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Barefoot 101

Running barefoot is best

Why run or walk barefoot?

  1. Strengthen the muscles in your feet
  2. Be injury free thanks to proper foot and body mechanics
  3. Increased sensory perception (and running pleasure)
  4. Run easier and faster and be injury-free for life

Check it out…

Look at the illustration below. When a runner strikes the ground wearing running shoes, the positive heel (all that foam/air/gel cushioning) causes him/her to heel strike, then ‘roll’ and push off. This is NOT how our body is designed to run. Look at the runner on the right. When you’re barefoot (or nearly barefoot) you will land gently and feel the ground below your feet. This is very important to be a healthy and injury-free runner. Now you try! Run 20 yards in your runners, then do the same barefoot. Have someone watch you just in case you fall over from glee!

Running in shoes vs barefoot

Image courtesy of Terra Plana

A Few Common Questions

Q: What’s wrong with running shoes?
A: A lot. Running shoes “shield” your feet and body from the natural cushioning it’s designed for, actually causing more impact to your body, not less. Nearly all traditional running shoes have a thick midsole at the heel which causes heel strike, another major injury cause. Read more here…

Q: So, what are you saying?
A: Toss your shoes away and run barefoot! But wait, there’s more! There are things to consider first, that’s where this site comes in. Read on…

Q: I heard about barefoot running, doesn’t it hurt?
A: If you jump right into it, then in short, yes. You’ll use muscles you’ve never used before. As you transition to barefoot running, you should start slowly. Ease into your mileage and listen to you feet. Most runner’s require 3-4 weeks before achieving ~80% of their regular mileage sans shoes.

Q: OK, I’m onboard with this barefoot running, but can’t always run sans shoe, then what?
A: As many other runners, I had the same problem. There are many environmental and sometimes social reasons for wearing “running shoes”. For this and other reasons there ‘alternatives’ are slowly becoming available. My Skora project is progressing to launch late 2010. Meanwhile, take a look at our minimal shoe reviews.

A few medical quotes

“Running related Chronic injuries to bone and connective tissue in the legs are rare in developing countries, where most people are habitually barefooted.”
Michael Warbutton – Gateway Physiotherapist Australia. 2001

Barefoot training helps correct form and reduces foot, shin and muscle injuries.”
Dr. William A. Rossi, D.P.M. 1999.

“Where barefoot and shod populations exist, as in Haiti, injury rates of the lower extremity are substantially higher in the shoe wearing population.”
Robins SE and Hanna AM – Running related injury

“…natural gait is impossible for the shoe-wearing foot …and it is equally impossible for any orthotic to achieve “correct” foot and body balance …no matter how correct and precise the biomechanical design.”
Dr. William A. Rossi, D.P.M. “Why Shoes Make ‘Normal’ Gait Impossible.” Podiatry Management

30 Responses to “Barefoot 101”

  1. August 22, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I just love the simpicity of this. The body takes over and the running style comes naturally … and the great thing is that no one actually has to think about it. I will bet that barefoot runners get a lot less injury than heel strikers, are faster and a lot more supple. btw the Skora shoes look great, but being in the UK, we will get taxed to the hilt as normal and will no doubt have to pay around 200 USD for the shoes. May I ask that you make those available to the UK from outside the UK?

  2. Howe Lee
    October 5, 2012 at 4:37 am #

    I have tried barefoot run + vibram bikila LS about a week by now total about 8 km, my calves is tense and tight after run with some muscle ache next day is it normal ?

    • Ethan
      October 7, 2012 at 12:37 am #

      Yes, completely normal. Allow plenty of time for rest. Transition is much harder than some people think. Build up slowly and you will never turn back! I am not a massive advocate of stretching for injury prevention but after your run you should stretch. I think you should stretch after training (doesn’t have to be straight after) and just ‘limber up’ before a run if you have to but that’s a matter of opinion. If you start to hurt significantly during a run you should take a rest too. Try and get some massages into your legs as well. Transition takes a long time; depending on the person it can take months to years. The most important thing is to listen to your body, don’t get lazy but defiantly take a lot of time for rest. It’s going to be hard and may get worse before it gets better, but trust me when I say there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

      Best of luck!

  3. Perry
    February 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    The roads are just too rough and hard for me to run barefooted on. I don’t see how people can do this.

    I wear those cheap “aqua socks” you get at Walmart and Kmart. Forget those high-priced shoes, like the five fingers.

  4. Roelof
    February 28, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Hi everyone,

    Just over a year and a half ago, I was out on the road doing a 15km run; using trail shoes…after about 5km I could feel the blisters beginning to develop. I removed my shoes and continued the rest of the run on my socks… AND IT FELT SO GREAT that I left my shoes next to a bus stop.

    Even with 6 months of my training, I started up again in December 2012, last Sunday I ran my first(Barefoot) Marathon 42km(3hour59min), and completed it 30min faster than the previous time on the same marathon(with shoes).

    My feet are fine and I’m training for the Comrades Ultra (87km) coming up in June 2013. I’ve got my sight set on my first 100miler in August 2013.

    Keeping all this in mind, this flat footed boy had two hip operations when I was 10 years old, the doctors told me that I’d be in a wheelchair by the age of 16. I’m turning 30 in March, I’ll be sure to send them my medals.

    My advice, don’t even try minimalist shoes, go barefoot as much as your routine would allow, I even go to the bank barefoot, I never wear shoes/sandals.

    If you go bare from the start, you’ll be able to realise how to change your running style from the start, I’m still adapting and tweaking my style,,, if it hurts you’re doing it wrong.
    Remember the definition of insanity “doing the same thing, over and over again… expecting a different result”

    I can understand why most people don’t even try it… I was judged harshly during my first barefoot marathon, by runners in trainers. I laughed at all of them though, it was funny to see only about ten runners (out of thousands) still “heel striking”, to me it seems though everyone wants to change their running form to that of a barefoot runner, without going bare.. It will help with your running, but not nearly as much as the real deal.
    Just research “the Asch experiment” and you’ll easily see that the real reason soo many people don’t want to change to barefoot running is due to group conformity.

    Oh yes and don’t forget, that 99% of the information sources people turn to for advice (fitness magazines/websites/TV shows), are financed by the very same companies that would suffer great profit loss if the truth had to come out. Only the ignorant would believe that these information sources would publish articles recommending we don’t buy shoes…. (If they do, it’s a joke! It is done in such a cleverly deceptive way that you would still make an uneducated choice.)

    To think that in under a hundred years, sheeple have been led completely astray by greedy money seeking unenlightened %#$@^@%.

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