Who wants to wear shoes? They are heavy, clunky, expensive, and they wear out? Yuck. Sometimes you just need to go barefoot. At least that’s what some say and point to the many benefits of walking barefoot on a treadmill. Sure, the gym folk may look at you weird, but who cares.
Walking barefoot on a treadmill has many different benefits like improved balance and coordination, stronger foot and ankle muscles, improved circulation, reduced stress levels, improved posture, and relief from some pain. These are all great reasons to go sans shoes.
Without further ado, let’s dig into it.
What Are The Benefits of Walking Barefoot on a Treadmill?
Walking barefoot does, indeed, have many benefits. Not only does it help improve balance and coordination, but it can also help strengthen the foot and ankle muscles. Treadmills build muscle in the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and hips naturally, so adding in these smaller muscles can be a bonus.
It can also help improve blood circulation and reduce stress levels. It also helps improve posture and can even help relieve pain in the lower back, knees, and ankles.
Heck, give it a try. It just might be the best decision you ever make.
Let’s look at each one a little closer.
1/ Improved Balance and Coordination
Running barefoot helps improve balance and coordination because it forces you to use muscles that you normally wouldn’t use when wearing shoes.
By using these muscles, you help improve your overall balance and coordination. This is especially beneficial if you play sports or are constantly on your feet.
2/ Stronger Foot and Ankle Muscles
Walking barefoot also helps strengthen the foot and ankle muscles. These muscles are constantly being used when you’re walking, so it’s important to keep them strong.
Walking barefoot on a treadmill helps strengthen these muscles by making them work harder than they would if you were wearing shoes.
3/ Improved Blood Circulation
Another benefit of walking barefoot is improved blood circulation. When you wear shoes, your feet are constricted and blood flow is restricted.
Walking barefoot helps improve blood circulation by allowing your feet to move more freely. This can help improve overall health and well-being. For an additional layer of improved circulation, try some compression socks.
4/ Reduced Stress Levels
Walking barefoot can also help reduce stress levels. When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and releases a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Walking barefoot helps reduce stress by calming the body and mind.
5/ Improved Posture
Walking barefoot can also help improve posture. When you wear shoes, your feet are often in an unnatural position. This can lead to poor posture and back pain.
Walking barefoot helps improve posture by aligning the bones in your feet and legs. This can help relieve pain in the lower back, knees, and ankles.
6/ Relief from Pain
Walking barefoot can also help relieve pain in the lower back, knees, and ankles. This is due to the improved posture that comes from walking barefoot. When your posture is aligned, it takes the pressure off of your joints and allows them to move more freely. This can help reduce pain and inflammation in the joints.
So there you have it, 6 benefits of going shoeless. Give it a try and see for yourself how good it feels. Your body may thank you.
Is It Better to Run on A Treadmill with Or without Shoes?
While this is strongly a personal preference, the answer to whether it’s better isn’t very clear.
I’ll explain more in detail below, but an International Journal of Sports Medicine study from 2011 showed that running without shoes is physiologically easier and mentally easier. It’s pretty interesting.
Related: Can you use running shoes on a treadmill?
When talking about it is better to run on a treadmill with or without shoes, you also have to look at comfortability. While it’s great to have a 3% increase in distance when running if you’re miserable the entire time it may not be worth it.
Is Running Barefoot Healthy?
Ok, so we’ve talked about walking, but what about running barefoot? Surely that can’t be good for you, right?
Wrong! Running barefoot is a very good way to exercise. It has many of the same benefits as walking barefoot does.
In fact, this study shows that running barefoot is less taxing than running with shoes on; both when running on a treadmill and when running overground.
In the experiment, they had five female and five male runners exercise for six minutes at 70% VO2. They compared their heart rates as well as their RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), which is basically how hard they thought it was, with and without shoes.
In all cases, the runs without shoes showed a lower overall heart rate and a lower rate of perceived exertion.
In layman’s terms, the people felt like it was easier to run without shoes and their hearts agreed.
Tip: Running barefoot on a treadmill or outside not only has the same benefits as outlined above, but it’s easier as well. This sounds like a win-win to me.
What About Walking on A Treadmill with Socks?
Walking on a treadmill in socks is completely fine. You’ll get the same “connected” sensation as barefoot, but with a little more protection from the belt itself.
Not using shoes helps encourage a completely natural foot position which can put less strain on ankles, knees, and hips. These are all good things.
There are potential downfalls, however.
Some people report blisters from running or walking with socks on the treadmill. Slight imperfections in gait can add up over time on a treadmill since each step is the same.
If you come down more on one side of your foot, for example, you can start to create friction there which can turn into a blister or other problem. This is something to be aware of when looking at running without shoes.
Running shoes help encase your foot and redistribute the weight through the midsole and heel, the cushioned areas, whereas with just your foot, or sock, it’s all left to your own body.
One other minor detail to mention is that treadmill belts are designed for grip. While not uncomfortable, they will most likely wear holes in your socks. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is advisable to get a good pair of socks.
Compression socks are a popular option.
Running or walking barefoot, or with socks, are great ways to add some diversity to your running plan. They each offer unique benefits and drawbacks, however, overall can add variety and more functionality to your program.
The increased muscle usage, stress-relieving benefits, and overall less effort required to do the same amount of work are all great reasons to enjoy the benefits of walking barefoot on a treadmill.
Now get out there, take your shoes off, throw caution to the wind, and walk (or run!)