Is It Safe To Run On A Treadmill Barefoot?

May 14, 2024
  • Sydney Kaiser
    Product Reviewer, Content Writer, Certified Personal Trainer

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Barefoot running was all the rage a few years ago, with many people still practicing it today. You might be wondering if barefoot running is safe and if it’s safe to do on a treadmill. While some treadmill manufacturers don’t recommend running on their treadmills barefoot, others do.

Is It Safe To Run On A Treadmill Barefoot

So, what should you do, and what do our experts at TRG think? Yes, you can run on some treadmills barefoot, however, you should weigh the benefits and risks of running barefoot on a treadmill before hopping on sans shoes and socks.

Benefits Of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill

Starting with the benefits, here is why you should consider running on a treadmill barefoot.

Improve Your Stride

Running barefoot is said to help improve your running mechanics. Typically, when we run barefoot, we shorten our stride and land more on the midpart of our feet. There’s nothing wrong with heel striking if it doesn’t cause you pain or injury, I do it, and so do most people.

Running on a treadmill can cause overstriding though, and if you’ve developed bad running form due to poor footwear, running barefoot can help correct this since it promotes more of a natural gait.

Strengthen Your Feet And Improve Balance

Wear running shoes, especially highly cushioned ones, causes our feet to do less work than when we’re barefoot. When we’re barefoot, more muscles are activated, including our Achilles and calf muscles.

It can especially be helpful if you have flat feet because it could help strengthen your arch. It can also help with plantar fasciitis prevention. This is when the bottom tissue of the foot becomes inflamed causing pain. I’ve had it and it’s not fun.

More muscle activation can help improve your balance, too.

Can Be Safer Than Barefoot Running Outside

A big factor when running outside is considering the surface(s) you’ll be running on. You can choose from a variety of surfaces like concrete or grass, but many times these surfaces have sharp objects you could step on.

If you were to run barefoot on the road, you could encounter rocks, glass, and other debris that could not only hurt the bottom of your feet but could puncture them.

Running on a treadmill eliminates this and makes for a consistent surface to run on. Your treadmill’s belt is free from rocks and other sharp objects so you don’t have to worry about where you step barefoot.

Risks Of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill

There are risks that you should be aware of before hopping on your treadmill barefoot though.

Could Cause Injury

If you were to suddenly take off your cushioned running shoes and run a few miles barefoot, you’d most likely have some pain. Like any form of physical activity, you should ease into new forms of training – barefoot running included. It takes time for the feet to strengthen and if you overdo it, it could result in an injury or pain.

Because barefoot running activates more of your calf muscles and Achilles’ tendons, these could get strained. Although it can help prevent it, barefoot running can cause plantar fasciitis, if you overdo it, too.

Could Result In Blisters And Infections

The belt moving and your feet landing creates friction that could cause blisters on your feet. Another risk is infection, if you don’t properly clean the belt before and after running barefoot. The sweat and bacteria could cause Athlete’s foot or other foot fungal infections.

It’s important to clean off your treadmill’s deck if you barefoot run on it as well as if you get dirt on it from your running shoes.

Could Be Uncomfortable

With the belt moving and the friction, especially on motorized treadmills, it could heat up, making the belt uncomfortable to run on.

Most treadmills have deck cushioning that helps to lessen the impact on your joints when running. Running shoes also have cushioning to help with this. You might notice that your treadmill feels more comfortable to run on while wearing shoes because of the extra shoe cushioning. Running barefoot might make the deck feel harder to run on.

Some Manufacturers Don’t Recommend

There are some treadmill manufacturers that don’t recommend running on their treadmills barefoot. Most of these manufacturers are motorized treadmills. Manufacturers like NordicTrack and ProForm don’t recommend running barefoot on their treadmills.

Best Treadmills For Barefoot Running

There are treadmill manufacturers that encourage running barefoot on their machines though. There are also other ways of getting the benefits of running barefoot on a treadmill, without actually being barefoot.

Many curved, manual treadmill brands like TrueForm and Assault Fitness, recommend their treadmills for running barefoot. The TrueForm Runner and TrueForm Trainer even have a Naboso surface for barefoot running only.

Sydney Running Feet

If you don’t have a manual treadmill but still want to run barefoot you can wear barefoot shoes. These are also called minimalistic running shoes. Most of these shoes are zero-drop or low-drop. Zero-drop means that the height of the forefoot and heel of the shoe are the same. Many cushioned shoes have heels higher than the toes, in comparison.

Running on a manual treadmill or wearing barefoot shoes on a motorized treadmill, is a good way to enjoy the benefits of barefoot running. I just recommend easing into it at first, to build up the strength in your feet.

Happy running!