Is It Safe to Run Barefoot on a Treadmill?


Barefoot running is an emerging trend in the world. Although you might have practiced it outdoors on your morning run, it’s highly probable that you’ve had the thought of trying it on a treadmill too. With a few changes to your running style and some cautious considerations to keep in mind, you can enjoy a barefoot run keeping safety as a top priority.

To put it simply, it is safe to run on a treadmill without shoes, but not entirely safe because you’ll need to restrict yourself to certain limitations. Staying alert for foot injuries, adjusting your speed and inclination, and modifying your running style are a few important tips to ensure prevention of injuries.

Advantages of Barefoot Running

Barefoot running has piqued the interest of many, so we’re starting off by counting the advantages. Since it’s a way to get closer to nature and strengthen your muscles and gait, it massively aids in improving balance as well. On a treadmill, you don’t need to worry about stones, glass shards, or dust, which is a frequent complaint of outdoor runs. A few arguments to support unshod running are listed as:

Muscle Strengthening

Since your feet strike the ground directly without any shoes, your muscles begin to work harder and push to their limits. The calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and other foot ligaments are stretched and activated, so the tissues are supported greatly. Practicing barefoot running on a treadmill helps augment muscle strength without placing stress on your joints. Consequently, the knee joints and muscles are less prone to injuries and damage.

Efficient and Smooth Running

It is important to remember that running barefoot on a treadmill will require practice. When you’re not wearing shoes, it is natural to land on the midsole and balls of the foot instead of the heel. Taking shorter strides on the treadmill with soft landing not only reduces the impact on the heel but keeps your running uninterrupted and efficient.

Since the front of the foot arches acts as a natural shock absorber, one can enhance endurance and stamina during a workout. Moreover, with lesser oxygen consumption as compared to shod running, there is a significant improvement in strength and impulses.

Balance and Proprioception

As your feet strike the treadmill belt with each footstep, you’ll feel more aware of how to maintain your body posture and balance. The body is supported in a better way as your feet expand to hold your weight and support your leg movements.

By engaging the muscles primarily and preventing stress on the joints and heel, this type of running boosts the mind’s reception for coordination, stability, and balance. Hence, running barefoot on a treadmill will keep your running style natural and primitive by maximizing efficacy with lighter steps.

Disadvantages of Barefoot Running

As every picture has two sides, the same is the case with barefoot running. Many people’s feet are not naturally acclimated to run without shoes, so the muscles may feel tense, and blisters may appear initially. Your feet constantly rub on the treadmill belt, leading to a greater risk of being prone to injuries and abrasion, along with limited foot space. A number of reasons to prove why people disagree with barefoot running are:

Sole Abrasion

Direct exposure to the ground or the treadmill belt gives your feet an open invitation of injury if you’re not careful enough. Shoes offer a protective surface, so barefoot running often ends up in abrasions, scraping, or foot burns due to repetitive frictional forces. Since the sole of the foot is soft, it isn’t accustomed to such running and can get eroded with each stride.

Treadmill Drawbacks

Along with the sudden changes in running style, a treadmill belt also has some significant cons that cannot be ignored. When you’re running on the ground, the impact is by your feet to propel your body forward; however, on a treadmill, the belt hurls towards you and drives the impact through your feet. A confined area is another complaint with treadmill machines because you’ll need to take smaller strides in order to prevent your feet from touching the plastic or moving away from the belt.

Taking your shoes off also takes away a protective layer from your feet, and even though treadmill belts have a great grip and traction, they tend to heat up very quickly and cause foot burns on the lower side. Nonetheless, there are certain ways to avoid these treadmill injuries by bringing certain modifications in your gait.

Muscle Damage and Foot Injuries

Although having a smooth belt surface is an advantage to protect your feet from stones and dirt, constant running on a flat surface works the same muscles over and over again without any changes in elevation, ground medium, or inclination angle.

Barefoot running places more stress on the sole muscles without working out your heels, causing the muscles and tendons to be overworked and stiff. With no heel lift, Achilles tendon, plantar fasciitis, and calf tendinitis are some medical conditions you need to be particularly aware of.

FAQs About Barefoot Running

Reading a variety of articles and opinions, it is very natural to have an army of doubts and confusions surface the mind. For your convenience, we have prepared a short section to clarify some commonly asked queries in an attempt to impart reliable and researched answers. Read along to prevent any risks about barefoot running before you get started.

Does Running Barefoot on a Treadmill Have Risks?

Yes, barefoot running has certain risks, particularly on a treadmill, owing to its moving belt. The same zones of the foot striking the ground each time can lead to muscle soreness, and limited space can also risk your feet during a run.

barefoot running treadmill

Moreover, the friction causes heat expulsion, leading to blisters and sole abrasion. Having said that, you also need to know that all such risks can be avoided if one stays alert and follows the guidelines properly.

How Can Treadmill Injuries Be Prevented?

Make sure to land softly on your feet with shorter strides each time to spring off your toes. Starting off with slower speed and greater inclination will reduce the impact on your feet. You can also keep altering the inclination angles and speed controls because variability is always a favorable thing.

Managing leg speed and stride length to keep your steps paced at a distance on the treadmill can elicit the complaint of cramped space. Take it slow and don’t push your muscles to the extent that it causes atrophy or tendon inflammation. Discontinue further running and consult a doctor or physiotherapist if you notice any soreness, redness, or pain.

Can One Run with Socks on a Treadmill?

Potentially, there is no harm in wearing socks on a treadmill other than the fact that friction and heat can lead to wear and tear of the socks. This causes holes in them, and it might be irritating and suffocating for your foot as well. Therefore, it’s better to either choose comfortable footwear with stabilized arch support or simply run barefoot for enhanced muscle strength.

Can Running Barefoot on a Treadmill Cause Blisters?

Yes, if you’re a beginner while running barefoot on a treadmill, it is highly probable to develop blisters. Over the years, man’s feet have naturally adapted to running and walking with shoes, so a sudden transition in the gait poses enhanced stress on the muscles and skin of the sole.

Rubbing off on the moving belt can cause blisters and redness, which can get painful. In such circumstances, it is advisable to discontinue further running till the feet adapt to unshod running and the wounds heal properly. Give your feet time and examine the foot soles for blisters, wounds, or burns after each run to avoid such conditions from developing.

Summary

Treadmills provide a different environment for running, so if you’re deciding to run the natural way, it’s advisable to start gradually till your feet get accustomed to the belt. Make it a habit to read the machine instructions and discontinue barefoot running in case of any foot injury, pain, or abrasion. If you have any past history of foot injury or specific medical conditions, make sure to consult with your doctor before experimenting.

Being a debatable topic with both pros and cons, barefoot running all comes down to your preferences and foot power. Treadmills can get quite monstrous when it comes to exercises, but if you stay faithful to the exact instructions, you’ll always be on the safe side.