Barefoot Running is Bad For You! - Xero Shoes

Barefoot Running is Bad For You!

Ever since Chris McDoguall’s book, Born to Run, became popular (interestingly, long after it came out), the debate about barefoot running has become heated.

There was no big argument when Zola Budd ran barefoot, or when Abebe Bikila won the marathon without shoes, or when Ron Hill competed in the Mexico City Olympics in “the lightest shoes I could find.”

But once “regular folk” started kicking off their kicks, it’s become a rhetorical battlefield out there — the converts touting the great benefits of barefoot running, and the critics assuring everyone that taking off your running shoes is akin to playing Russian Roulette.

Then the Harvard study came out, showing that when you run barefoot, you adjust your stride to put less stress on your body. And, right on the heels of it (pun intended), came editorials about how running barefoot is the worst thing you could do… though, most of those editorials came from people who own or work for shoe companies or shoe sellers.

Yesterday, someone forwarded me an email saying “Well, I’ve seen people who tried running barefoot and they got injured! I’ve seen people during marathons, sitting on the side of the road in their Vibram Five Fingers, crying in pain!”

(Of course, right after, I got an email from an Xero Shoes huaraches running sandal owner, raving about how old running injuries they used to have are gone now that they’re out of shoes, but let’s ignore that for a moment.)

Mark Plaatjes, world champion marathon runner, physical therapist, and co-owner of the Boulder Running Company, has said that he doesn’t think most people have the correct body type for running barefoot.

Road Runner Sports sent out an email saying, “Well, if you run barefoot, you could step on something and really screw yourself up!” (that’s not the actual quote, which I’m too lazy to look up, but the gist of what they warned).

The Vancouver Sun recently published an article, like dozens of others like it, claiming that running barefoot was dangerous, and the proof was the opinion of some doctors.

What amazes me about this back and forth nonsense is how enraged the anti-barefoot gang is getting, and how they’ve thrown out not only their logic and critical thinking skills, but how they’ve ignored what every well-known barefoot running coach has advised.

So let’s address some of the issues, as quickly as possible (which isn’t hard, since the arguments are simple).

If you memorize these answers (or print out this article and have a copy in your back pocket), you can save yourself the frustration and/or humiliation of arguing with some Know-It-All who tries to talk you out of running barefoot

  1. Assertion: Barefoot running will give you plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, ingrown hair, or male-pattern balding (or any other injury). Response: Runners in SHOES get the same injuries! Thoes problems, when they occur are not from “barefoot running”, they’re from OVERUSE.If someone you knew when to the gym for the first time, and did the workout that Arnold Schwarzenegger used in his Mr. Olympia days, they’d end up with all manner of injuries, soreness and overall inability-to-move-for-days-ness. But nobody would scream from the rooftops, “Weight lifting is bad for you!” They would say, to that individual, “Dude, you did too much too soon. Scale WAY back and build up to that slowly.”Clearly, the cure for overuse is UNDERuse.  Do less. The only problem is that the only way to know how much you can really handle, is by doing too much… until you’ve done that enough and gotten the hint.I will concede though, that barefoot running form may have an overuse bias built into it, and that’s because the motion of absorbing shock is like doing “negatives” in the gym, doing more eccentric contractions of the muscle. With “negatives,” instead of contracting a muscle to move a weight, you try to resist as the weight pulls against you (think about a bench press in reverse — instead of pushing the weight from your  chest, you try to keep a heavy weight from dropping onto your chest). We are much stronger in the eccentric direction, and it doesn’t give the same kind of “burn” you get from the concentric movement… but the next day, you realize you’ve done WAY too much work. This is similar to why walking DOWN a mountain feels fine at the time, but the next day you realize — due to the massive soreness — that it was harder than walking UP the mountain.

    Nonetheless, it’s possible to get smart enough not to over train… just takes some practice.

  2. Assertion: Some people aren’t built to go barefoot. Response: Not only is there no evidence for this, but what the barefoot running coaches all say is that by running barefoot you develop the skills, strength, and form that allow you to run barefoot.Now, there’s not any hard science behind that argument, YET, either (some researchers are working on it)… but, come on, which makes more sense: That someone is physically unable to run barefoot or in minimalist running shoes (the way humans have run for hundreds of thousands of years), but is absolutely fine in shoes… or that, due to lack of use, they may need to build up the strength before they can run barefoot. Besides, the only reason they would be okay in shoes and not barefoot, is because they’ve transferred the stress that the muscles and tendons and ligaments would have to deal with  if they were barefooted (and get stronger by doing so) into the bones and joints.Again, the message is, Go slowly! (seeing a pattern here?)
  3. Assertion: You could step on something or, worse, IN something! Response: Yeah, so?  But: a) How bad would it REALLY be?; b) How often is this REALLY a problem, or are you just imagining it happening without knowing the actual numbers?; c) Are these injuries worse than the various problems people have in shoes?; d) If you do step in poo… which is easier to hose off: your feet or a waffle-soled shoe? This argument, of course, cracks me up since I offer a solution on this website — get some huaraches barefoot running shoes and you’ll add a HUGE (but thin) layer of protection with a barefoot feel.I have to back up to the “stepping in poo” idea, because I just got a call from someone who said they were worried that’s what they would do if they were walking around barefoot.

    “When’s the last time you stepped in poo?” I asked. “About 20 years ago,” the poo-fearer answered.

    “Then what makes you think you’ll suddenly start doing it now?” I asked. “Ohh…,” said the former poo-fearer.

    By the way, I’m a bigger fan of running sandals rather than Vibram Five Fingers, or Nike Free, or the other minimalist running shoes not because I sell Xero Shoes, but because sandals feel more like barefoot. The VFFs actually have quite a bit of support, the Nike Free have a big thick heel, and anything with an upper that covers your toes… well, it covers your toes.

  4. Assertion: Doctors say they’re seeing more patients with injuries who are running barefoot. Response: First of all, doctors said the same thing 40 years ago when running shoes became popular. Secondly, doctors are not seeing the people who are not having problems running barefoot… because those people don’t go to doctors. In other words, if you don’t know the total number of people who are running barefoot, seeing an uptick in patients is a meaningless statistic. Third, I’ve never met a doctor who asked their injured patient, “So, are you running barefoot or in something like a Vibram Fivefinger shoe?” (hint, most people who say they’re running barefoot have never put their bare skin on the ground, or worn something as minimalist as Xero Shoes.). Fourth, I’ve never met a doctor who has said to their patient, “Let’s take a look at some slow-motion video of your running and see if the real problem is your form, and not your footwear or lack thereof.”

Finally, what cracks me up about the anti-barefoot gang is the simple denial of the numbers. That is, there are a LOT of people taking off their shoes without a problem. WAY MORE, it seems, than those who have any of the easy-to-solve overuse issues. You don’t end up with a movement like the barefoot running movement without a high percentage of happy converts. This alone should, but doesn’t, temper their argument.

And, again, the answer couldn’t be simpler: Oh, if you’re going to try barefoot running, you may need to go WAY slower than you thought, you’ll have to learn to listen to your body in a way you haven’t, you’ll need time to build up strength to let you handle the same distances you may now be running, and you may want to get something to give your sole a bit of protection. Enjoy.

  • Zach Bergen

    FEAR FEAR FEAR Based people! Talk about losing touch with the essence of being human. Withdrawal and distancing from life is a metaphor for tension and the fear/pain response. Opening and allowing and becoming more in touch with experience is the catch phrase of barefoot. Returning to innocence is well worth it.
    C’mon people: get real. Do you know yourself/trust yourself anymore? We are talking about walking and running. Not some new big pharma drug. It is natural. Sure if you foot has been trapped in a shoe for many years, then it will take however long it takes for your foot to become a foot again after being an desensitized stub for so long. But is that any reason not to love your feet and let them love you back? All people of honor, I am calling you now! Become part of the barefoot revolution! If you are shy, then start with wearing socks. Then transition to flip flops. Then one day you’ll gain the extraordinary courage to….yes….I dare say…totally BAREFOOT!

  • frederic

    Even I’m not barefoot runner, thank you for the common sense that this text offer to read.

  • Kelly

    I’ve had friends call me crazy for running barefoot and my general love of going with as little as possible on my feet (I’ll admit, it’s only been an obsession for the past year, but once I discovered what I had been missing – there was no looking back).

    I’ve heard all the arguments but it’s mostly from people who don’t want to go barefoot and can’t admit that wearing shoes might not be a necessity.

    I love my VFFs but I also REALLY love my huaraches too. VFFs are useful when I’m at work (it’s casual but not that casual) and I wear my huaraches whenever I’m out and about and can’t be barefoot.

    Steven is right, huaraches feel much closer to being barefoot than VFFs. My feet don’t get hot and sweat like they do in the VFFs either.

    If you don’t have a pair already – give it a try. They’re cheaper than the VFFs and, IMHO, better.

    Kelly

  • gary

    when i shaved my head and covered myself in tatoos i went about daily life as normal,nobody ever gave me a sideways look, i am as normal as the next person.as soon as i took off my shoes i couldn’t run down the road without some comment or people crossing the road to avoid the escaped lunatic,I LIKE IT!i find it amusing that such a small thing can cause such a wide range of reactions.i especially like the way “regular runners” give a look between amazement and utter disapproval.the thing is it’s my choice,i enjoy to run now where as before it had become a bit of a chore,i feel that it’s a good thing for me i’m not going to try and force anyone to do it but i’ll always offer encouragement to anyone who fancies giving it a go,you never know they might actually enjoy it!
    Gary.

  • http://adventuresinwoodworking.com Eric

    If a shod runner gets an ITB injury or plantar fasciitis, and are out of commission for months or longer, people don’t even bat an eye. “It’s just part of the territory,” they say.

    But if a barefoot runner gets a [rare] cut or even a blister, people seem quick to point their fingers and say, “HA! That’s what you get.” Never mind that the barefoot runner is back on the road in days, if that.

    I don’t really expect this to change.

  • Ray

    As with all things it depends on how things are done. It is not like you are going to discard your shoes cold turkey. I am working my way through to barefoot by using the running sandal. Barefoot would work only on a soft safe surface. Running the streets are not recommended. Minimalist footwear like the running sandal is the most prudent choice

  • Oscar

    Isn’t it up to the shoe manufactures to prove that their shoes actually reduces injuries? And not the other way around?

  • Ray

    Just received the lastest Traning and Conditioning journal. The title article is “Baring Their Soles, The many benefits of barefoot training”. It is an excellent article on the pros and cons to barefoot training. A quoted study indicated that humans will be less careful with their foot mechanics when the footwear utilizes advanced technology.

  • Ray

    Picked up the Army Times at a local event. There is a great article on running barefoot in the Off Duty part of the magazine. I forwarded the writer information on the running sandal since he did not reference them in the article. Maybe he will do a follow-up later.

  • Steven Sashen

    Thanks, Ray. I was looking for a place to comment about that article, but it didn’t occur to me to contact the writer! DUH! ;-)

  • B

    The “Anti-barefoot Gang”? Way to tear down that straw man. Seriously? A “Gang?” Obviously a company that sells shoes wants you to BUY their shoes. I’d would have thought you knew that… you sell shoes, right? Sorry, Invisible Shoes.

    As a potential customer (Im reading this site right?), I find your attacks offensive. I wear shoes when I run, I have a couple great pairs of Nikes and Asics which I have run marathons in, hmmmm, no injuries…

    Now, you may argue that people have been drinking the Nike KoolAid for the past 30 years, and I can’t say you’re right or wrong, but if running barefoot was the best way to run, wouldn’t people nearly universally be running barefoot by now?

    Other than Abebe Bikila, who as you say “won the marathon” – name ONE world record in ANY footrace set without shoes. Track runs, road runs, trail runs, etc. Humans have not slowed down since we started buying and wearing running shoes. I think I’ll go with the experts and the results.

    I’d like to try running barefoot, seems like there’s a lot of good that can be had, however I’m not an idiot or gang member. Just someone who loves to run.

  • Steven Sashen

    Hi Bruce.

    I can’t imagine you actually think I believe there’s a “gang” and that I wasn’t just being a bit hyperbolic in referring to some of the barefoot critics mentioned earlier (and implying others that I didn’t highlight)? ;-) (re-reading this I realize that I sometimes use the word “gang” without any negative connotation; just as a synonym for “group”)

    I’m not sure that I was “attacking” anyone (though I was confronting certain people’s arguments) or why, since I don’t know you and wasn’t writing about you, you would be personally offended. I never called you or anyone else an “idiot” as you implied.

    I can certainly understand that you may disagree with any or all of the points I made (or how I made them, or whether I made them well or not). In many ways, the whole point of this post was to bring the various points to light and continue with the conversation.

    That said, I don’t believe that people have been “drinking the Nike KoolAid”, nor do I think shoes are inherently the cause of injuries, nor do I think barefoot running is the best way to run in all circumstances. I’m a sprinter and there’s no way I could do that without my spikes (I do all my other training either barefoot or in running sandals, though). I also don’t think that comparing Olympians to “normal” humans is necessarily useful (even though I sort of did at the top of the post).

    So, despite any reaction you had to my post, I hope that you do try running barefoot and see what you experience. Do keep in mind, though, the big admonition: START WAAAAAY SLOWER than you think you need to (both in terms of speed and distance), and give yourself plenty of time to rest, recover, and strengthen.

  • C

    B – you miss the point entirely. Barefoot running is BETTER, not necessarily FASTER. Elite athletes have been breaking speed and time records with shoes for a hundred years. African tribesmen have been travelling hundreds of kilometres a day barefoot on long hunts for possibly thousands of years. People HAVE been running universally barefoot. They’ve been doing it to survive, not to set records and aim for bits of metal hanging around their necks.

  • Ashley

    I stumbled upon an anti-barefoot running website yesterday and couldn’t figure out why the guy was so very angry. I looked for some sort of “my horrible experience with barefoot running” post but couldn’t find anything of the sort. Just a whole lotta name calling and anger towards those who choose to run without shoes. I don’t understand the hostility. No one is making anyone do anything they don’t want to.

  • Donna

    I’ve come back to running, having stopped about 10 years ago because of my knees. because of barefoot running. It’s not the going barefoot, it’s that going barefoot makes me use my core muscles, makes my stride correct–basically it makes me run “correctly” so that running is fun again and my knees don’t hurt! But, every article and everybody says GO SLOWLY, which is hard because running becomes fun. My question is–my endurance is increasing faster than what my barefeet can handle, so do I just keep my distances short until my feet catch up to my endurance or succumb to buying some minimalist shoes?

    • Steven

      Going slowly is definitely the hard part… use your feet/sensations as a guide. If it hurts, STOP. If you think, “Should I stop?” STOP. If you think, “Ah, I’ll be okay for another half a mile,” STOP.

      Minimalist shoes might let you go farther, but it depends on what surfaces you’re already running on. Huaraches don’t eliminate the need for your feet to catch up to your desires — bad form in huaraches, or any other minimalist shoe, leads to any/all of the issues that bad form barefoot does.

      And once you start adding more padding (even the extra padding on the heel and ball of the foot that the Vibram Five Fingers have), you lose the feedback that tells you what “enough” is (as well as the feedback that tells you what “good form” is).

  • http://www.stewartdesign.com Five Toed Sloth

    I have been running in Vibrams since January, and Huaraches just recently. “Bad knees” and “weak ankles” and lower back pain made even low-mileage running really painful, until I read about running Barefoot and decided to try it.

    I love running again, I’m up to 5 pain-free miles, and most importantly, my knees, ankles, and back are loving me right back. Absolutely ZERO back or knee pain, I can touch my toes for the first time in my life (longer achilles now), and I have yet to roll my ankle like I did with regularity in my Brooks Adrenalines. The worst that’s happened is really sore calves early on, and blisters from my brief barefoot attempts.

    I don’t even care if there are any more studies proving anything one way or the other. My body has given me all the evidence I need: the lower the heel, the better I feel. And the better I run. I can’t see ever going back to thick padded shoes again. It’s been a real eye-opener for me.

    Strangers will always look at you like you’re crazy, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. Worse is the friends who know the whole story and STILL think you’re crazy. I think the anti-barefoot backlash I am experiencing with some of my friends has more to do with my born-again zeal than with my shoes. It’s VERY easy to make the leap that because minimal shoes have done wonders for my own health, that it’ll do the same for everyone else’s. The assumption that their way is worse than yours is what’s so grating.

    Considering I’m not in the slightest religious, and get really irritated when someone tries to preach their gospel to me, I can totally see where they’re coming from. I’m now taking a new tactic of actively avoiding talking about it, unless asked a direct question.

    I never felt so much in common with the holy rollers before. A truly weird situation to be in.

  • JMH

    Honestly, I think there’s a sliver of truth in the “some people aren’t built to barefoot run”, but the reason is pretty terrible. Like the chinese used to “train” their girls feet to be small, we train our children’s feet for shoes. We were put in shoes nearly from the time we were born, and our feet are highly deformed because of it. You can tell, by looking at those same cultures who go barefoot all the time. Or the trouble country kids can have finding shoes that fit. Our baby toes are *not* supposed to be that tiny, but they were smooshed into growing that way.
    That said, it’s hardly a deal breaker in nearly all cases. You won’t run/walk as well as you could’ve, but it’s still very doable and feet never stop growing unlike most parts of your body, so you can recover some. It’s better than the terrible gait shoes force you into for sure.

  • ridgewayrob

    I am nursing an achilles tendon, due to stepping off a top porch step one too many times to avoid my four dogs anxious behavior that occurs when I step out the door to run. It is killing me to take time off from running. I want to be running barefoot on my beloved rural country backroads with my canine pack in the early dawn hours.
    I had tight hamstrings that literally pulled my hips out of alinement when running in shoes. No shoes, no problems.

  • http://www.akertoys.com Adan Akerman

    Hi all,

    This is a fascinating discussion. Thanks, Steven, for hosting and moderating it.

    Since reading Born to Run last year, I’ve read a lot of these online arguments. I totally agree with “Five Toed Sloth.” People are shockingly quick to think that one person’s decision to run or walk barefoot is an indictment of everyone else’s decision to wear shoes. I think “B” and his/her emotional post above is a great example of this. An evolutionary psychologist could probably explain this phenomenon in terms of “consensus seeking” or some such, but I’m not that person.

    My Invisible Shoe kit arrived yesterday (very soon after I ordered it), and I’ve already got my huaraches assembled. They’re a fantastic footwear option, and I’m so proud I played some part in their creation. I hope nobody sees me wearing these and thinks I’m criticizing any of their life decisions.

    All the best, -Adan

  • http://timothychenallen.blogspot.com Timothy Chen Allen

    I’m with Gary; I kind of like people telling me I’m crazy. The first time I ran home barefoot from work I had kids pointing and yelling– amazing how colorful the language if our youth has become! I like that I’m expanding peoples’ concepts of what is possible when one is crazy enough to try new things!

  • Margaret

    Since I started doing barefoot training, I have suddenly developed an arch in my feet. Good bye expensive orthotics!

    • Steven

      Same thing happened to me!

  • Shannon

    I’m very interested in the idea of barefoot running, but have always needed the most padded shoes available because of my bad joints- specifically, hips and knees. How is it possible to run on hard, unnatural surfaces like roads and sidewalks without that padding? Doesn’t it have to be bad for your bones and tendons?

    Running barefoot was natural when we ran on grass and trail, and obviously I prefer that, but it’s certainly not always possible. Can someone explain how we can run on man- made surfaces without worsening problems in the joints?

    • Steven

      The reason you can run on hard surfaces barefoot and not hurt your joints is that your body adjusts to the surface that you’re running on. The recent Harvard study shows that when you put people in padded shoes, they land harder, and with more force on the joints than when you’re barefoot.

      When you don’t have shoes on, you don’t land with rigid joints so the force doesn’t transfer through them in the same way. Instead you land on bent ankles, knees and hips, and you use more of your muscles, ligaments and tendons. That’s why, in fact, people new to barefoot running report getting sore or tired much faster than they thought they might — they’re using their soft tissues in ways they haven’t for years, if ever.

      And, the reason that a hard surface is the best, in the opinion of most the barefoot runners I know, is that you get the most feedback about how good your form is… which leads you to adjust to a more natural, lighter, easier style more quickly.

  • Jon

    I have just started going barefoot and running in huaraches and I know when to ease up a bit so I don’t get injured. I have never felt better while running even when the soles of my feet get a little tender, which they still do. Having said that, I don’t understand arguments against going barefoot and how barefooting got such a negetive stigma.

    I CANNOT WAIT TO RUN MY FIRST TRIATHLON BAREFOOTED!!

  • BobL

    The problem is, our society is so friggin’ performance obsessed. I gotta get 10 miles. I gotta get under 7 minutes per. I gotta, I gotta, I gotta. Enough already!

    So what if you have to go slower or shorter barefoot! Why are we all running in the first place? To win races? Hardly. To eat lots of cheese enchiladas and stay thin? Maybe, though there are other approaches for that. What if – perish the thought – we were running simply because we enjoy it?

    I started barefoot about three weeks ago because my running had become very stale and I needed something new. My feet have never complained at all, other than some rough surfaces, and I’ve overdone training – resulting in sore Achilles tendons. Not because I had to reach a milestone, but because it honestly felt really good to run barefoot on a concrete bike trail. So now (thanks to this site), I’ll take a day or two off.

    I look forward to running again. What’s that worth?

  • Luke

    I had to stop running after a marathon and bike training because of bad knee pain swelling and Itb problems, the knee pain turned out to be runners knee! I started running again gradual in my shoes with insoles as advised after month off, could only manage few minutes and still knee pain. Rest again 2-3days then another attempt but still progressive pain. I thought my years of running were over! Got disheartened and depressed! Started reading born to run that I hadn’t picked up yet and became more intrigued about barefoot and these sandals…after a month of transition into barefoot and two weeks in VFF I have adapted very well, no more calf strain or sore soles very little blistering (been lucky must have tough feet already hehe) I’m lovin it…. Guess wot this past week my knee pain has dissapeared completely, ached bit to start but now nothing!!! I’m so pleased and even went on a longer run which felt great, I so missed them. I’m still sticking to gradual and my sandals arrived at weekend so am looking forward to trying these this week. I love the feeling of almost barefoot and how I land on my forefoot not my heels, I can see in the mirror how different I run now and it just comes naturally I don’t think I could put trainers on again lol I don’t even like wearing my shoes fullstop! I do laugh at the comments but most peeps are pleased I’m in no pain anymore and can see I’m alot more happy again as I was getting so down with all my injuries. I’m sticking this out and will keep my fingers crossed ;)

  • http://www.raw-coaching.com Lawrence

    I did too much barefoot running too soon and paid the price as I put too much pressure on my hamstrings. I foolishly believed that just because my body is used to running in shoes, it would happily run the same distance without them. Now that my body has adjusted everything is fine.

  • http://Unclealbertscookies@cox.net John

    Started barefoot running/ hiking after reading Born To Run about three weeks now. I love the feel of a free foot but
    living in Gilbert Az. need protection from the hot ground
    after 9 am. Recently discovered aqua shoes as an alternative to anything else. They have a thin sole, offer some upper foot protection but still seem to get a little hot.
    A good cheap starting point for newbe-barefooters.
    toe protection
    some total protection

  • MarineMonkey

    What is upsetting about the barefoot running argument that has sprung up around “Born to Run” is that it is clouding the base position of the novel: running is an inexpensive and natural way for humans to experience the world! When misguided by the “you must run barefoot” rule, the position is lost.

    What should be stressed is that RUNNING IS GREAT and barefoot running is a great way that you can allow your body to re-learn sensitivity to form and environmental factors. Five Toed Sloth is right on: dont bring it up. Let your obvious joy speak for itself! If people ask, dont prescribe, just describe your experience.

    I love this site as a forum for discussion, as we are up against 2 generations of million dollar advertising campaigns for corporate dependancy. I hope that the focus remains on the joy of living and running instead of the fight to prove the shod wrong.

    • Steven

      I totally agree, MM.

      Last night, Lena and I saw Chris McDougall at a book signing here in Boulder. Someone asked why she should try barefoot running if she had no problems in shoes. Unfortunately, the answer that *didn’t* pop into his mind (or out of his mouth) could have been: Because it’s REALLY fascinating and fun. The information you get from your feet when you’re barefoot is unlike shoes in a way that can’t be described.

      I like to tell the story about how I never run more than 100m at a time (that’s my competitive distance)… but on my 2nd barefoot run, I was so fascinated by the feelings and information in my feet, that I ran a 5k and didn’t even know it!

  • http://Unclealbertscookies@cox.net John

    That’s a good story Steve.

  • MarineMonkey

    Without specifically training, just going out and enjoying running in huaraches while focusing on proper form and technique, i was able to drop 13 seconds off of my 880m run (in combat boots). I was able to focus on proper form even while running in the boots (that have a nice 3 inch heel). I have always been a strong runner so I was not expecting such vast improvements in just one month of fun-running with the sandals! What a fine surprise!

  • Matt

    I actually have almost an inability to take my time running barefoot. I just get excited and pop out a 7 minute mile or two, and then realize I was supposed to try and run 3-4 at a nice slow pace.

    Also, I am a guy, but running barefoot makes you a lot better at wearing high heels

    • Steven

      It is hard to run slow when you’re having fun ;-)

  • Drazub

    My introduction to barefoot running came when I was a hippy in my youth. I went everywhere in bare feet and often used to break into a run for the hell of it. As I got older, the necessity of earning money put my feet firmly into shoes (although it wasn’t until someone suggested I wear socks to cure my cold feet in winter that I realised what fantastic things they were). Now beginning to stare the big six zero in the face, my feet are far too wide for anything other than Crocs, flip flops or Vibrams – with a bunion as well. For me, the human body works best doing what it was designed to do. It also works best using the fuel it was designed to use. Just logic.

  • karen

    Just the sheer joy of running in my huaraches….1st time out, I ran twice as far…..and didn’t care how fast but just that I could keep going. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

  • Joel

    What trips me out the most is that folks of the shoe or die movement have most likely gone thru an onslaught of different shoes for pronatinators sulpinators heel bangers ect… Where shoe companies have spent billions in R N D developing shoes that “mimic” being barefoot and over look that. Going thru those shoes my self I’d have those same people tell me try this try that oh you need trail shoes your not stretching your not meant to run you have biomechanical problems you were born that way I finally gave up till I talked to my mom and she told me that people in our family had ran on tire sandals or barefoot and never had problems that she knew of so I looked into it I figured well from what I read and from an evolutionary and religious perspective that we are made to be barefoot so it’s worth a shot I couldn’t possible to be in any more pain little did I know that path I took with out shoes would lead me to a path of less pain I’ve passed this on to others I’ve come across and it seems to be the same with each person

  • Joel

    Hey b keep in mind that we might not all know how fast we ran 10000 years ago how ever archeologist have shown that the distances we traveled have come down drasticly the bushmen and raramuri travel marathon and ultra marathons daily with out the technology and with out stretching. As humans we typically go with the new and hippist technology even when it came down to our tools and weapons many many years ago one easier made item would be dropped for a more complex one and so forth century after century. Even now people are so eager to buy the new model when the old one does the same thing just as well. Look at the hybrid we dumped an electric car that uses no gas for one that does where there are diesel cars that get better milage then the hybrid but how many clean diesel cars do you see out there how many hybrid diesels do you see. Just because the masses chose one method doesn’t make it the right one if that was the case the world would be a much different place.

  • Nadine D

    It’s amazing what kind of feedback I’ve received. Not from my feet and the ground :), but from non-runners. I’ve run 15 marathons, and after I just completed my first trail marathon in VFFs (I’m waiting for my huaraches kit, right now, should be coming today!!!!!!) I get comments all the time from non-runners about how bad minimalist shoes are for my feet, and how they couldn’t believe I ran a marathon in VFFs. I sometimes tell people how I can’t believe their feet do not hurt from their ill-fitting shoes and weak feet muscles. I’m thinking more time equals more acceptance. One lady did tell me to bling out my VFFS with rhinestones. Steven, do take note, maybe you should offer rhinestone-infused vibram soles. :)

    • Steven

      Well, not rhinestones… but just wait ;-)

  • Jojo

    With shoes : I could not run at all due to a torn meniscus and runners knee.

    With out shoes: i can run a half marathon with no pain at all.

    It takes a long time to get your legs and feet strong enough for this. (At least 4 months, *at least*)

    Barefoot style running is not for the impatient and that is why I think so many are turned away.

    One can’t just buy the solution instantly, and that is what we are used to in this culture.

    Bare-footing takes a lot of time to prepare for. But trust us it is so so so so worth it to be able to run everyday and have your knees actually feeling stronger. Not to mention an overall sense of being more conscious about your body and what it is telling you ( ground feedback, nutritional needs, sleep needs)

    The reason we are so passionate about running bare foot is because it is so great. we are trying to help those that have not found it on their own. We are ,as humans, all on the same team. We are not trying to prove that we are right, we are trying to help fellow humans. So if you believe in shoes and want to stay that way, that is fine and you can run with me any day.
    I go slow though, and listen to my body. It is a lot easier to go slow and smell the roses when you absolutely love to run and aren’t just rushing to get through a workout.

    Abebe Bikila won the Olympic marathon in 1960 with………. that’s right, bare feet. For me running for time is sacrilege but if you need that kind of proof to open your eyes, then there is the proof. you can read it on the net you can watch the marathon on you tube.

    Look for me running I am the smiling guy who looks really happy!

  • http://www.barefootmamainmaine.blogspot.com Barefoot Mama

    I agree JOJO. I love to run! Barefoot running allows me to enjoy running. Nothing better than setting off on an early morning run in the rain and splashing through every puddle! Whoo hoo! If you can find a way to get out there and run or walk, with or without shoes, isn’t that the important thing. I don’t think there is a right or wrong, in regards to shoes or no shoes. I think everyone has a right to choose how they arrive at their destination… I just choose to arrive there barefoot. And Nadine D I’ve used my VFF in many trail runs and a few ultra’s and love them…am very excited to try the huaraches.

  • Bill

    I love the feel of barefoot running and hope to get some huaraches for Christmas…but…I will reinforce the concern about overuse. I changed my stride about 16mo ago to a barefoot style (forefoot strike vs. heal) and added VFF to my routine on a weekly basis. No arch, knee or back pain since the change. My longest run in the VFF is 10 mi off road. Only problem is that I was doing speed work in the VFFs and broke the cartilage at the base of toe 2 and 3….healed up fine, but this reinforces to go slow, especially on rough surfaces. Be smart.

  • Zoë

    I love my VFFs. They’ve totally re-invigorated my workout. I couldn’t run much before (1-2 miles max. in Nike Shox with orthotics), and the day after I’d have horrible plantar fasciitis pain no matter what, plus discomfort in my ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Since wearing VFFs for workouts (INSANITY, gym machines of all sorts, jogging, bicycling) I have had NO pain in my feet, ankles, knees and hips AT ALL. I’m totally sold on the minimalist footwear idea, and I’ve bought 3 kits of huaraches for myself, my husband and my son for Christmas. People give me funny looks when they see my VFFs at work or out and about, but they’re more curious than derogatory. I think I’ll be putting up my used Nikes on Ebay soon!

  • Eshan

    Sorry to burst the positive bubble here, but I have a problem. A few actually.
    My main problem with my Huaraches is a very intense pain on the outside of my left foot when the most weight is on that foot in midstride. I’ve been running in minimal shoes for about a year now, and greatly support the barefoot/ minimal movmnt. This pain is leaving me stumped, though. It’s tolerable during low intensity runs, but very uncomfortable. I can’t imagine that this is a result of a weak muscle in my foot as I have been doing barefoot excersizes for years. A for my stride, I videotaped it, and it looks every bit as correct as it is written and shown on the Internet. The is mch less if I land with a flat foot (e.g., notion the outside of my foot an rolling in.
    Forgive any spelling or grammar errors, I’m writing this on an iPhone at midnight.

    • Steven

      You haven’t burst any bubbles, but you do seem to be pointing to the solution to your problem: land more flat-footed. Or, simply, land differently than you are.
      There’s no such thing as “correct” form — if you watch 10 different barefoot runners (including those of us who teach it), you’ll see 10 variations. There’s not only no need to compare yourself to others, but there’s no way to. In fact, put the SAME runner on different surfaces, or at different speeds, and you’ll see different form.
      I, for example, do not land on the outside of my foot… but that’s just me.
      And, fwiw, in the same way that running on a treadmill is very different than running on the ground, barefoot exercises do not translate to barefoot running… at least not 100%.
      So, all that said, my suggestion is this: experiment with different strides/foot strikes — SLOWLY at first, and only for a short distance — and see if you can find ANY way that doesn’t hurt.
      Try landing more on the ball of your foot and then letting your heel drop, for example, or doing what you already said: landing more flat-footed. See what happens if you lean forward a TINY bit from the ankles (which *should* get your feet further under your body).
      All of these are not really suggestions as much as hints/cues — clearly, I’d have something different to suggest if I could see you actually running. In lieu of that, all I can do is toss out some ideas about ways you can vary your stride/strike.
      Suffice it to say, I’ve yet to meet one person who had any sort of trouble barefoot or in huaraches that wasn’t able to eliminate that problem with a (usually minor) change in form (90+% of the time due to overstriding).

  • Ragan Masterson

    About running on pavement…

    I have recently started running in the huaraches that I made with a kit from this web site. I have been running on a paved pedestrian path so far since the woodland trails are so muddy right now. I have not found it jarring at all. It feels so natural and light. You HAVE to run softly, your feet tell you to!

    From my perspective, barefoot running is MUCH gentler on my body. I had been kicked in my left knee by a horse about 12 years ago and suffered a broken patella. I have had ongoing knee problems ever since and took up cycling as a lower impact way to exercise. I thought I
    would never be able to run comfortably again. I decided to try barefoot running after reading ‘Born to Run’ but it’s cold and wet here in the Pacific Northwest this time of year so the sandals seemed like the perfect compromise.

    I started slowly and recently worked my way up to 3 miles in my sandals. The only pain I have suffered is the muscle tightness in my calves and ankles from adjusting to the new gait. My stride is so much softer that my knee didn’t bother me at all!

    An added bonus for someone who is large chested, I have found that I bounce MUCH less and don’t have to wear my combat bra to run in anymore. Yay!

  • http://trailrockrunner.blogspot.com MARK

    This week while running in my VFF’s, the seam blew out on the left foot and gave me a blister. I took the Vibram’s off and ran the rest of the way home barefoot. I really don’t know what the big deal is. As a kid growing up in Minnesota, we shucked the shoes all summer except for when we mowed the lawn and went to church. This was before the day when the stores had signs reading “No shoes, no shirt, no service”. No sh#t! I never had PF running in racing flats and spikes. But over the last few years when I started donning real trail shoes that were as stiff as a snowboard, I started hurting real bad. Coincidence? Maybe.

  • ‘Ted Hanley

    I am an 82 year old who had to give up joggin a few years ago. The big shoes were becoming a real problem and I had been buying good ones. Having read the book I tried the barefoot route and found out to my surprise that I experienced little or no back or leg pain. I am now getting ready for 5k races again. My cardiologist approves and says it will have no effect on my pacemaker. He likes my heart condition as a result of the exercise

  • http://www.warrenjasonstreet.com Warren Street

    I remember hearing something about Pacific Islanders–they never wore shoes and their feet became broad and toughened by the places they had to walk. Barefoot running just sounds like good common sense to me.

  • Bear futruner

    I run barefoot when i can or in my Vibram FiveFingers when i cant, i’ve heard people saying that barefoot running is bad, the website that said that had misspelled words, and a lot of lies. Some things were TRUE. They said that barefoot runners say its good for you but it really hurts your feet, barefoot running is just awesome, my first run, I wanted to run as far as i could, I had already studied barefoot running and knew that most injuries are because of TOO MUCH TOO SOON! My worst injury so far was a blister……. but yeah whatever its sooooo bad for you right? How come the tribe of ultrarunners in mexico (the Tarahumara or Raramuri) have a tribe record of 435 mile in just over 48 hours run in sandals that are very thin or barefoot. If you are against barefoot running and like your shoes, more power to you, I am not saying that shoes will kill you, I just want you “barefoot haters” to take the time to read the facts before badmouthing something you obviously have no idea about. And to other barefoot runners, don’t say that shoes are notorious murderers. When I run in my running shoes, I get hurt, thats me. If barefoot running hurts you, thats you. Come on just give it a rest, run how you want. I run because I like it. Not because i’m part of some cult for my running style, so don’t act like you are.

  • shawsey

    bare foot running is so gooooooood legs feel so refreshed now after a run. Also get on nike frees 3.0 they are schweeet.

    • Steven

      I used to love Nike Frees… but after 18 months of being in Invisible Shoes, those things feel like high-heels to me now.

  • Brian R

    I’ve been forefoot striking (is that the opposite of heel striking?) for about a year off and on, but wore regular running shoes. No injuries. Switched to some homemade huaraches last week with barefoot “training”. One day I had a dull pain in my knee and thought “that’s odd”. Went barefoot running and pain completely vanished. Pain must have come from starting this new job where I’m standing for hours. Whatever, I just go running and move my legs and I’m pain free.

  • Jamie

    Years ago our local news station profiled a barefoot runner (he was actually barefoot). He was going to have to stop running when his doctor told him to quit using shoes. After my husband seriously injured his knee (due to work) his Orthapedic Dr. told him to go barefoot if he wanted to start to run again. My friends still think I am crazy to run in huaraches.

  • Kristian Megahan

    I thought of something to say in response to orthopedic shoes:
    “These are my orthopedic footware”

    I was just watching a commercial for shoes that are supposed to help with your running, cut down on the pounding, etc, and it turns out that they assume you’ll land on your heel, so the entire mechanism is in the heel to basically do what your arch is designed to do.

    the one time I scraped my big toe real good, on the front, was when I went to run, thinking my goal was about a mile further than I thought, I was a little tired towards the end, and didn’t pick my foot up properly while crossing the road.

    I did notice I don’t have tight arches or calves as I did when I started bf running, so I think the muscles must be stronger. I thought I was getting planter fasciitis, and did a lot of stretching, but it hasn’t bothered me recently. Of course, the weather’s also warmer.

  • Rich

    Just took a run in my New Balance after several months of running either barefoot or in cheap $10 water shoes-noting more than a sole and nylon upper. I couldn’t believe how clunky the New Balance shoes were and I hated running in them. Ironically the first pair of New Balance I bought when they first came out were pretty much a sole and an upper and then they started “improving” them-thought I needed all that cushioning-silly me. Sure they have a minimus line now but they STILL cost $100. I don’t think so. The rest of you do what you want, what works for you, but I am free! And my FAT wallet slows me down with all that extra money in it. You lose New Balance. Make your shoes a Minimal Price if you want me back. I know one of you corporate drones will see this.

  • Rich

    Thank God for Chris McDougall and the Tarahumara indians. If not for him and that wonderful book “Born to Run” I might have gone to my grave without experiencing the true joy of running again. Been running since 1979 with more than a few races and marathons under my belt. Now I run like a kid again.
    And it makes me angry at the shoe companies and runners world for brainwashing us, and myself for believing them, but I am so happy running now that I can let that go. Find out for yourself-maybe it will work for you-be an experiment of one!

  • Julia

    My mom was kind of a hippie, and I had the good fortune to spend most of my childhood barefoot. Perhaps as a result, my healthy, strong feet have a unique shape and I have NEVER before had a pair of shoes that fit (they measure to a size 4 1/2EEEE with a high arch – try looking for those at Foot Locker). Every summer I would voice my lament, “Why can’t shoes just be a thin, flat sole that you tie onto your foot?” So now I feel I’ve found my perfect match!

    However, when I first tried on my huraches and wore them around the house for the evening my feet got really sore and tired. I realized that the feel of something on my foot was triggering the usual tension that I have to hold in order to fit my feet into shoes. Once I consciously relaxed into normal barefoot posture I had no problems whatsoever. I’ll admit I’m really not a runner, but I walk a lot and enjoy it so much more now that I’m thinking about starting to run!

    As someone who’s spent a lot of time out of shoes from birth, I can tell you my feet are smooth, flexible and muscular, and I’ve never had a foot injury, never gotten a disease or parasite (in spite of numerous warnings from well-meaning bystanders), never cut myself seriously. The only leg and hip problems I have are from when I got hit by a car, and even those are improving now. Oh, and last year I stepped on a bee, but I was wearing flip-flops :)

  • Chad

    I guess with today’s world of fast cars, services and the Internet modern people tend to buy into the idea that the human body is flawed.

    Of course, we survived for years before learning to domesticate animals.

    We learned to map terrains in detail with our eyes and memory for thousands of years without a gps.

    We’ve learned that our bodies are able to develop super fast reflexes long before we tried to fictionalize it on movie screens with vampires and magic potions.

    We were built to achieve perfection because our design was virtually perfect.

  • Kenny

    20 years ago I had a percutaneous discectomy to take care of a ruptured L4-5 Disc. Occasionally it will flare up and take me out for a couple days. Recently I had a pretty big flare up and am still recovering with the help of my chiropractor. I’ve also been barefoot running for the past 8 months and prior to that had been running in “running shoes” for 3 years. I love running but my chiropractor said that he believed I should find some other way to exercise cause even with barefoot running the impact may be too hard on my back. Does anyone know (research etc please) how much impact is put on the back for barefoot runners and if it is still safe for me to do?

    • Steven

      There’s no way to give a numerical answer to your question, Kenny… it depends on how much you weigh, how good your form is, what kinds of running you’re doing, etc.

      Suffice it to say, with good barefoot form, you’ll be putting WAY less stress on your body than otherwise.

  • nick

    i am a cross country runner and i have seen more people on the emergency cart with bleeding feet or broken toes that were told that running bare foot is good.
    if running with out shoes is good then why have we been wrapping our feet in animal skin for the last million years or so.

    • Steven

      Hi Nick,

      First of all, you haven’t seen the many runners who have no problem or injuries from being barefoot. Secondly, there are millions of runners who wear shoes who get injured every year. So, “injury rate” is, in addition to being unscientific, incomplete, at best.

      Third, wrapping your feet in animal skins (which we’ve only been doing for about 12,000 years) is about as close to barefoot as you’ll get. It adds a bit of warmth and a bare amount of protection — very similar to what our Invisible Shoes add, which is why we sell them — and VERY different from a padded shoe that restricts movement and sensation.

  • Mark

    I only agree about the stepping on stuff, because of where I live. I live in downtown Phoenix and there is just way too much broken glass. Much of it is in very small pieces. That said, I go “urban” barefoot in my VFF’s or my haraches. I am only 6 weeks into the foot toughening process, but I absolutely love going urban barefoot and I think that the nay says have never tried it…Mark

  • Go

    Of course humans are designed to run and to run barefoot at that. But, the modern office worker – TV watcher – car driver does not spend his days – both physically and mentally – according to his design. That may harm his natural posture to such a degree that he forgets what natural posture feels like and he may even not even be able to assume his natural posture. Being impaired by muscle and tendon imbalances, developed by the sitting life. In such a condition you would harm yourself rather running barefoot than shot. On the other hand of course. Taking up going barefoot would be one of the means to restore balance in the misused body. I must admit, it all comes down to not overdoing it.

    • Steven

      I think you landed in the right place about not overdoing it… because, I can’t think of a better way to regain natural movement/posture than by putting yourself in a situation that leads you to it… just not doing too much too soon, so you give yourself time to stretch and strengthen whatever needs to be, well, stretched and strengthened. That’s why we don’t recommend going to flatter and flatter shoes, and then starting on softer surfaces (which is the same as wearing padded shoes, really) but, instead, go as minimalist as possible and just build up in small doses.

  • william fossat

    Is barefoot running dangerous? Yeah, if you step on an acacia thorn or bang your toe on a piece of re-bar, or step on glass while you’re fishing, as I have (I wasn’t even running!), but the deal I made with my feet clear back in boyhood was that I could either wear shoes like everybody else and not suffer certain injuries but also be miserable with my feet in a straitjacket, or I could be barefoot and happy most of the time but run the risk of a little (sometimes a lot) pain once in a while. In 66 years I’ve broken my little toe twice (once on a chair, once on re-bar), and gotten a few stitches when I stepped on the glass. When I broke the toes it caused my varicose veins to flare up, don’t know why. But my feet are tough and healthy and I can go anywhere with’m. It’s one thing I can do in this life that isn’t governed by some stupid ungodly law, and for that reason alone it’s worth it.–William Fossat

  • Go

    A few days back I stepped on a hidden tree trunk on a muddy bike track. Nothing happened, no bruise, no cut, nothing at all. Amazing what the feet can take.

  • Jamie

    I’ve been minimalist VFF running for the past year & just had my first 3 mile totally barefoot run last Saturday. I carried my shoes with me & figured the worse thing that could happen was that I would feel some things I wouldn’t like & put my shoes on. Never happened:)
    It felt wonderful(like the first time I ran in VFFs) but the next day, I didn’t have calf pain(I guess a year of practice forefoot/midfoot striking in VFFs will do that to you) like when I transitioned from my Frees to VFFs.
    My plan is to only use footwear when conditions(weather, location, distance, stores) require it. Otherwise it is barefoot for this girl from now on.
    2 pairs of huaraches & 1 pair VFFs & 1pair Soft Stars outta about get me thru the year without too much of an issue.
    And my toes feel alive now! It is amazing how much less “clubish

  • Jamie

    Continuing my thought from above……
    How much less “clubish” my feet fell now. My toes are actively gripping & flexing & adjusting. Bending knees, flexing ankles, using my arches…..the body is indeed amazing as it’s own cushioning system!

  • Eric

    I am a spin instructor and cycling coach. Not much of a runner but Born to Run inspired me to start. I started running in (or should I say on) my invisible shoes from 5 mins the first time and then adding 10% every other run. If I have any discomfort the next I went back down.

    I mentioned the book in my spin class the other day and told everyone that I started running. After class, 2 people came to tell me that a friend of theirs got injured running barefoot. A doctor also told them that barefoot running was the best thing that happened to him. The doctors practice apparently is booming because of all the barefoot running injuries. REALLY? Even if all the barefoot runners in the SF Bay Area were suddenly injured and each one of them went to that single doctor, his practice would not be booming. Why are people trying to convince other people not to run barefoot? I understand why a shoe company would want to convince us but why an individual. The reason is that people want simple explanations for things. Once that explanation is anchored it is very hard to replace the old explanation with a new one.

    People’s explanation for running injuries is that people are not meant to run. But if human have to run then they need to be supported otherwise they’ll get injured. People are fully onboard with these ideas and they have answered questions and solved problems with these concepts. Now running barefoot is showing them that it was all a lie. People don’t want to look stupid in their $300 Nike when you pass them with $30 pair of flip flops. It is shaking their world. That is why they are trying to convince us to follow the crowd.

  • Rex

    I,ve been running for 25 years and now having minor knee ,hip and occasionaly calf injuries,plus regulary upset stomach problems.So with a sceptical view after reading up on barefoot running on blogs etc I,d thought I,d see if it could work for me.
    The out come is that in comparison to my new BFR style my previous form was shockingly bad.5 months into BFR and no problems ,upto 32 miles a week in huaraches(still working on form)and allmost at the same speed as in trainers.Plus to my suprise no stomach problems(I try glide along and not bouncing up/down motion).
    I, m not completely against trainers,doing interval/shuttle and fartlek training in sandles can be very awkward.
    Overall so far so good apart from the purist shod runners with the funny looks and negative comments.But I normaly reply barefoot won,t make me faster but will make me a better runner.

  • Ben Huys

    I’m hobbling around on crutches right now, but I’ll still say that barefoot running is good for you. This is the first time I’ve suffered any injury from my BF running (except rubbing most of the skin off my feet b4 I got huaraches ;) Just dont run on snice (snow+ice) barefoot.

    Before I became a BF convert, I ran in Teva trail runners. Knee problems, ankle problems, shin problems, toe problems- not worth it.

    As soon as my foot heals (I’ve torn a number of tendons/ligaments), I be right back on the trail, BAREFOOT.

    Some people never learn :)
    Some people can’t learn :)

    Ben

  • Lucindia

    This would be a fun experiment. I was told not to run by so many people because it is bad for your knees. I love to run. I really hate shoes!! Most the time I’m wearing flats or sandals because its the closest I can get to barefoot.
    I’m a little overweight right now so I’m not sure if I would strain my knees with my weight? (I’m about 5’4 -170lbs) Iv’e been changing my deit this month drastically and I’m just not seeing a dramatic change (maybe a few pounds). I know I’m impatient! I know I’m doing better for my health but, I wanna work out but I hate standing in a gym or my house ….doing some kind of regimen . I’d rather wake up and run and listen to music .

    So the question is should I try running at my weight? or should I weight til more pounds come off ? Maybe start walking or lite jogging right now or no? Thanks!

    • Steven

      Your weight isn’t an obstacle to moving, whether it’s walking or running. Do what you can, not what you think you should. And, over time, what you can do will be closer to what you imagined doing. There’s no rush, even for the impatient.

  • Chris

    Hi Steve -

    Great article!

    I just ordered my first pair of invisible shoes (almost bought a pair of VFF’s, but remembered that a roommate had these and liked them).

    I – like a lot of folks – have been doing some reading up on barefoot/minimalist running. Is it me or does all the naysaying sound eerily simliar to “You’ll shoot your eye out”?

    • Steven

      Remember Chris, don’t run barefoot with scissors!

  • Josh

    I want to echo what Steven said about going slow. I begun minimalist/barefoot running this year. Previously, I would run a few miles in traditional running shoes and end up with a very sore back. Once I started to switch, I still wanted to be able to run the same distance; but you cannot at first.

    My first attempt I went way too far and my calf muscles revolted. I walked home and even than hurt. Then I started 0.5-1 mile and have building back up. Even at the lower distances, there have been times when my calf muscles revolt for 3-4 days after a run; too much too soon.

    I am slowly working up my distance and expect it to take me awhile. The best part, I can run without any back pain or pain in general. Other than my calf muscles that are still trying to cope :)

  • fast

    Talk to a few podiatrists. They should know.

    • Steven

      If you talk to a podiatrist, better to talk to one that’s hip to barefoot running and not one that thinks it’s evil.

  • Cameron.

    Fascinating and well commented posts. Since starting running again in 2010, i have completed 4 Half marathons and 3 10k races..with a shed load of training thown in. My experience regarding injury and general aches and pains has been mixed, and i know the reasons why.
    I trained for my first half in basic Asics, but also purchased a pair of Vivo Terra Planna minimalist shoes…and alternated between the 2..why?..i have no idea, but think i wanted to strengthen my calf muscles more.

    I ran my next 2 HM’s in a pair of Adidas marathon 100′s..which have minimal padding and a fairly flat sole…and really enjoyed the experience. As a present, my wife treated me to gait analysis and a new pair of Adidas Adizero tempo’s…so as thery were a gift, i started training for a HM this April….and detested the damn things. Aches and pains, then the start of shin splints!!!!. As an “open-minded” kind of guy..a fan of “Born to Run” and the whole Taramuhara package…i bought a pair, well 2 pairs, or Merrell Vibrams….and started my training again….
    results…no pains, no shin splints, faster average miles, stronger claf and foot muscles, ….and most importantly…much more enjoyment and satisfaction form my runs.
    I will never, and i emphasise never, purchase a gel filled, padded, gait analysed pair of over-priced, over-hyped running shoes again….
    I now smile when i run now instead of grimmacing. HM in 2 weeks…and a new PB on the cards.

  • Ryan Frazier

    Several years ago I started running marathons. Previously I had been doing lots of 5ks, 10ks and half-marathons. When I increased my mileage I started getting plantar fascitis really bad. I thought the answer was to get more expensive shoes with more support. It made the problem worse. About a year ago I began running barefoot a couple times a week and I got some Merrel Trail gloves. My feet problems went away. I recently got some invisible shoes and I love them. They feel even more like running barefoot that the Merrel Trail gloves. I am finding that I have to fine tune my running form even more and build up my feet strength. I went on an hour and a half hour trail run yesterday in my invisible shoes and it felt great.

  • Carrie

    I have always done everything barefoot from child to adult. I used to ‘condition’ my feet in the spring by walking on gravel roads to prepare for the summer. When I run/jog in shoes, I feel off balanced and my feet/toes feel cramped. I have never sustained an injury or had sore muscles from running barefoot. The ONLY problem I had was running with socks on the treadmill – I would get a static shock if I touched the handles :)

  • Vermin

    As I tell concerned friends, it’s not the /what/ but the /how/. The fact that I’m running barefoot (what) isn’t the potential risk; it’s how I learn to do it. I don’t feel the pain I had with running shoes, and muscles in my feet and legs are getting stronger that were being neglected because of the cushy nature of most running shoes. Sure, I /could/ run proper form in running shoes, and the outcome would be the same; I’d be running injury free. I think it’s just easier to do it barefoot. I suppose it’s like sewing with gloves on; you can do it, but it’s easier to be bare handed with sewing. The glove can protect your fingers from getting pricked with the needle, but so can being careful and mindful while not wearing gloves while you sew.

  • Randy Kreill., Beavercreek OH

    Bad for you?, depends on who is the you!

    Baretoed, barefoot, minimalist, natural running done right can be bad news for some people, but rarely for those who are doing it well.

    Since getting 4mm huaraches in late Sept, I’m up to well over 90% of my running in huaraches or naked feet, running further with less discomforts and genrally slower for now. That’s not so good for the traditional shoe companies, as a higher mileage runner can easily spend over $500 per year on shoes. With huaraches, the cost could be in the area of $40 every few years, with far less environmental cost.

    I’m finding that as I tune into my body’s signals in general based on natural running, my diet and general attitude is improving. I’m 100% plant powered, so improving now means eating less plant oils and less plant based saturated fats, and even more whole fruits, veggies, organics, grains etc.

    What’s good for the plant based independant farmers, is maybe bad for traditional mass merchandisers and big food cos. pushing over processed, over priced “junk”.

    Bad for big pharma that wants to treat symptoms created by that stuff …

    Natural living done well means Orthopedists shouldn’t be seeing as many patients. Big money in the health care biz$… That could be bad for some, not me!

    What’s “bad” might be the economic impact in some areas if enough people figure out natural is better for running.

    The good economic impacts could include the growth of healther and more sustainable food sources and natural runners freeing up some cash to travel the world.

    Happy Trails.

  • Simon

    Great summary!

  • FaceThatMeows

    I work in a shoe store. I’m pretty much fully dedicated to the logic and ideals behind barefoot running.

    Every time I sell a motion controlled shoe I die a little inside. I don’t get commission on shoes, but I work in a full service store so I am basically having to tell them the product is great… when it’s not! I do get commission on insoles however… I seriously am beating myself over the position I’ve found myself in. I was even personally trying to sneak around the workplace in my sock feet. My manager caught me today. He asked me “is there a reason you’re barefoot?”
    “Yes……………….but if you like I guess I’ll put my shoes back on.”
    “You work in a shoe store. You’re wearing shoes.”

    * sigh * The reason was because my leg was a little extra sore from a workout the day before, and I found that once I took my Crocs off I felt a lot better.

    So instead I limped around today at work after my manager got me into trouble.

    I JUST got full time and my benefits were approved this week. It took me over a year to get here, and this is the first time I’ve had a job with benefits at all.

    What to do…. I tried asking about our company being a supplier of Xero Shoes (so I’d feel a little less guilty) but basically was told that I’d get totally ignored.

    • Bryce

      My advice would be- don’t live your life doing something on a daily basis you’re not comfortable with! Attempt to remedy the situation (like you have) further, and if it doesn’t work out then I would quit. You’ll find a new job, but make sure they know why you’re quitting! I’m sure that would be a tough thing to do but you will feel a lot better about yourself and about how you spent your time when you look back on your life.

    • Ken Bob Saxton

      Try to find a job in a “running store” instead of a “shoe store”. What’s the difference? A running store wants to help people run better, longer, more frequently, more enjoyably – and if shoes help that, they’re willing to sell you shoes. A shoe store cares a bit less about the long-term consequences of your running technique, and more about selling you a shoe that perpetuates your already poor running technique… or worse, one that encourages you to change to a poor running technique from one that was absolutely fine without motion-controling or heavily cushioned shoes.

  • Shodfoot runner

    Totally biased article that undermines what you are trying to say, by being so one-sided, you can’t be taken seriously. First:

    “Then the Harvard study came out, showing that when you run barefoot, you adjust your stride to put less stress on your body. And, right on the heels of it (pun intended), came editorials about how running barefoot is the worst thing you could do… though, most of those editorials came from people who own or work for shoe companies or shoe sellers.”

    That Harvard study was part-funded by a well-known minimal shoe company, so is no more valid than editorials from other shoe companies.

    Secondly:

    “If you memorize these answers (or print out this article and have a copy in your back pocket), you can save yourself the frustration and/or humiliation of arguing with some Know-It-All who tries to talk you out of running barefoot”

    It’s usually the barefoot evangelist who is the know-it-all, trying to tell everyone that his latest discovery will change their life. I’ve never seen what your saying but I’ve witnessed dozens of people tell others that they are ‘wrong’ for not adopting barefoot. A bit like you are doing with this article.

    • PreggySue13

      Wow guy. You are all aggressive & catty over nothing. All the dude said was in a sentence, that it doesn’t really matter whether you run barefoot or not. That’s about the same as saying you don’t have to wear gloves everytime you use your hands to exercise. The dude also said its his personal preference. You are the only one with an agenda getting bent out of shape because you feel like his opinion is “wrong”. God, grow up! Or if you’re grown up act like it. If you feel like running with shoes is better then run with shoes on! Why are you so upset over this? Lol I don’t get it. Feel free to write back another stuck up comment implying more exaggerated implications.

    • michaelsanchez

      If it’s a scientific study, the source of funding should have absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the test. Not sure what you’re getting at… seems like you’re attacking the integrity of Harvard more than anything else.

      • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

        While the results of a scientific study SHOULD be independent of funding, studies have shown that they’re not.

        I’ll look for the meta-analysis that showed when a study is funded by a company that produces a product being studied, the results are overwhelmingly positive. However, when that same study is reproduced independently, the results are positive less often.

        In other words, not every scientist is a good one, and even good ones are susceptible to unintentional biases.

        • michaelsanchez

          This is true in any endeavor that is subject to human error.

    • Ken Bob Saxton

      “so is no more valid than editorials from other shoe companies.” except that the other “studies” were mostly just “expert” opinions, speculation, etc. from podiatrists, shoes stores, etc.., not actual researchers.

  • Lamar

    Barefoot running is great to me. I must admit that I was a victim of overuse by my own doing a while ago. This causes me to shy away from going shoeless for the time I recovered. Now that I am back up to it I am loving the freedom and sense of connecting with my environment it provides. Love it.

  • Scott Morales

    I definitely recommend running with as minimal a cushion as possible… The reason being, that I’m 6’6″ and have great posture, and zero back pain, because of minimalist shoe/sandal options…

    This did not happen over night, but I’m 31 now, and would have surely been looking at back surgery by age 35, had I not begun minimalist running at age 27.

    My body has changed significantly in the last 4-5 years… I was always involved in sports growing up, and over time unconsciously/consciously my right leg became my more explosive leg, or my more “comfortable” leg (no different from anyone else)… This became an issue though, when I became less active, because unconsciously my body was still comfortable with my right leg being my strong leg, my pivot and post leg for everything… totally unnoticeable by friends or bystanders, and even unnoticeable to me.

    Then around age 25 my lower back started hurting a little, and by 27 it began to scream… (The pain accelerated I’m sure due to my longer torso.)

    Though the pain was in my lower back, trial and error lead me to focus in on my feet for the answer… and eventually it struck me, how much weaker my left foot and left leg were, compared to the other side.

    -Long story short… I was very unbalanced, and a slight difference in the way one foot (and one leg) fired, compared to the other, caused me trouble over time.

    By my estimates, I figured the quickest/healthiest way to restore balance or acquire balance was to run damn-near barefoot. I knew it would take time to do, because it took time to undo… but I wasn’t gonna try resistance training and potentially injure myself further…

    So I began to barefoot run (or close to it), and 4+ years later I have zero back pain… impossible, i know…

    —— You’re body is extremely, extremely resilient… It will hide things from you, if it doesn’t think those things are important enough to share…

    I recognize now, that my body had totally rewired and reconfigured itself, to fit my lifestyle around one of my legs doing 57% of the work (when I was unbalanced)… That’s absolutely astonishing…

    Even more astonishing however, is the your body’s everquest to become balanced… Once you give it the tools, or the un-tools, to become balanced, it challenges you to keep up with it… ASTONISHING!!!!

    So, all that said… I am pretty certain, that the only certain way to acquire balance, is going barefoot (or close to it).

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      Thanks for sharing your story, Scott.

  • http://www.yuvastyle.com/ Martin Whysall

    The tips are really useful and I also agree with the same. It is dangerous for us to run in barefoot.

  • michaelsanchez

    Yeah, I hate these types of debates as well. There are no such things as moderates anymore. Either you’re totally against something or completely for it. It’s stupid.
    Nonetheless, barefoot running has helped me to develop so much more. I was in the military for years, where they make you do the wet test and buy conventional running shoes. I have flat feet, so I tried everything from heavy stabilization motion control, which ended in agony, to light balance, which took time to adapt to but went “okay”. I would get cramps and some pain still when I would run more often.
    After trying barefoot running, obviously I noticed a bit of strain on my underdeveloped lower calves, but after giving some time to adapt, I will never go back to conventional running shoes. I put my balance shoes on the other day and my arches were sore and in pain, close to cramping, just after walking my dog.
    Barefoot running may not be for everyone. But does it really matter? Do what works for you. I have flat feet and any type of shoe designed to mold my arch just results in pain and cramping that I can’t stand. It’s not the strain type of pain that goes away with moderation, it’s the type of pain where your body is saying something isn’t right.

    And yeah, you can step on things. I stepped on a rock and bruised my foot while running a trail, but you can prevent this by watching a bit more closely where you step and running on paved roads. Bruisers aren’t serious enough injuries for me to stop, though.

  • badsmel

    I hate it when people have a strong opinion based on nothing more than a couple of articles they read. I run in minimalist shoes because when i run in conventional trainers my right knee hurts. Since using minimal shoes, it doesn’t. Simple as that. All i had to do was endure a couple of weeks where the balls of my feet toughened up a little. If it works for you, do it, if it doesnt or you dont want to try then dont. I dont understand then “my way is the best way mentality.” I like the way this article was written as it was less in your face and more “make your own mind up.” Nuff said, Im going for a run…

  • aardvarkawesome

    ” Barefoot running will give you plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, ingrown hair, or male-pattern balding ” yeah sure whatever. I’ve never had any problems when I take off my shoes and jog for 20 minutes in the grass on an easy day.
    If running barefoot is so bad, then explain how the cavemen could do it to catch dinner and escape saber toothed tigers.
    Not saying everyone’s gonna be able to go out barefoot and run a marathon, but then again, nobody I know can run a marathon with shoes on anyways.

  • Barefoot ED

    I’ve been a runner my whole life, a barefoot ruuner for about 2 years now and I’ve been running in xero shoes for about 6 months and I can say without any doubt that barefoot running is the way go, it does take a while to get use the the xero shoes and finding the right tension on the tie but after you find that sweat spot they easly become the prefect shoe running and for everyday use, besides a pair of hiking boots I use for work these are the only shoes I own, and I run and walk completely injury free. Barefoot ED :)

  • Ethan Salwen

    The “poo fear” seems to be a major issue for all that I know and — I admit — it had me a little worried, too. Hate poo between the toes! (Only happened once 30 years ago, but I’ve remained afraid.) What’s incredible — and hard to really get until you experience it — is how much cleaner my feet are since I started walking barefoot (5%) and in Xeros (80%) and “minimal sockless other (15%), and I live in Buenos Aires — really dirty! When I’m barefoot I simply never ever step in anything nasty. I’m paying attention! And, in general, my feat are simply drier and less stinky and cleaner (with dryer, more firm skin) than when I wore shoes and socks. Yes, yes, I sometimes have some real dirt to clean off my feet when I get home. (I put on socks if I can’t get to the tub for a bit, or my Xeros when I walk into other people’s homes/stores.) However, dry dirt is not “gooky filth.” I mean, I wash my hands every time I go indoors after going around the city, and don’t feel the need to wear white gloves. If you’re scared of the “poo & filth” factor, I totally understand. However, do yourself a favor, and just try going barefoot for a while. (It’s much easier to go barefoot for just a few blocks here and there if you are wearing Xeros or flip-flops, easy off, easy on.) Yes, people will look at you funny. But it feels good! And after a while, your friends will be amazed at how clean your feet are. And more important, YOU’ll feel (and smell) how clean they are. Toe-jam be gone!!

    • Larry Richelli

      have you thought of dancing tango in your Xeros. I am going to try it!

      • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

        OH! Take video! (and have fun!)

  • NZ dude

    People who go on and say running barefoot is incorrect or bad for our bodies make me think a lot of creationists who say evolution is just a “theory”. If they think that heel striking with cushioned shoes is better appropriate to human anatomy, well, scientific evidence is not on their side.

    But again, some people are happy thinking the earth is 6000 years old, so if they’re happy wrecking their body, well, it’s their right as is the right not to educate themselves or use critical thinking.

    • Susy minimalist

      I am a minimalist-running, whole foods-eating creationist. Do some unbiased research! Just sayin’

  • Ethan Salwen

    The funny thing is that, in a way, all this good thinking doesn’t seem to help. I share it, and — as you know — people remain incredulous. And then I say, “Well, you know, I ran this morning barefoot.”
    “For a few feet?”
    “No, for a half hour.”
    “On the grass?”
    “No, right here in the city.”
    “In a park?!?”
    “No, in the streets.”
    “What?!?
    And this kind of back and forth goes on for a while, and most people just think I’m some kind of freak and/or I’m headed for doom.
    “But four yeas ago I wore big bulky shoes with custom orthotics, and I had horrible back and knee and foot problems. And now I’m getting better all the time.”
    Look of confusion, then, “But if you don’t wear good running shoes you’re really going to hurt yourself!
    Sigh.

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      I know people who have similar conversations about walking barefoot to get the mail!

  • Barefoot Romy

    Hi,i wouldn’t go running in the dark barefoot,but with a thin strip of rubber under my soles,I run comfortably anywhere anytime.Been doing half marathons and 25k trail runs for the last two years and looking forward to some PB next year.The savings on the shoes go towards entry fees for races.

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      How come I never thought of “What you save with Xero Shoes will pay your race entry fees!” I love it ;-)

  • Vibramguy

    I’m sorry but I am thirteen and run in my Vibram Five Fingers and I have since I was 10. I ran a 25k when i was 11 in 2:15:58 which is pretty good for that age… in my Vibrams. I have had no injuries and don’ know anyone that has. I’ve ran all my track and cross country meets so far in them and will train in them until the end of my career.

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      Or until we show you that Xeros are a more fun, more barefoot, less smelly, less expensive alternative to VFFs ;-)

      (Keep up the good running!)

  • erwinanciano

    I’ve been doing barefoot running for a couple of years now. I have run with people in “normal” shoes in my runs and we compare war stories. For them, the parts of their bodies that hurt are their knees. Me? My knees are perfect! What hurts are my feet. Since I’m overweight, my feet get squished a little too much and I think my feet muscles aren’t strong enough to bear my weight. But I have absolutely no knee or joint or back problems. I’m happy with that.

    I’m flat footed though. Or that’s what running shoe sellers tell me, so they try to talk me into buying “stability shoes.” These shoes suck though and actually hurt my feet now. I am probably never gonna buy “stability shoes.” It irks me a bit though that I am “flat footed.”

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      Being flat-footed is not a problem. Arch height is predominantly genetic. BUT, if you strengthen your feet, your arch will probably get higher (mine did).

      Give yourself time (and permission) for your feet to strengthen. Don’t run “further than your feet”. Think of working on your feet the same way you would think about going to the gym: there’s no value in doing more than you can handle, and the amount you can handle will increase and improve with time.

      And… HAVE FUN! ;-)

  • Berta-Nesta

    Hi, enjoying reading your texts – already ordered your XeroShoes for me and the kids… they love the idea of making sandals and wear the same as mom ;-) I’m am a firm defender of barefoot still I live in the Swiss Alps, and sometimes it gets really cold, wet (Slippery on stones and underwood environment) or event frozen ground… so I have to count on 3-4 months per year where barefoot running or even taking a stroll will be let’s say for the least difficult… how about some “boot-socks with Xero soles and a very thin aluminium insulating sole”? ok, I get that they would turn and move around the foot… let’s think about it (PS yeah I even got the heavy mountaineering 1,2 kg! turning due to crampons – ouch the ankle!)

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      Hi Berta-Nesta… check out http://www.xeroshoes.com/cold (we have some ways of handling cold, and some others that we’re working on ;-) )

  • Say what?

    I thought this was actually an article at first. Nope, just an advertising sales pitch. Lame.

    • http://www.xeroshoes.com/ Steven Sashen

      Hmmm… I’m not seeing it the same way you did. Nor did any of the many other commenters.

      All the information in the article about how to evaluate arguments pro/con about barefoot is a sales pitch?

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