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The benefits of ‘naked’ running, and why should you try it

a photo of feet running
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you clicked on this headline ready to hear more about the joys of streaking, I’m very sorry to disappoint (but hey, you do you). Naked running actually refers to the act of leaving your phone and running watch behind and heading out completely unconnected. But why should you give this a go? 

Studies have shown the average American checks their phone 96 times a day, or around once every 10 minutes. Plus, with the rise in popularity of running watches and fitness trackers, most of which can give you notifications on the move, switching off can feel impossible. 

Experts have suggested that by running ‘naked’ or free of tech, runners are likely to be more in tune with how their bodies are feeling. There’s also a school of thought that suggests that even running with some of the best running watches or one of the best fitness trackers might suck some of the enjoyment out of a sport that is meant to be beneficial for your mental health. 

To find out more, we spoke to Dr. Josephine Perry, a Chartered sport psychologist and author specializing in sport and high performance.

What are the benefits of running ‘naked’? 

"While tech can be really helpful when you start out in running to keep you motivated as you can track yourself running further or faster, once you have been running for a while it can become unhelpful," Dr. Perry said. "Tech can suck some of the joy out of running. When we are focusing on pace or speed we forget to notice where we are running. We miss the beauty around us and instead of using the time to think through problems or recover from a stressful day, we get fixated on a 'session' and then beat ourselves up if we don’t hit our targets. 

Perry added: "We also stop listening to our body — the best runners will be able to feel the pace or effort levels they are going at — too much tech use prevents us from developing this ability." 

How to ease out of running with tech? 

But how should runners start running 'naked,' and leaving their phone or running watch at home? Dr. Perry recommends starting small. "I would always advise runners to have at least one tech-free run a week where they can enjoy running for the sake of it, not needing to worry about what they will need to upload afterward," she said. Leaving your watch at home on a recovery run, or for a walk on a rest day might be beneficial for your health.  

Alternatively, if you’re training for a race and want to continue tracking your runs, you can ease out of the constant watch checking by simply turning your watch around, so it’s facing the inside of your wrist or covering it with a sweatband. You could even use one of the best running apps to record your pace and distance, with your phone in one of the best running phone holders, so you can’t see your data in real-time. 

You could also invest in a pair of Under Armour running shoes, such as the Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind, which has the ability to record your run and sync it to your phone, via Bluetooth. 

Whatever you’re training for, remember it’s as much about your enjoyment as it is your performance. Give running naked a go, you might enjoy it.

Looking for more running advice? We've found the best running shoes on the market here, as well as the best women's running shoes. If you're new to running, here's a beginner's running plan that'll take you from the couch to running for 30-minutes non-stop, plus, here's what 30-minutes of running does to your body.  

Jane McGuire
Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.