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Can I Run if I am Overweight?

Posted by on Nov 10, 2010 | 6 Comments

The following is a guest post from blogger Barefoot Fresca.  I met her at the 1st Annual New York City Barefoot Run.  Check out her blogs: Barefoot Fresca and Avocational Singer.

This was the question facing me as I was researching and being inspired by the barefoot running movement:  Do I need to lose weight before I try barefoot running?  Or can I start now, while I am still overweight?

The answer seemed obvious at first: “No! It would not be safe to run barefoot with all that extra weight! Too much pressure and stress on the feet!  You’ll injure yourself for sure! Lose weight first! Wear supportive shoes and start a walking program first.”

But after some thought and consideration I decided that not only could I try barefoot running while still overweight, perhaps I even should try it.  After all, muscles are remarkable in their ability to grow and develop based on the demands placed on them.  Bodybuilders develop to lift very heavy weights.  Barefoot running develops stronger feet and — if anything — people who carry extra pounds need stronger feet, not weaker ones, which is what they will get if they let supportive shoes do the work instead of their feet.

Also, if one of the concerns for an overweight runner is the stress on the knee and hip joints, then running barefoot may even be preferable because, when properly learned and executed, the barefoot running form reduces that kind of stress on the joints.

After taking into account my current level of fitness, my general state of health as determined by a doctor, and my experience with running in the past, I started barefoot running weighing 245 pounds.  It took me over four months of consistent regular practice to get to the point where I have now run a 5K barefoot, and most recently run 4.2 miles participating in the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run.  I have written in detail about the issues and challenges that have confronted me as a plus-sized barefoot runner on my blog “Barefoot Fresca”

How did I do it?  I followed the guidelines and instructions for all barefoot runners outlined by knowledgeable people such as: Jason Robillard in his book, The Barefoot Running Book, Michael Sandler in his book Barefoot Running, and lots of information on Barefoot Ken Bob’s site.  I have also been encouraged and inspired by other barefoot bloggers who I have met through joining the barefoot running blogosphere.

I modified all guidelines to fit my circumstances.  I proceeded even more cautiously and gradually and listened to my body twice as well as advised.  If the recommendation was to run ½ a mile at first, then I ran only a ¼.  If the recommendation was to do something for 2 weeks before proceeding to the next step, then I did it for 4 weeks.

I think the key for me has been to accept that this is not going to happen overnight.  If it is a gradual process for any barefoot runner, then all the more will it be so for an overweight runner.  It was essential for me not to be in a hurry to have any running milestones or accomplishments.

The enjoyment of running barefoot is part of my strategy to develop a more active life that will produce a healthier weight for me in the long run.  In fact, now that my mileage has increased, I have even begun to shed a few pounds.

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  1. Weight Management Center
    November 12, 2010

    I have seen shoes for barefoot runners that help keep the foot safe in case you were to step on a rock or something. I think it would depend on how your body handles everything else. I for one have terrible knees overweight or not and they do not like me running that’s for sure. Best bet would be to talk with a doctor and see what they think you should do. It’s amazing but they really know their stuff. If running isn’t whats best for you I’m sure something could be suggest to replace the high impact workout.

  2. Barefoot Neil Z
    November 11, 2010

    Fresco knows me, but for the benefit of the other readers here, I have been running barefoot all summer after shucking my shoes for good on June 29th. 300km of barefoot training, another 100ish in the Vibrams and I am back to where I was in my shoes, in regards to mileage. I am 6’2, 234lbs right now, so yes, a clydsdale I am, but otherwise a midpack runner at most events! You can do it, at any weight, it just takes patience at the beginning.

    I will be running my second barefoot half marathon this weekend (Nov 14).

    Good luck to all new and experienced barefooters!

  3. Frances aka "Barefoot Fresca"
    November 11, 2010

    It’s so great to hear these comments about other people having success attempting this with extra weight on the frame! I’m glad you have stopped by to share your experience. It is inspiring and encouraging.

  4. Janice
    November 10, 2010

    Awesome post. You can still be an athlete and be overweight. My husband is a former competitive swimmer who is overweight. When he gets in the fast lane people often give him a look that says he can’t possibly belong there. He goes on to kick their butts!

  5. Colt
    November 10, 2010

    I’m in the same situation. I’m about 5’7″ and over 230 lbs. Running barefoot is the first time I’ve ever delighted in a physical activity. It took me weeks to adjust my form, but I’m now running pain-free for not quite a half-mile. Each week I can tell differences as the act of running gets easier and my lower calves develop a little more. Though I’m still breathing hard, I don’t get winded the way I once did. I can even catch my breath while still running, something I never thought possible.

    In short, I agree. Perfectly fine to run while being overweight.

  6. Corey Strock
    November 10, 2010

    I started BFR at 285 Lbs. And I have a friend who was heavier than that when he moved to Vibrams instead of standard shoes. I see no reason why barefoot running would be any worse for a “larger” individual than running in shoes.