What could be more natural than running in bare feet? Ease into this age-old practice that's making a big comeback with this three-month plan.
: Always consult a physician before attempting any exercise plan.
Step 1: Walk barefoot Walk around barefoot as much as possible for 2 weeks. This will condition your feet for more vigorous activity.
Step 2: Run in place Run in place in bare feet for 30 seconds at a time, two to three times daily. Then add 15 seconds per day to each session, building up to three minutes over the course of two weeks.
TIP: Wait a day after your first 3-minute session. If you don't experience pain or soreness, you can proceed with the plan.
Step 3: Choose your spot Choose a smooth, debris-free surface, such as a running track, smooth sidewalk, or new asphalt. Run barefoot for ⅛ of a mile, and then continue your usual run while wearing shoes. Limit barefoot runs to three times a week with one rest day in between for 4 weeks.
Step 4: Watch form Watch your form. Relax and stand upright with a slight lean forward. Your foot should lightly touch the ground in the mid-foot area underneath your body, as opposed to in front of it like it does when you're wearing shoes. Strides will be shorter and faster, averaging about 180 steps a minute.
TIP: Focus on raising your knees to pick up your feet rather than pushing off with each step.
Step 5: Build up distance Increase by 1/8 of a mile each session over the course of four weeks until you can run for 1½ miles without pain the day or two after the run.
TIP: It's best to begin barefoot but you may wear minimalist shoes in extreme temperatures.
Step 6: Be aware of pain Stop if you feel pain at any time in the process. Give yourself an additional rest day and try again until you are pain-free. The biggest mistake in barefoot running is doing too much too soon.
Step 7: Add new terrain Run on hills or other new terrain slowly and gradually over the next four weeks, building up 1/8 of a mile each session until you're running 3 miles in bare feet.
FACT: Famous barefoot prodigy Zola Budd set a track world record at age 16 in South Africa in 1984. She ran the women's 5,000 meters in just over 15 minutes, 1 second.