Some have tried running barefoot outdoors for their morning exercise. And you probably thought of using the treadmill without shoes. But is it possible and safe to do that?

There’s nothing wrong with running on a treadmill barefoot. This form of exercise can even strengthen leg and foot muscles. However, it also puts the runner at risk of foot injuries, swelling and blisters.

If you want to add barefoot treadmill runs to your fitness plan, you must take proper precautions and adjust your running style.

So, before taking off your shoes, here’s what you need to know about safe barefoot treadmill running.

Advantages of Using the Treadmill Without Shoes

You’re probably wondering why you should consider using the treadmill without shoes.

The idea is nothing new since some people have tried running barefoot outdoors.

It’s an enjoyable workout that makes you feel closer to nature.

But then again, you’ll have to worry about glass shards, stones and all those sharp objects on the ground.

A flat and smooth treadmill belt then becomes the next best thing.

On top of adding exercise variety to your routine, running on a treadmill barefoot has these advantages.

Feet and leg muscle strengthening

Running strengthens the calf muscles, Achilles tendon and other foot ligaments.

And these muscles work harder when you run without shoes as they keep you stable each time your foot hits the ground.

Body balance enhancement

Runners tend to overstride on a treadmill because the cushion of their shoes can protect the feet from impact.

However, overstriding can also increase your injury risk. It also affects your running form, resulting in soreness or foot pain post-workout.

On the other hand, using the treadmill without shoes makes you more conscious of your gait to avoid hurting your feet.

Specifically, you tend to shorten your stride so that you land on the midsole and balls of your foot. It’s like using your midfoot as a shock absorber.

These lighter steps protect your heel and joints from unnecessary strain and keep your running gait more natural.

Also, short strides train your mind and body to maintain balance and coordination to avoid discomfort.

Pros and Cons of Running Barefoot

Disadvantages of Using the Treadmill Without Shoes

While it has some benefits, many are hesitant to run barefoot on a treadmill.

For one thing, doing a high-impact exercise without foot protection can be uncomfortable.

And the discomfort level is higher if you’re not used to walking or running barefoot.

Here are the other reasons why you should do this exercise with caution.

Skin abrasions, blisters and burns

The soles of our feet are soft, and putting them on constant impact by running barefoot can be damaging.

Repetitive frictional force against a textured treadmill surface can result in calluses and sole abrasions.

Open wounds on the foot slow down your workout recovery and affect exercise consistency.

Moreover, these wounds might even lead to infections when not properly treated.

The deck or treadmill belt can also heat up after some time. And this can cause blisters and burns.

Higher risk of injuries

Using the treadmill without shoes puts more stress on your body during exercise.

A common issue would be muscle soreness, especially in the calves.

More severe injuries can also happen, depending on how fast you transition to barefoot running.

Fractures, shin splints and plantar fasciitis are some examples.

Steps to Start Using the Treadmill Without Shoes

Exercise should benefit your body, not put it in harm’s way.

So, while there are risks when running barefoot on a treadmill, there are ways to do it without hurting yourself.

Here’s what you have to do.

Steps to Use Treadmills without Shoes

1. Begin walking around barefoot.

As I’ve said, we are not used to walking or running without shoes.

So, before jumping on the treadmill, gradually introduce the soles of your feet to various surfaces.

Start indoors and walk around the house barefoot. Then, move outdoors and start walking on the grass.

You can also go to the beach, then walk or run barefoot on the sand.

This extra prep work strengthens your feet, protecting them from pain and injury during your treadmill runs.

Continue doing this until you no longer find walking barefoot uncomfortable.

2. Practice proper walking form.

Running barefoot is not always the cause of a treadmill injury.

At times, incorrect walking can also cause or increase your injury risk.

One example is when you put your weight on the edges of your feet while running, which can lead to soreness.

Problems can also arise if you do not keep your body centred while walking.

So, while prepping your feet, observe the correct walking technique. Practice the heel-to-toe movement as you stride.

Relax your shoulders and tighten your abs. Also, keep your eyes looking straight to avoid hurting your back.

3. Use the treadmill with barefoot shoes.

Barefoot or zero-drop shoes are not like your regular runners. Most running shoes are heeled.

This form propels your front foot, making you land on your heel.

It also explains why running barefoot right away hurts: you’re used to landing on your heel.

Remember, you should land on your midsole to avoid foot pain or injury.

And the flat design of zero-drop shoes helps you achieve this.

These shoes may feel weird at first and require some getting used to, but they can help acclimate you to running barefoot.

If you want, you can walk around the house while wearing barefoot shoes to practice.

4. Start and progress slowly.

Gradually introduce your body to using the treadmill without shoes. Start on low speed without an incline for 1 to 2 minutes.

Continue doing this until you feel that you can crank up the speed or incline a bit. Switch to a lower level if you feel pain, then adjust when ready.

Go for a setting that keeps your strides short. Also, use built-in programs with varying speeds and incline levels to simulate running outdoors.

It is easier to do this with treadmill models with automated functions, like the NordicTrackX22i Incline Trainer.

Using Barefoot Shoes on a Treadmill


Using the treadmill without shoes is an excellent variation to spice up your routine.

But like any new exercise, you need proper preparation and technique to do it successfully and safely.

So, start gradually and give your feet time to get used to walking and running barefoot.

If you have any pre-existing health conditions, seek medical advice first.

And when you get the green light, complement your barefoot running routine with a quality treadmill.

My list of treadmills under $1000 might have the model you need.

1. Is it better to use a treadmill than run outdoors?

Fit and healthy people can get more benefits from running indoors and outdoors. Both exercises have pros and cons, and alternately doing them gives you that perfect balance. If you are recovering from an injury, the controlled environment of indoor treadmill runs is better for you. It’s also best to reach out to a fitness professional or physiotherapist for guidance.

2. Should I wear ankle weights on the treadmill?

Putting on ankle weights while walking or jogging on a treadmill is a great way to step up your routine. You can do this safely by using weights no more than 2% of your body weight. However, this treadmill variation may not be for people with hip, knee or ankle problems. So, check with your doctor first and ask for advice.