Choosing a Barefoot Running Surface

Is a Hard or Soft Surface Best for You?

Should you start your barefoot running training on a hard or soft surface? The answer may surprise you.

Running on Hard Surfaces

It’s commonly thought that running on hard surfaces will immediately cause injuries, and that all novice barefoot runners should stick to grass or sand. This may not be the case. Proper forefoot or midfoot strike form can make running on hard surfaces comfortable and safe. In fact, some experts suggest that the best way to learn proper barefoot running form is to begin on a smooth, hard surface such as pavement.

Running on Soft Surfaces

Grass, dirt trails, and sand can be extremely pleasurable for barefoot running. Oftentimes, they force us to use more of the muscles in our feet and ankles to compensate for the uneven surfaces—something to consider if you are a beginning runner, and just starting to develop your foot muscles. Just know, the softer the surface, the less likely you are to land lightly.

Whichever surface you choose, make sure to select a controlled, familiar environment to begin your training. Don’t venture too far from your starting point in case you need to stop and pack it in for the day. “Choosing a surface” really means learning where to place your feet and how to negotiate every single step. In time, it becomes a high-speed reiterative process and contributes to a wonderful feeling of self-awareness as you master your technique.