortable. This kind of pain in the feet and legs may get worse over time. Eventually, this can affect your running form and reduce your performance.
Injuries like cuts can present a hygiene issue if you’re not careful to clean your treadmill after each use. This is especially important if more than one person uses your treadmill machine. Even if you don’t sustain any injuries by barefoot running, your feet have bacteria that you drag onto the treadmill when you use it. This is why keeping on top of cleaning your equipment should be a top priority.
Tips for running barefoot on a treadmill
If, after reviewing the benefits and downsides to barefoot running, you decide that it’s something you’d like to try, the following list will allow you to run or walk barefoot with little risk of injury:
1. Start slowly
If you’re new to barefoot walking or barefoot running, start slowly and gradually increase your speed and mileage over time. Your feet need some time to adjust. You may want to consider getting low drop shoes first and work your way up to barefoot running.
The “drop” of a running shoe is the difference between the height and thickness of the midsole under the heel as compared with the same measure under the ball of the foot. Lower drop shoes or barefoot shoes allow you to get closer to a barefoot stride and are recommended for those who run regularly.
2. Focus on form
As we mentioned, running barefoot can help improve your running form by encouraging you to land on the balls of your feet rather than your heel. When running barefoot, focus on keeping your knees bent and landing softly on the balls of your feet to help reduce the impact of your landing. This will help overuse injuries over time that can cause joint pain.
3. Warm up
Warming up properly is important regardless of whether your exercise equipment of choice is a treadmill and regardless of whether you are wearing shoes or not. Warming up helps lubricate your joints and gets your body ready for physical exertion. To warm up before running barefoot, walk or jog on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes before you begin your workout.
4. Choose a good treadmill
The most important first step is to choose the right treadmill. You don’t need to get a specialty treadmill for bare feet; however, for the purpose of safety, you want to purchase a treadmill that has a flat and even surface for stability. Before you jump on it and press start, make sure you check the treadmill belt for any loose, sharp parts or objects that can cause harm if stepped on.
5. Pay attention to your body
This is a tip you should heed no matter what exercise you are performing. If you begin to experience any pain or extreme discomfort, stop running. Running barefoot can be challenging, especially if you are a beginner. With that said, it’s important to take it slow and gradually build on your strength and endurance.
6. Prioritize hygiene
Before getting on the treadmill, make sure that your feet are clean to avoid getting any dirt or bacteria onto the treadmill. This will also make cleaning the treadmill once you’re finished much easier. Clean the treadmill well once you’ve finished your workouts to help avoid buildup of sweat and bacteria.
Why do people run barefoot on a treadmill?
There are several reasons why people opt for barefoot running. Below are some of the reasons:
Strengthen your muscles: Running barefoot on a treadmill can help strengthen the muscles in your feet, improving performance and reducing the risk of injury. It can also help with running form because your feet won’t have shoes to rely on and so they’ll have to adjust in order to improve your natural running form.
Reducing injuries from overstriding and increased impact forces: By running barefoot, you can reduce injuries caused by these factors such as knee pain or plantar fasciitis. These are injuries that are often associated with high-impact exercises like exerting yourself consistently on a treadmill. If you enjoy running on a treadmill regularly, you may want to think about alternating between shoes and no shoes to see if this reduces these types of injuries.
Allows you to adjust your stride: Running barefoot provides you with a better and stronger connection to the ground which can promote sensory feedback, helping you adjust your stride and cadence if needed. This can have an overall positive impact on your running form.
Is walking barefoot on a treadmill good for you?
Walking barefoot on a treadmill isn’t for everyone, but definitely has some perks. The many benefits show that this kind of exercise can improve your performance as an athlete. It also has the ability to strengthen your muscles over time.
Walking on a treadmill certainly has its list of benefits; however, there are also some significant drawbacks. Ultimately, your decision will rest on your preference and what feels best for you. The most important thing to remember is that, when adjusting your workout regimen in any way, start off slow and gradually increase your intensity as your experience develops.
Ascend’s state-of-the-art treadmills are perfect for your everyday cardio. Shop Ascend treadmills and start setting and achieving your fitness goals today—barefoot or not.