Shoes or No Shoes? Can I Run Barefoot On the Treadmill?

The regular way to run on a treadmill is by wearing something on your foot. While that's the case, you might likely have asked the question: is it bad to run barefoot on a treadmill?

Before now, many fitness specialists advised that the safest way to run, walk, or sprint on a treadmill is with shoes on. The reason? Treadmill machines have a high impact, and wearing shoes helps to protect your lower body joints as the shoes absorb the impact.

If you are anything like me, during those early mornings when you leave the bed and want to hit the treadmill, shoes are the last things on your mind. But does that mean you can't get on a treadmill without shoes? Well you can.

However, I've learned some safety measures that I'll be sharing with you. Check them out!

Safety Measures While Running Barefoot On A Treadmill

There are several risks associated with running barefoot on a treadmill. For instance, it poses health risks like muscle strains which could lead to injuries. Also, running barefoot on a treadmill is detrimental for diabetic people. Why? Long-term diabetics have damaged nerves in their feet and this makes it difficult for them to feel pain. So, this makes them liable to foot injuries and infections. However, if you're non-diabetic, I've learned some safety tips to avoid muscle pulls or strains.

● Adjust the treadmill speed

Running on the treadmill barefoot made me realize it's a different game from when your shoes are on. At first, I tried experimenting with allowing the regular speed limit, but I quickly realized how that stressed my feet. Then, I switched the speed limit - still in the experiment.

The difference was clear. I ran better and enjoyed the treadmill without bruising or straining my feet barefoot. The common mistake many people make while running barefoot on a treadmill is not readjusting the treadmill speed. Your speed limit on barefoot and on shoes should be different for safety reasons. It’s safer when your speed limit barefoot is lower - this ensures you don’t strain or obtain injuries.

● Adjust your running steps

Your running steps with shoes should not be the same without shoes else you will develop blisters. Typically, your running motion is up and down with shoes.

Running this way reduces the risk of developing any friction or sprain. Switch your running steps to avoid blisters, friction, or injury while barefoot on a treadmill.

● Leave when the deck gets hot

In all honesty, the amount of time you spend on a treadmill in shoes should be different when barefooted. Remember that running barefoot is already risky, and you'll need to contain that risk by being vigilant and careful. Once the treadmill deck shifts from warm to hot, I immediately come down - you should too.

If you continue running on the treadmill barefoot while it's hot, that's an invitation for foot burns and blisters.

● Avoid the  treadmill edges

To avoid sustaining any injury while running barefoot on the treadmill, I avoid the edges. The sides and ends of a treadmill could cut anyone faster than they can imagine.

Advantages of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill

For something that could easily lead to severe injuries, you still get some advantages from running barefoot on a treadmill. However, I've only recognized these advantages by observing the safety measures. Once you regularly keep those safety tips in mind, the risk reduces, and here are some advantages you'll begin to enjoy.

● Better muscle strengthening

Your muscle strengthens better barefoot because it works harder since you're not with shoes that absorb some of that impact. As such, the calf muscle, Achilles tendon, and some other foot ligaments stretch better. This, in turn, helps to increase your calf and your leg muscle strength.

● Smoother and more efficient running experience

Remember, barefoot running on a treadmill means you must readjust your running style. Instead of the regular running and landing on the heel of your foot, you land on your foot's midsole and balls. This reduces the impact on your foot and efficiently improves your running experience. The adjustment also means you'll take shorter strides than when wearing shoes.

● Enables better balance

One thing you are aware of while barefoot on a treadmill is your posture and balance. The more you run, the more each footstep helps you maintain a better body posture and balance. The more you do this, your body and leg movement are better supported.

Disadvantages of Running Barefoot On A Treadmill

The only reason why barefoot on a treadmill has safety measures is that it has disadvantages. There are so many disadvantages to running barefoot on a treadmill. Ignoring those safety measures could lead to some of these.

● Sole of foot burns

When you make running barefoot on a treadmill a regular thing, some consequences are involved. One of them is openly exposing yourself to foot burns, scraping, and abrasions as a result of the constant friction to the sole. The human feet are not accustomed to sustaining the impact of such activities over time - in reaction, it wears and tears.

● Developing muscle damages and injuries

Of course, you can still develop injuries even with shoes. But your foot is more susceptible when it's bare. There's no assurance that you'll be too careful barefoot, the risk increases which also increases the chances of getting hurt. So, limiting how often you climb the treadmill barefoot is best.

● Drawback from Treadmill

I realized that one of the disadvantages of running barefoot on a treadmill was that I couldn't go all in on the treadmill. Following safety tips means you keep yourself safe, but it affects your treadmill effort.

You have to reduce your pace and steps, and you get to leave once the treadmill starts heating up. All of that means you need to use the treadmill more.

What Injuries Can Running with Barefoot On A Treadmill Cause?

You'll likely develop injuries without practicing the safety measures while running barefoot. Again, trying treadmills barefoot is possible for non-diabetic persons. Why? You often develop injuries without realizing it, which can cause serious health issues for diabetic persons.

Here are some injuries that can come from running barefoot on a treadmill.

● Damaged bone

According to research, many treadmill runners who run barefoot end up developing bone damage. The number of people who experience it is limited, but that does not mean you shouldn't take precautions. The best way to avoid developing this injury while running barefoot on a treadmill is to run at a slow pace.

● Achilles tendinitis

This injury occurs when there's an overuse of the tendon at the back of your ankle. This injury often develops as a minor ache at the back of the lower leg. It occurs mainly while running barefoot because running barefoot implies using the tendon more. There are still chances of getting this injury with shoes, but they are limited.

● Calf muscle strain

This particular injury occurs both with shoes and barefoot. But, the percentage of occurrence is higher on barefoot. Calf muscle strain is a tear in the muscle with the pain felt in the calf. It develops because the muscle performs a lot of activities while you're running without shoes. To avoid experiencing this, do not make running barefoot on the treadmill a regular practice.

● Foot blisters and burns

Blisters and burns occur when the foot has been strained over some time. For instance, running on the treadmill until the surface gets hot can burn the foot. Also, not minding the ends and sides of the treadmill can seriously injure you while running.

How Often Should You Run Barefoot On A Treadmill?

How Often Should You Run Barefoot On A Treadmill

Running barefoot on the treadmill is now in vogue. But, it still has some health disadvantages. I've learned to strike a balance between a barefoot treadmill and shoes on the treadmill. As such, I only run barefoot sometimes.

My best practice is reducing my barefoot runs to two barefoot runs on the treadmill per week. It keeps the injuries away and everything in perspective.


It's okay to run barefoot on the treadmill. But where the challenge comes is doing it consistently and failing to follow safety measures. Remember, a barefoot treadmill has health issues. Avoid developing issues by limiting how often you go barefoot.

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