Barefoot Running Calves Guide | What Studies Show

Long before man had any idea what shoes it was, it is argued that our main form of transport was our bare feet. This has led many people to question whether you should run barefoot or wear shoes with appropriate soles. The main question that people are wondering about is whether their calves, which the primary muscle must lift the lower part of your body off the ground, will be hurt or benefit from soles or barefoot instead. 

In this article, we have reviewed a couple of Journal articles that have taken the time to analyze the literature and studies that people have partaken into satisfying this hypothesis. We shall look at a couple of key topics around the issue to better understand your chances of whether it is a generally good idea to run barefoot.  

Calf pain walking barefoot.

Studies such as this have taken the time to dedicate and show us that walking barefoot is likely to expose a person to claudication. Claudication is a term used by scientists to describe a lack of oxygen going to the muscles. When the muscles in your leg begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation, you will notice that there is likely to be calf pain. The study managed to prove this by making people walk distances of between 10 to 400 meters. 

They gave one group a pair of shoes with one layer of soles, meaning that they had less padding to protect their feet’ soles. The second group gave three layers of soles, allowing them to walk for a more extended period without experiencing the same amount of claudication pain as the control group. 

You can therefore extrapolate these results if you are looking to take on a marathon without any shoes. The study shows us that if you were to compare two people who ran and one had a pair of very light soles while the other was barefoot, then the barefoot person would be more likely to suffer calf pain over a longer distance. It should also be considered that the most common experiences of claudication are among people aged between 57 and 73.  

Barefoot running calf strain.

The strain you are likely to feel when you run barefoot is much more intense than what you would find if you were wearing well-padded sports shoes. The main argument against people running without shoes, i.e., those who support barefoot running, is evolution. The entire discussion centers on how human beings were back in their primal days where shoes had not been invented. The argument is that people could run longer distances when they did not wear shoes, which was necessary for survival. 

Some sports scientists nowadays argue that this running method will improve any calf strain you face, thereby conditioning and strengthening your legs. The research around this is, however, not conclusive. It is not conclusive that it is difficult for scientists to prove that the main reason why injuries are being avoided is because of the runners being barefoot. There are too many uncontrollable third variables to consider when studying such a phenomenon, and this is why the hypothesis has not been proven yet. 

Calf strengthening shoes

Call strengthening shoes are an option that manufacturers have designed to provide relief for people who do not want to run barefoot but want to maintain their calves. These shoes are known as jump shoes because the calf muscle is the central part of our body responsible for jumping. These are not necessarily the most popular shoes amongst runners because they are built mainly for athletes who need to jump. You will find that there is often less calve support for runners than there is ankle support. 

Barefoot running tight calves.

Journals such as this have noted that one of the main issues surrounding potential injury when running is tightening muscles. Not fully being able to stretch your curves will continually lead you to tear them. This is because of the lack of blood flow that can go through the bottom of your feet and come back to your heart. 

This phenomenon known as claudication works to tighten your muscles and deprive them of oxygen. Many shoes nowadays made by modern companies have begun to adopt a soft sole that protects the runners from pulling power by massaging them as they run. If you wish to run barefoot, you would have to understand those different runners, and several essential articles prove this. 

You will find that many people differ in how they strike the ground when running. Some people are known as forefoot strikers, while others midfoot and finally rearfoot. The difference between these runners is that people who run on the forefoot without shoes are more likely to tighten their calves and fall into injury. This is much less likely to occur if you are a rearfoot runner. This is very important because most people are often not aware of which category they fall into.   


I think the main thing that we can take away from this article is that there is not enough research that has been done on the topic to provide a definitive answer, what we do have as an idea around how the leg muscle’s function, and what you can do to protect them. Depending on whether you are a front or rear foot runner, you will need to consider running with shoes. If you are a front foot runner, you will likely endanger your cars when you run barefoot. 

This is because the main parts of the feet required to circulate blood have been cut off. Vice versa is also applicable in this scenario in that if you are a rearfoot runner, you can run barefoot more effectively and for a much longer distance. The environment that you also plan to run in is important when deciding if you should run barefoot or not. If you intend to run on the road or rocky areas, it is best to avoid running barefoot. If you plan on running on grass, the ground is more likely to be more comfortable to your soles allowing blood to flow much more accessible, therefore, reducing claudication. 


Hi there. This is Clare. Dave and I manage this site. We are outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the content is about products that we love using or have researched.
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