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Baring your Sole

Barefoot running on the beach

Image courtesy mikebaird

Original post by STEVE KILGALLON – Sunday Star Times

Thirty years ago, the modern running shoe was invented. Since then, running-related injuries have risen. And so a growing movement of runners are taking to the streets barefoot.

Perhaps no man has had more positive influence upon running than Arthur Lydiard. Yet you could, perversely, almost blame the Kiwi master-coach for the pernicious rise of the modern, high-technology running shoe even though Lydiard’s cadre of world-class runners trained only in canvas plimsolls.

American Bill Bowerman ran with Lydiard in the early 1970s, and returned home inspired to experiment with his wife’s waffle iron to create the first Nike running shoe. Lydiard was aghast; he thought such footwear would cause injuries and poor technique. And as with so many other things, Lydiard, it appears, was ahead of his time.

Since 2002, the 30th anniversary of the first Nike, and driven by statistics showing an alarming rise in running-related foot, ankle and knee injuries, a fringe community of runners have been rejecting shoes altogether and going barefoot.

Now it threatens to go mainstream, and the mad movement’s reluctant prophet is a very sane running writer, Chris MacDougall, whose story of conversion to barefoot theology makes inspiring reading. His manifesto appears in his new book, Born to Run, in which he writes: “Blaming the running injury epidemic on big, bad Nike seems too easy but that’s OK, because there’s a lot to throw at them”. He says the book sits 13th on the US bestseller lists.

Six months ago, sick of constant muscle soreness in my hips and adductors which stopped me running the big miles I wanted to, I began visiting a sports biomechanist called (ironically) Greg Pain.

Pain, who runs Auckland clinic BioSport, is a running heretic. He thinks 98% of people run wrongly and blames a Western culture which encourages us to take cars, buses and trains and sit at desks when we should be running and walking. He believes it causes us to become unbalanced, with overdeveloped thighs and hips which take on too much work and eventually lead to injury.

He reconstructed my unique running style, which resembled an old lady chasing a bus while carrying four bags of shopping. Now I run straight-backed, with shorter strides, tensing my core muscles, `firing’ my gluteals (bum muscles) and hamstrings to flick my heels behind me to get more kick. I’m faster, more efficient and injury-free.

A lot of what Pain and MacDougall say seems to fit. I threw Born to Run to Pain a fortnight ago. It was his Archimedes in the bathtub moment. “It’s a great book,” he says. “It challenges the way we wear shoes the way we do; even more so, it challenges our lifestyle.” Ten days later, we went barefoot running.

As we trot through central Auckland, Greg spots two blokes looking at us as “if we were idiots”. We pass a woman who gives me the disgusted glance you might cast at someone who allows their dog to foul the pavement and doesn’t pick it up. We may be New Zealand’s early-adopters: I suspect there aren’t many other blokes running around the city without shoes.

But they all laughed when Christopher Columbus said the world was round. This may be the future. It certainly seems to work. It’s amazing how your stride immediately, unconsciously, changes when you run barefoot. It becomes shorter, choppier and lighter: something Pain preaches because it cuts the stress on your feet.

In shoes, you almost always land on your heel, where the manufacturers place the most padding. Barefoot, you land on the natural cushion of your mid-foot. It’s not painful, but you do feel every footfall, and not every surface is created equal: I found the dark asphalt of the road itself the best. In the interests of science, we burst across a muddy park. It’s very tactile: like squeezing jelly between your fingers. I like it. So does Greg.

On the phone from the US, MacDougall explains. “The foot is the greatest disciplinarian. You can’t over-pronate, can’t over-train, can’t over-stride… if you do anything wrong, the foot will tell you `uh uh, don’t do that’. Shoes are like morphine: a sedative that deadens the pain.”

Because the foot tells you how to run, MacDougall says anyone can make the transition within three weeks. He offers a few tips, then adds: “I still feel definitely the student here, not the master; very grudgingly I will give people a couple of pointers. I didn’t feel qualified to at first, but I found it is so easy, there is little to teach.”

The science behind MacDougall’s claims is impressive, led by a Newcastle University (Australia) study which found no evidence-based research to show high-tech running shoes are in any way beneficial.

MacDougall’s thesis boils down to this: the best shoes are the worst (one report suggested you are 123% more likely to sustain injury in more expensive shoes, because they offer too much support); feet like impact (and “it’s preposterous to think that half an inch of rubber is going to make a difference” when 12 times your bodyweight pounds through them); and finally, that humans are designed to run shoeless, and shoes weaken you. He cites one doctor who describes them having the same wasting effect as plaster casts.

Pain says the common ankle, back and knee problems his clients arrive with support these theories and says the shoeless science makes “perfect sense”, although he’d only use barefoot running as a measured part of training.

Born to Run isn’t just an anti-Nike manifesto. It’s also a fantastic tale of a reclusive tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who embark on two-day trail-race adventures wearing home-made leather sandals. It’s the story of how MacDougall and a group of crack ultra-runners tracked them down to engage in an epic desert ultra-race. It’s how the experience changed them all, and how MacDougall learned from them exactly how to run. The Tarahumura, incidentally, are aware of their subsequent impact on the running community, but, says MacDougall, don’t care. “It’s irrelevant to them; like talking about Hollywood to the Amish.”

The most extreme of the book’s ultra-runners is ‘Barefoot’ Ted MacDonald. By email, he says he doesn’t think the movement will threaten the shoe giants. “Threaten, no. Allow 1000 blossoms to bloom, yes. I am not dogmatically barefoot, even though I think it is the best. I have no problem endorsing companies making minimal shoes and not telling me I’m broken by design.”

MacDougall, meanwhile, who ironically only began barefooting after the epic race (pushed into it by a broken toe) is now a devotee. Has it made him a better runner?

“I see it differently than I would’ve a few years ago. If I could do a 3:59:59, instead of a four-hour, marathon, that was better. Now I couldn’t give a shit about that 1 sec. Better to me means I don’t ever get hurt, I enjoy it, and I never dread it.”

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An instigator and barefoot runner since 2002.

60 Responses to “Baring your Sole”

  1. craig adamski
    July 23, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    Excellent article. MacDougall’s book, in fact, is how I found your website. Hard to blame Lydiard since he was aghast at what Nike was doing. Hard to blame Bowerman since, as I understand it, he was just trying to make runners faster by increasing their stride. Who I blame is the medical industry that’s still proliferating the myth that barefoot running is evil. Thank god for people like Greg Pain and yourself.

  2. July 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    @craig – You’re absolutely right about the med industry. The good news however is that more and more experts within the said industry are admitting (err, stating) the facts as of late. It’s like with everything else these days, the realization that: less is more, organic is best, nature’s design is healthiest, so forth and so on….

  3. July 28, 2009 at 3:27 am #

    I’m with McDougall—I just want to run. I don’t care how fast. I used to run sub-2:00 800 meters, but at 45, after 20 years of achilles tendon pain, I just want to…run! And running barefoot has helped me so much. I ran 6 miles in London today, wearing cheap Target water shoes. I have done a good bit of urban barefooting, but the neighborhood for this London trip is just too…broken glassy.


  4. david
    July 30, 2009 at 4:11 am #

    I feel really bad, I’m running in a pair of brooks dyad shoes.

    screw it, I’ll get as many miles I can get out of this one and then go for a more minimalist shoe.

  5. July 31, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    I’ve been barefoot running most of the summer and barefoot hiking and walking for almost a year. The difference is amazing. When I tried running many years ago I could hardly get past a mile without felling horrible. The back pain was simply too much. Now I am 40 and running up to four miles at a time. For me that is something I would never have pictured myself doing a year ago.

    For the curious, I run primarily on asphalt. I have run wooded trails, but because it is harder to see the terrain I wear simple water slippers without socks to give myself a little protection without sacrificing the flexibility and sensations I get from barefoot running.

  6. Ken
    August 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

    It’s a totally different sport but how about basketball? What would you recommend people who play basketball wear?

  7. david
    August 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    hey does anyone want a laugh?

    check this out.


  8. August 16, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    Total convert—-barefoot running, walking and hiking addict!
    I feel great all over.

  9. Lisa
    August 24, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    After reading McDougall’s book, my eyes opened wide open! I started studying tons of information and trying to get my hands around everything! I just purchased my first pair of minimalist shoes (or maybe not) – Nike Free – I love them!

    I am starting very slow. Have just started walking around the block around them. Will start a short mile in them this week. My long runs of 6 miles plus in my Nike Frees will have to wait until my feet strengthen!

    Thanks for blogs like this, it is very encouraging and I am very hopeful that I can run for years to come injury-free!

  10. Paul
    August 27, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    I am 29-years-old and I have been running since I was five. In the past two years, I’ve had the most debilitating injuries of my running life. It all started off with a seemingly minor problem (pain) in the tibialis posterior insertion point near the navicular bone (right foot). I spent a few thousand dollars on two different types of custom orthoses and a thousand or so dollars extra to find a shoe that was compatible with the orthoses and my foot.

    And after all that time and money, I acquired six (I’m not kidding) additional foot injuries that I genuinely and intuitively believe were caused by the orthoses. So I returned to my podiatrist. Big mistake. She sold me expensive and unwieldy gel heel socks, heel lifts and, wait for it, recommended a different type of custom orthoses. Well, I’d had enough. I was running with shoes, orthoses, gel heel socks and bloody heel lifts. In other words, I was running around with 500g of foreign material on each foot!

    But I tried it – I’m open-minded – and the (new) injuries just got worse. Severe pain in my heels (diagnosed as calcaneal bursitis), chronic pain in the dorsal part of my feet, shin splints, pain in my MP joints, frequently twisted ankle (inversion) and the unwelcome return of the initial tibialis posterior injury. But worst of all, I suffered an utter loss of motivation to run.

    About six weeks ago I no longer had anything to lose. I bravely (stupidly?) threw away my orthoses and all the other (money-making) shit and began running barefooted. Instantly – once again, I’m not exaggerating – the pain subsided. I could feel it as I ran! It took a few weeks for the dorsal foot pain to subside (it’s still there a bit) but the other injuries just sort of evaporated. I’ve gone from barely being able to run three kilometers per day to going back to running between six and eight kilometers per day. Six kilometers might not sound like much, but the truth is I’m a sprinter by nature and I’ve only been racing in middle distance events for the last ten years.

    So, I’ll be honest, I used to like buying a nice-smelling pair of Brooks or Nikes or Asics. It felt good. But I fear that it’s useless and highly counterproductive. I hope I feel the same about barefoot running when I’m 60-years-old. We’ll see.

  11. August 27, 2009 at 5:56 am #

    @Paul, thanks for sharing your (painful) story. I went through a similar situation with my IT band back in 2002. Orthotics, massage, therapy… all BS. FInally after nearly a year of struggle I re(discovered) barefoot running. Nearly eight years laters and I’m injury free. Happy barefoot trails, David.

  12. August 31, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Great article! I teach a 90 minute class (in Portland, Oregon) on healthy footwear based on the same principles. Here’s my description of what to look for in shoes – if you aren’t ready to go completely barefoot:

    Our feet were designed to be barefoot. The modern world isn’t always safe for bare feet, plus our feet are vulnerable from years of wearing shoes. We can have some of the advantages of barefoot walking by choosing footwear that makes sense with how our feet were designed.
    These ideas may be very different from what you’ve heard from the shoe industry and from some podiatrists. Please consider these concepts, and experiment with gradually shifting your shoe wardrobe to include more shoes that fit this ideal. You don’t need to throw away any of your shoes, just put some of them in the back of your closet. Also, new shoe purchases need not be expensive. Just keep these principles in mind as you shop.

    Qualities of a “Barefoot-Inspired” Shoe:
    • Lightweight. A heavy shoe doesn’t allow natural foot and hip motion.
    • Flexibility. The closer a walking shoe is to a moccasin or a slipper, the more likely that shoe’s design will allow the joints of the foot and ankle to move naturally and to adapt to the walking surface. Most walking shoes currently available are not flexible. Twist the shoe diagonally to check.
    • Less medial arch support. Your arch was designed to support itself, like the Fremont Bridge. When the foot does its own work, it gets stronger.
    • Stays on your foot. Gripping or lifting your toes creates malformed toes over years of wearing shoes that don’t stay on your feet, including some flip-flops, clogs, Crocs, and Birkenstocks. Choose a version with a heel strap, or with a design that stays on easily as you walk.
    • Protection. This is the primary advantage of shoes over bare feet. Shoes can protect you from sharp objects, debris, rain and cold temperatures.
    • Foot shaped. Avoid these three features that stray from natural foot shape:
    1. Heel elevation. Soles should be completely flat. Most athletic shoes and sports sandals have a ¾ inch heel. A “negative” heel is also not ideal. Even a small heel contribute to tight calves and hamstrings, and increased heel strike.
    2. Toespring. The ends of the toes should be flat and level with the ball of the foot. Athletic shoes commonly have a 15 degree toespring (only in the past decade). You may be able to undo the toe spring by bending the shoe in the other direction for a half hour.
    3. Tapered toe boxes. The space at the ends of the toes should be wider than the ball of the foot. Remove the insole and stand on it to see if your toes go over the edge of the insole. Watch for a toe box that narrows too quickly and pulls in the tips of the toes. Same thing for sandal straps that cross the toes.
    Commonly we hear of the need for “supportive” shoes. Shoes with more arch support, more padding, or a stiffer footbed may cause you to strike the ground harder, putting you at risk for knee osteoarthritis. The brain expects to feel the impact of your foot against the ground, so if your shoe interferes with that feedback, you will tend to slam your foot into the ground. Studies show increased shock into the knee when wearing motion-controlling sneakers or clogs, but less when barefoot or in flip-flops. Less supportive shoes allow your feet to respond to the ground.
    “Now that I have ‘barefoot inspired’ shoes, how should I walk?”
    Indigenous peoples who have been barefoot since childhood show us how to walk and run correctly. Allow your foot to stay on the ground longer, rolling through the toes, then swing your leg forward only to the point where it is just a little in front of your body. Contrast this to reaching the foot far in front of the body, striking the heel, and pulling the rest of the body forward. This new stride will be shorter but with a faster cadence. Each step will feel lighter, since it minimizes both the impact and the effort.
    Please contact me at 503-230-0087, or see my website http://www.portlandrolfer.com for more information, including a link to a 13-page list of recommended shoe brands and styles with photos.

  13. Ruben
    September 23, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    I didn’t know it, but I’ve been a barefooter all along. I always kicked off my shoes when I got home. And, I wore sandals when I could. It wasn’t until reading Born to Run that I realized I didn’t even need the sandals.

    So, here I am at barefootrunner.com, starting my barefoot journey. I believe the theory behind it, from the atrophy argument, to the fact that arches are weakest when force is applied to the bottom.

    My feet are as ticklish as Tickle-Me-Elmo, but I can handle heat and rocks fairly well. The other day I experimented with barefoot running on a trail along the American River in Sacramento, CA. I started out walking and realized quicker, lighter steps were less painful than slower, lumbering steps. So, I ran for about 200 yds.

    It felt fine. The hot rocks began to blister my feet, but I took it slow to prevent full-on blisters. Also, I’ve had a strained peroneal tendon (runs from the mid-outer part of the foot to up along the ankle), which I got while running with shod feet. Not blaming the shoes, as I think other factors contributed. The point is, I was able to run barefoot a short distance without pain, even while my foot was actually injured.

    Now, I’m just itching to get back out there and do some barefoot running, but I really want to let my tendon heal.

  14. September 23, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    @Karin: thanks for the great feedback and comments!

    @ Ruben: Congrats on making the transition to barefoot! Just remember to take your time, don’t push it too hard. Enjoy the experiences (the good and the not so good) and remember it’s all about lifelong injury-free prevention. Happy barefoot trails!

  15. November 9, 2009 at 8:33 am #

    I have been running for over a decade and have been plagued with injuries from shin splints (mtss) to lower back pain to IT band issues. About a month ago I read Born to Run and since then I have been in the process of a complete paradigm shift. One by one the dominoes have been falling as my understanding and appreciation of running and running technique unfolds. I have been enjoying running more in the last month than ever in my life. And, injury free, albeit sore in new places.

  16. November 16, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Still barefooting. In my 7th month now and feeling great. I have my own little blog. If you are interested, or are a barefoot runner in Middle Tennessee interested in comparing notes, here is my URL:


    will k

  17. Paul
    December 23, 2009 at 6:42 am #

    I’ve been a barefoot runner for going on 3 years now and it’s been awesome!!!!!!! Right now i have a bruised heel and it seems to take some time for it to go away. I’ve had to cut my running down to make sure it’s going away. Has anyone had this experience and have any suggestions?

  18. Curtis Maybin
    January 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Great story. I look forward to more information – good to know how important our feet are.
    Curtis Maybin

  19. aspiring barefoot
    January 25, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    hi david. i’m in auckland what are some good places to look for minimal shoes for running in. i am headin down to dunedin soon so ones that may be fit for a slightly colder climate would also be good

  20. January 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    @aspiring barefoot : my favorite minimal shoes for pavement running are either Feelmax or Soft Star Mocs; for trail running VFF’s work well – but they’re not perfect. I haven’t tried them yet, but Inov8 focuses on trail shoes as well.

  21. john palmer
    February 3, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    What about people with fallen arches? Is barefoot running good for them or will their arches just fallen further?

  22. February 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    @john palmer : I had fallen arches before starting barefoot running 9 years ago. By running without ‘support’ it allowed me feet to strengthen and regain some of the arch. That being said, there is no such thing as an optimal arch – your body is the way it is and unless you have major issues it should suit YOU just fine. Stay healthy and walk/run barefoot whenever possible.

  23. Chris
    February 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    I was wondering if you would do a review on these….I recently saw a bunch of choices on these CW-X tights


  24. Sean
    February 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Running barefoot is the best thing that ever happened to my allegedly fallen-arched, over-pronating/ underprontating feet.

    A classmate in law school introduced me to barefoot weight training barefoot several years ago and I made it part of my life. At the time I was in my early thirties and each of my legs had spent several weeks in full-length casts due to broken bones. When I started doing triathlons in the 90′s, I was diagnosed by various by “gait experts” at shoe stores with every impairment imaginable, including “fallen arches,” and I have worn every type & band of corrective shoe on the market.

    The result? When I sprained my ankle running at age 31, I wore a brace for a month, and it hurt every time I ran for two years afterward – until i began training barefoot.

    I started barefoot running in Canada in the middle of winter, running indoors in sock feet on a treadmill. My first outdoor run came about three months later in water-shoes, and i ditched them at the one-mile mark. We’re fortunate to have a paved running/walking/bike path in our city, and grass alongside it. Either one is comfortable, depending on the temperature.

    If you have the opportunity, barefoot is the way to go.

    I’ve received a lot of strange looks over the past couple of years and have met with abundant skepticism, but it looks like barefoot running is catching on. Our local newspaper carried a story on the topic and cited your blog earlier this week – this blog is fantastic, i wish I’d known about it sooner, I would have saved some time on learning by trial and error.

  25. admin
    February 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    @Sean : Congrats and welcome! Thanks for the kind words. A little trial and error is okay too – enjoy the journey, experiment and have fun. Happy barefoot trails, David.

  26. SeanUSMC
    March 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I am thinking very seriously about starting to embrace barefoot running. I am planing on starting with a pair of water shoes since they’ll be easy enough on the pockets. But i have recently joined the Marine Corps. This may not sound like a problem but i was thinking, boot camp is three months long and i will be running quite a bit and with the whole conformity to the military i’m certain i will be forced to wear the running shoes i am given for those three months. So the question i have is if i start barefoot running or as close to it as one can come and get extremely comfortable with it will it significantly affect my ability to run in shoes. I dont want to end up being able to blow away pt standards barefoot but totally suck it up when forced to wear running shoes. If anyone can help me with this issue it would be greatly appreciated.

  27. May 17, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    Almost read Born to Run start to finish yesterday. Amazing story and very inspirational. I used to hate running until I bought a GPS watch and began to understand pacing a little better. I also have very flat feet and custom orthotics that I have been using.

    I’ve struggled with shin splints my whole life, and worry about the transition to barefoot, but today I ditched my orthotics for work and am wearing my thinnest flatest shoes.

    I also play basketball/volleyball and am concerned about the extra impact from jumping sports applied to my feet… Should I start testing out no orthotics there as well?

    Thanks for everyone’s input!

  28. July 12, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    To Ted, regarding impact:
    Studies show that the more cushion or support that shoes provide, the harder we land. In particular, there have been two well-regarded scientific studies, one on barefoot walking vs shod (in athletic shoes or Danskos), and one on barefoot running vs. shod (in typical athletic shoes). The sensory feedback from our feet helps us regulate how to land gently. Also, sensory information is absolutely required by the brain for appropriate motor control. So if you are barefoot, or in minimalistic shoes, you will have more control and finesse. After you have adjusted to it, that is. On the other hand, when feet are cushioned and protected by stiff shoes, the load goes right into the joints – especially the knee, but also the hip, ankle, and spinal joints. The barefoot walking study says that this weight loading is a primary risk for knee osteoarthritis. I hope that information is helpful!

  29. Andy
    September 2, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    Very interesting article – as many on this blog. I have been thinking about starting to run barefoot, but somehow cannot make the “go for it” decision. I have been thinking about getting these Vibram barefoot shoes. I run through an area where there often is broken glass – so I thought that the minimalist shoes would give be at least a bit of a protection.

    But then I keep reading that it is really best to run without any shoes whatsoever otherwise you never get the technique right. So I am a bit confused about what to do.

  30. joalbs
    September 3, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Have been going VFF and barefoot since doing a marathon in “running shoes” in early May. It is a learning experience but very enjoyable. My only problem so far has been a slow adjustment by my calf muscles. Even with this muscle learning process I cannot see myself putting “running shoes” on ever again. My muscles will adapt to the change, after all, I ran in “running shoes” for 30 years, I think I can give my body more than just a few short months to adapt.

    Anyone else having some calf difficulties?

  31. Chris
    September 15, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    I started with VFF, and now am running barefoot, my feet are tough enough to do rocky desert trails in Arizona and Colorado. I’m not sure this is the place to post this question, but when I got for longer runs, I’m having a problem of my left foot falling asleep, which it never did in shoes, no matter how far I ran.

    I LOVE running barefoot, but this could end up being a deal killer for all runs over about 40 minutes, as it seems to happen every time.

    Any thoughts? I really hope I didn’t go through hell getting my feet this tough for nothing.

    As for your question joalbs, your calf muscles will get used to it, but I highly recommend heavy calf stretching, because a stronger calf muscle is the main cause of Plantar fasciitis, which kills. Stand on a stair with the ball of your foot and lower your body weight and really stretch the heck out of it.

  32. Melanie
    September 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Seems that Lieberman is the hot topic of conversations these days for endorsing the Vibram Shoes. Just read more from researcher Dr. Steven Robbins on barefoot running and about minimalist shoes. Interesting to say the least.

    http://www.stevenrobbinsmd.com if you’re curious !

  33. Oscar
    September 28, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Shin splits and barefoot running?

    I have been suffering from more or less cronic shin splints for as long as I can remember, I have tried almost everything – extra support running shoes, NSAIDs, cooling treatments – but nothing helps. Now I can hardly walk without pain shooting up my lower legs, and every run is challange. .
    Now, after attending a seminar on minimalistic running and reading Born to Run I am seriously considering throwing my shoes in the ocean and start running barefoot. Any ideas on a “rehab programe”? I am a total noobie when it comes to barefoot running. I love running, and it would be great to run without pain, and if possible, stay injure-free. I’m greatful for any input.

    Thank you for a great website!
    Oscar, Malmoe, Sweden

  34. Larry
    October 23, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    run like a brave, dont be a slave, no one can tell you, you’ve got to be afraid

  35. December 26, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    All of people New Year can be greater after reading this post!

  36. January 29, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Great read! My question to you though is why can’t one learn good technique and then run in what ever they want? Also, this barefoot running us great for small city runs but what about real running in the mountains over large distances ?

  37. January 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Great read. I’ve been wondering for a while if it’d be smart to switch to barefoot running. I’m pretty sure that barefoot running is perfect for people who did it from the start, but making the switch… seems hard. old habbits die hard, right?

  38. Stephen K
    February 5, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    @Curtis Maybin:
    I sure hope you read this, because if you have a bruised heel, I would be very careful and examine your form. One of the benefits of barefoot running is to avoid striking the heel. When I first started, I didn’t have the form quite right and my heel was a bit sore the next couple days. I made more effort toward the form the next time I ran, though and my heels no longer hurt at all.

    @Sean USMC:
    I have heard that some branches of the military are allowing for barefoot running, but I can’t verify that for sure, just hearsay.

    @Paul: I agree. Provided the shoe is “minimalist” the same running techniques developed while barefooting should be fine with shoes. There are a lot of peopl who hike and trail run barefoot, but I think shoes still have their place as well ;)

  39. Andrew Tarren
    March 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    When I stumbled upon the Born to run author talking on the radio one afternoon, I had already run my last steps with running shoes. I had not even heard of such an idea, but switched to it immediately. He’s right in what he says, and if you take it up, you will discover things that will shock you in a positive way. I mean, there are more benefits than you think. And some of these you forego with the minimalist shoes, you really got to go barefoot to get all the benefits.

  40. April 16, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    nice blog and a very nice concept too of baring your sole.

  41. April 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Now at age 63, I have discovered that barefoot running (actually, in Vibram Five Finger shoes) is easier than shod running. I was about to give up running entirely, because it was getting harder and harder. The transition to barefoot running was not immediate, however. As Timothy Ferriss explains in his new book, The Four-Hour Body, shod running and sedentary lifestyles lead to atrophy in what he calls the ‘undercarriage’ for barefoot running. Indeed, after running to days barefoot style, no more than 3 miles each, I was so sore in my calves and thighs that I felt as though I had completed a half-marathon. It took me about 3 weeks to strengthen my legs, feet, and ankles sufficiently that I can now warm up for 3 miles, followed by some barefoot intervals. This whole concept of barefoot running is like a resurrection for senior fitness, the senior in question being me. Woo-hoo!

  42. Melinda
    April 23, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    I want to start barefoot running. Actually, I JUST started running and my feet are in such pain along with my ankle & my calf. I must wear something on my feet (gym rules). Can I run in socks? I cannot afford Vibram shoes – any alternatives?

  43. Helen
    April 23, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    I’ve just been out on my first barefoot run, albeit in socks, and really enjoyed the feeling. Ever since I started running as a teenager (I’m now mid 20s) there have been times when, after the first mile or so I’ve had a nagging ache in my lower back which has become more intense to the point where I feel nauseous and have had to stop and walk it off. I’ve never been able to pinpoint this problem to a specific cause as it seems to occur randomly – anyone else ever had this? Whatever the cause, it makes me less keen to go out. So, I thought there wouldn’t be any harm in trying barefoot running.

    What I’m wondering is, after a summer of running without trainers, how the feet/body are likely to react to having to go back to trainers for the winter? My current trainers are Saucony Ride – so for “neutral” feet.

    • kelly
      January 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      I had not run for many years due to knee pain. I started barefoot walks 6 years ago (in the summer. I would stop once the temperature would drop to 0 celsius) and 2 years ago started running barefoot. I average 10-11 km every second day, again so long as the temperature is above 0 and there is no snow or ice on the ground.

      I have found that I am unable to run with shoes anymore. The mechanics are so without shoes and I run without any pain. In the winter just I walk fast in runners or boots. In the spring I take it slower until I build up endurance (2 weeks)

  44. Subhash Thambad
    May 19, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    I’ve been a barefoot runner for going on 8 months now and it’s been awesome!! but you have to be focussed while running, else you will end up with minor injuries. It made me possible to run 10 km with single break and even not tired at the end of run, most important is no knee pain.

  45. Wintanclan
    June 8, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Shod’s just shoddy!

  46. June 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    i have some very minor and i mean minor shin twinges. i started running in huarches the running sandals and i felt fine until i put shoes in to run and then the shin twinges started im confused? does anyone else have shin pain when starting out minimalist running?

  47. Ben - medical student
    July 29, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Hey David,
    I have been researching barefoot running and now I have bought my first pair of Vibram shoes. I have just finished my first week of training in them (granted only running between 5 – 10 mins), but I was wondering where to look on how to improve. Particularly, I am curious about the proper form of running barefoot, since I have been a runner my whole life in “traditional” running shoes. I know that your stride is supposed to be shorter; however I wanted to see what you recommend or where you recommend to look for advise. I appreciate any insight. Thanks!
    - Ben

  48. Erik
    August 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi Ben,

    I have been running BF for 3 yrs. I am in my fifities so I guess my assumption is that my experience may vary from younger runners. I have a pair of vibrams in my closet, purchased for barefoot running training, which are basically my water shoes at this point. My experience is that actually running barefoot is the best way to train the body to run naturally. I have tried the VFF shoes but they light up my plantar fascia without fail (I can run easily 10 miles barefoot). It took me 2 years to adapt totally to BF running but now it is second nature and running with any sort of footwear is actually not comfortable any more.

    All I can say is that it takes time to readjust. The reward for me has been that I can finally run without experiencing the knee and hip troubles that have been trouble for me before BF running.

  49. September 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Sorry about that, thought I would have to log in…. Anyway, I have been teased most of my life for always having dirty feet, constantly going barefoot at my age now and still now, almost 50. This year suddenly when I would put my runners on my feet, I would get this horrible evil pain in the big toe joint and my knee. The painwas literally instsnt, like walking from the front door to the car!!I could not walk and had to remove the shoes. I don’t even know how I stumbled on the barefoot running kick, but had decided to start to run again for my health. Well, I kicked off my shoes and went. Noticed some good calcanous and talus pain tho.

    I suffer from fibromyalgia and just want to run to get rid of my ailments. Has anyone had this specific ankle pain?? I noticed it first this season when water skiing the course. It seems to happen when running as well.

    So to make the hubby happy and compromise, I bought s pair of soft sole moccasins for running, they feel great!!! He is worried I will step on broken glass.
    I can skip rope in them also. I had read about making ur own leather llined sock runners and felt that these where a better instant alternative. If I run on grass or sand, I go barefoot, but on hard surfaces or dirt trails, I use the mocs.

  50. Ioan Popovici
    September 4, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Hi all,

    I have recently transitioned to minimal shoes. I got the Minimus 10 Trail from New Balance and I could not be happier. For me the transition was effortless, I was told to ease in to them as I could risk injury but I haven’t had the slightest problem since I’ve begun with minimal running.
    The only problem is that I’ve just ran a Marathon, 38 km with 3200m climb on the most rocky, treacherous, technical terrain you could think of and the shoes didn’t take it so well. 2 sole pods fell off and I had to glue back some other 5 pods.
    I feel great, no pains no strains no nothing, the ground feel and stability are fantastic and I don’t remember feeling this good after a marathon but I don’t think that this shoes can take more than 2-3 competitions.

    So what am I to do? Buy 3 pairs per season? The salomon trail comp I still have, battered and teared as they are now lasted about 1300 km. I don’t expect this pair to last more than 400 km on this kind of terrain.

    Bear foot running is not an option for me because of the roughness of the terrain I run on!

    Does anyone know a better option for minimal running shoes? Because I’m not going back to normal shoes ever!

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