Running barefoot on a treadmill requires adjustments.
When the weather does not favor barefoot running outdoors, a treadmill is a viable substitute if you are willing to make a few adjustments. Treadmills offer a safe and predictable surface for bare feet unlike running outdoors. To safely run barefoot on a treadmill, you likely will need to make adjustments to your running style and to the treadmill's settings. Running barefoot on a treadmill should not cause pain; if you experience discomfort, discontinue use until you follow up with your doctor.
Revamp Your Running Motion
You want to land on your forefoot when running barefoot. The typical barefoot running motion is up and down, but when running on a treadmill's moving belt, this can generate friction and cause blisters. Adjust your step by moving your foot backward before it hits the treadmill deck and focus on taking short, light steps. By keeping your foot's strike under your center of gravity, you minimize the risk of friction burns. To allow your toes enough stride space, run barefoot a foot behind your normal position.
Adjust Thy Treadmill
To run barefoot effectively on a treadmill, it is necessary to make multiple adjustments to your speed and incline. Running barefoot outdoors helps prevent repetitive motion injuries because your feet are constantly adjusting to variables in the terrain. When you run barefoot on a treadmill, you may find you are not able to run for as long as you do outdoors, due to the consistent stress placed on your feet. Set your treadmill to perform incline and speed intervals to encourage a steady change in foot movement and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Running Barefoot Risks
While barefoot treadmill running eliminates the dangers of your feet encountering hazardous terrain, the controversial running style poses other health risks. Different muscles are engaged when running barefoot; if you are not able to adapt or try to transition too quickly, injuries can result. Running barefoot can put you at greater risk for pulled calf muscles, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures in the foot. Diabetics, who are prone to less sensation in their feet, should avoid barefoot running because they may not be able to detect a foot injury.
Preventing Treadmill Injuries
Treadmills cause more injuries than any other piece of exercise equipment according to Consumer Product Safety Commission data. Common injuries include clothing or body parts getting caught in a moving treadmill belt and a person falling off the machine caused by inattentive operation. Barefoot running on a treadmill creates additional risks. The bottom of your feet can suffer burns if the treadmill deck gets too hot. To reduce the risk of serious injuries, keep bare feet and toes away from the sides and ends of a moving treadmill belt.