Barefoot running

Barefoot running exercises

Barefoot running continues to be a headliner in the running world. This week’s blog will provide some suggestions on exercises to perform to transition to barefoot running. In order to transition to barefoot running it is crucial to take time working on foot musculature strengthening as well as increasing the durability of the connective tissue of the foot to reduce the possibility of injury. Barefoot running form varies considerably from shod running. The primary differences include: forefoot initial strike versus rear or midfoot; shortened step length; and higher step frequency. Transition to prolonged barefoot running should take about 8-12 weeks with the ability to run one mile around the 6 week point.

•  Barefoot walking working up to 30 minutes
o  Indoors
o Outdoors
 Grass
 Asphalt
• Running form drills
o Forefoot to mid foot striking
o Increasing step frequency- 5-10% faster
o Decreasing step length
• Balance drills – up to 30 seconds each
o Single leg balance
o Single leg balance on foam, pillow, sand, etc
• Intrinsic foot muscle strengthening
o Sitting or standing – attempt to draw the ball of your foot inward toward the arch

Adapted from: Rothschild C. “Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes: Evidence or Conjecture?” Strength and Conditioning Journal; Vol 24:3.

Aqua Running

Take the Plunge with Aqua Running!
Are aches, pains, and injuries keeping you off your feet? Or are you becoming lackadaisical with your routine running regimen and in need of a change? Aqua running, or simply stationary running in water, may be the perfect solution. Running and exercising in water results in less stress on joints, thus making it easier to move and maintain physical fitness without compromising the healing process. The reason behind this is due to water having an opposing upward force against gravity, thereby pushing a person up. This phenomenon is known as buoyancy.

Water Lessens the Impact
Depth of water will determine how much of an effect forces will have on the body and joints. An investigation published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy determined that running in water at waist or hip level decreases forces on joints by approximately 40%, while running at chest level decreases forces on joints by nearly 50%. In other words, the deeper the water, the less of an impact one will feel.
Source: J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(5):445.

Who can benefit?
Individuals recovering from injuries and conditions, such as stress fractures and osteoarthritis, can benefit from aqua running. Additionally, healthy athletes can benefit by incorporating aqua running into their training program as a means of cross training or during recovery periods (e.g. post marathon). To make things more challenging and interesting, the more ambitious athlete can perform intervals to increase the intensity of their aqua running workout. Essentially, what can be done on land can be done while immersed in water. So don’t let injuries or boredom keeps you from exercising, take the plunge!


Fontana HD, Haupenthal A, Ruschel C, Hubert M, Ridehalgh C, Roesler H. Effect of gender, cadence, and water immersion on ground reaction forces during stationary running. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(5):437-443.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(5):445.