(Photo: LED Magazine via Flickr)

How do I get stronger feet for barefoot running?

Sue Falsone

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Advocates of barefoot running argue it’s the way evolution wants us to run—and they’re right. However, this ignores the fact that we spend the majority of our lives locked into regular shoes. Rarely do we go barefoot anywhere.

Before you start running, let your feet adjust to your new barefoot or minimalist-style shoes by wearing them to the store, the office, and around the house. Next, work to build strength in the tiny muscles on the bottom of your feet, also known as your foot intrinsic muscles. Try these drills:

Short Foot: From a seated position with your shoes off, cup the bottom of one foot— without curling your toes—so that it makes a ‘cave.’ Cup your hand against a flat surface to use as a reference. Once you’ve got this down, the next steps in the progression are maintaining this foot position while standing, while performing a lunge, and eventually while balancing on one foot.
Toe Spreading: Sit barefoot. With one foot at a time, spread your toes apart as best you can, hold for two counts and release. Think of it not as creating a claw with your foot, but rather as trying to move your toes independently from each other.

When you’re ready to hit the road, start with a half-mile run and work up to your regular distance over a two-week period. After you run, take a tennis or golf ball and roll it back and forth along the arch of your foot, focusing on sore spots. Do this for 30–60 seconds per foot to ease soreness and improve your barefoot running.

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