5 Tips to Start ‘Barefooting’

Barefoot Running on a Grass Wheel

Photo Courtesy bamakve

When you think of someone running barefoot, you might think “I could never do that, my feet are too _____”. (fill in your reason here)

The fact of the matter is YOU too can run, hike, dance, walk (even mosey if the mood were to strike) barefoot! Now, I’m not a trainer nor an MD, listen to your body and go slow, that’s the key. But if you’re ready to get started then read on.

Here are 5 tips to get you ‘barefooting’ safely in no-time:

  1. Go barefoot whenever you can. At home, in the garden, in the office (if you can), playing with the kids, taking the pooch for his daily walk. The more your feet rediscover what they’re capable of, the better your feet will feet and so will your soul.
  2. Stop and think. Even I catch myself about to put on my flip-flops (I live in Florida) before heading out the door with our lab. Stop and think, “do I really need those stinkin’ shoes to go?”. Sure, certain social or public situations require them, as do certain environmental conditions. Just take 5 seconds a think if you can manage without shoes, if you can, go for it!
  3. Start slow, but start. If you’re a runner you have a great opportunity to run lighter, faster, injury-free and even discover a new running outlook. But don’t ditch those sneaks and go unshod without a plan. Well, you can but your calves will hurt, the feet will tingle, and you may be sore in where you’ve never been sore before. When running in shoes (Barefoot 101) the muscles in your feet have been asleep for a very long time. Be patient as they strengthen over time. For the average runner that means 5-10 minutes of barefoot running on pavement per run for the first little while.
  4. Let go of the stigma. Isn’t it ironic how ‘going barefoot’ has negative social stereotypes; while gymnasts, dancers, martial artists and other pro’s depend on their naked feet. Why the taboo of being naked from the ankle down? So the next time you feel uncertain of going barefoot, just remember that you’re doing the right thing for your body. And if someone asks, just say your feet need a workout.
  5. Listen to your feet. No different than those aches your body may feel after a killer gym session, long training run, hardcore trail ride, or showing off your skills on the ski hill. As you introduce barefoot running or walking into your training, you’ll notice that shorter than usual runs will cause muscle and arch tenderness. Don’t plan on that Sunday morning 15 miler training dash for at least 3-4 weeks. Don’t force it. You’re awakening, straining and training muscles that have been asleep for a long time. At the same time, those ‘comfy’ shoes have thinned your soles and strengthening of them will take time, again, patience.

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An instigator and barefoot runner since 2002.

3 Responses to “5 Tips to Start ‘Barefooting’”

  1. September 2, 2010 at 3:09 am #

    Great advice! I deffinitley agree that one of the main tricks is to start off slow… so many people jump right in, get injured and then give up! I’d also recommend maybe starting off by wearing minimalist or barefoot shoes – giving your feet protection whilst also allowing you to start getting used to the world without extra cushioning!

  2. Danika
    December 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I am in day three of running in very thin, flat canvas shoes. Since it is now winter in Northern Ontario, barefoot anything is out of the question! I thought I was taking it slow on day one and two, but still managed to trash my calves. I had to shuffle around for three days before I could put the canvas back on and try again. I agree with all the tingling of the feet, and soreness of calves, but the great wonder is that my other 27 years of running injuries are NOT bothering me. I am having to intentionally run without slamming my heel down, even in very thin (1/4″) shoes. Sometimes I can’t tell how my foot is striking. Do you have any advice or linked articles for a New, Newbie like me?
    Sore but very encouraged


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