So healthy is walking without shoes

Running without shoes? Outside?! Yes, you can, and it’s a great idea! The trend brings a whole new attitude to life into sports, in addition to more endurance.

To feel the pure nature under the soles of your feet is a wonderful experience! Not only your feet, but your whole body and also your body feeling benefit from walking barefoot. Why this is so and how you can start running without shoes (or with barefoot shoes) in a sensible and safe way, we explain here:

Why is walking barefoot useful?

What are the health benefits of running without shoes?

How do you train running barefoot?

What’s the point of walking in barefoot shoes?

What are the risks of walking barefoot?

Why is walking barefoot useful?

It trains the foot and keeps it in its original shape. “Man is a barefoot walker,” says master orthopaedic shoemaker Daniel Bürkner from Berlin and vice president of the German Association of Orthopaedic Shoe Technology ZVOS “Only for protection did our ancestors wrap fur around their feet, from which shoes have evolved over time.”

One consequence of wearing shoes: The foot muscles and the entire foot atrophy – also because of the smooth floor. “If you walk with rigid soles under your feet, you put your foot flat on the heel, and the muscles of the forefoot and metatarsus are hardly ever used,” says Bürkner. “When running barefoot, on the other hand, the front part of the foot also cushions the impact. As a result, the joints from the toe to the ankle, knee, hip and back are less stressed.

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What are the health benefits of running without shoes?

There are some positive effects. “Since walking barefoot trains the supporting muscles of the feet, the symptoms of fallen arches, for example, can be alleviated,” said Bürkner. The tension in claw toes, which is caused by frequently wearing shoes that are too big, can also be relieved by running without shoes.

The whole body benefits from running barefoot. © Tropical studio /

In addition to many advantages especially for the feet, however, the entire body statics also benefits: “Even with low heels you walk on stilts, real ground contact is lost”, Bürkner diagnoses, “Barefoot the body feels more secure – and this affects the entire statics. Anyone who walks barefoot with alert senses and consciously performs the rolling movement of the foot receives feedback from the hips and back via the ground contact.

In this way, you can find out where compensation is necessary.”

A whole new body feeling develops, with time not only the foot but your whole body becomes more agile and flexible. The foot reflex zones are also more strongly stimulated when running barefoot, from which the entire body benefits.

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How do you train running barefoot?

Well, step by step. “Walking barefoot is healthy when the foot muscles are trained,” says Bürkner, “This means that the foot muscles, like other muscles, must be built up slowly in order to be able to fulfil their function. Otherwise, not only muscle soreness but also permanent malpositions are threatening”.

Bürkner advises: “It is best to start with only half an hour running without shoes, initially on soft ground and only twice a week. Walking on the beach without shoes is a good start, as sandy ground gives way. Soft forest and meadow paths also provide a springy ground that gently strengthens the muscles.

Very important: “It is not enough to simply take off the shoes and keep the old movement patterns”, says the orthopaedic shoemaker. Ideally, with each step you deliberately roll softly from the heel to the ball of the foot. Bürkner: “You should feel like a puppet being pulled upwards with threads on your head.”

It is important to slowly accustom the feet to walking barefoot so that the muscles can adapt. © Tropical studio /

On floors and other hard, non-sprung surfaces, you should only walk longer without shoes once you have built up sufficient foot muscles. If you want to build up your muscles even more, you can practice picking up a pencil or a cloth with your toes while sitting down.

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What’s the point of walking in barefoot shoes?

Barefoot shoes usually have a very light rubber sole that protects the foot from injury and offer little support due to their flexible, sock-like construction. Bürkner: “Inside, the feet are as mobile as barefoot.

The toes are not limited laterally, the heel touches the ground without heel and cushioning.” A study by the Munich University of the German Armed Forces showed that when running barefoot, athletes strengthened their foot muscles by 30 percent more than runners in normal running shoes.

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What are the risks of walking barefoot?

“Anyone who seriously wants to start running barefoot is advised to check with a doctor beforehand whether the foot is stable enough to carry the body weight without supporting shoes,” says Bürkner. You should also have your barefoot gait and the gait in barefoot shoes analysed by an orthopaedic shoemaker.

Advice is useful. In the case of a kinked foot, for example, intensive walking without a supporting footbed can cause pain and increase the malposition. In the case of arthrosis in the toes, too, the increased movement would increase the pain.

And of course, sharp stones and other sources of injury lurk not only on asphalt but also on forest roads. It takes some time until enough muscles – and cornea – are built up to absorb them. But beware: “Cracks can develop in very thick, firm corneas, which in turn can cause injuries,” Bürkner knows, “Barefoot shoes are more likely to be on the safe side.

Running barefoot benefits the entire body – if you turn your head on and consciously practice new movement patterns. Just give it a try!