Barefoot Running Archives - Xero Shoes

Posts in Barefoot Running

What’s the WORST surface for running barefoot?

When I tell people that I run barefoot (or when they see me out running without any shoes), the first response I get is

“Oh, so you run on the grass?”

Or when I suggest to people that they might want to try running barefoot, the first thing they say is,

“With my feet/knees/ankles/eyelashes, I’d need to run on the grass.”

I mean, it makes sense, right?

Grass is soft. Feet are soft. Therefore, feet should be on grass.

Barefoot = Grass is the common wisdom.

But wisdom is rarely common, and what’s common is rarely wise.

Here’s what I can tell you, though. And it’s not just me, every accomplished barefoot runner I know will say the same thing. And all the other good coaches I know agree.

In fact, what I’m about to say is SO true, that if you meet a coach who tells you otherwise, RUN AWAY (barefoot or not, I don’t care) from this person as quickly as you can, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Here it is:

THE WORST SURFACE for learning to run barefoot is GRASS.




Three big reasons:

  1. BIG: Who knows what’s hiding in the grass. If you can’t see it, you might step on it.
  2. BIGGER: One of the principles of barefoot running is that you don’t use cushioning in your shoes… well, when you run on grass, you’ve basically taken the cushioning out of your shoes and put it into the ground.
  3. BIGGEST: Running on grass, or any smooth surface does not give you the feedback you need about your barefoot form to help you change and improve your form.

The best surface for barefoot running is NOT grass or sand or anything soft, but the smoothest and hardest surface you can find.

For me, here in Boulder, Colorado, we have miles and miles of bike path.

In New York City, the sidewalks are perfect!

So, what makes a hard, smooth surface the best? It’s the biggest reason, from above:


Grass and sand and soft surfaces are too forgiving of bad form.

Hard smooth surfaces tell you, with every step, whether you’re using the right form.

If it hurts, you’re not.

If you end up with blisters, you didn’t.

Pay close attention and each step is giving you information about how to run lighter, easier, faster, longer.

I’ll never forget going out on the University of Colorado sidewalks with the Boulder Barefoot Running Club. I had a blister on the ball of my left foot (more about that in another lesson). But I decided to see if I could run in such a way that I didn’t hurt .

At first, each step sent a shooting pain up my leg. Then I made some adjustments and I just felt the friction on the ball of my foot.

By the end of the first mile, I had made some other adjustments — using each step as an experiment — and the next thing I knew I was picking up the pace while putting out less energy than ever. I was running faster and easier than I’d ever run without shoes… and it was painless.

This would have never happened on grass.

I needed the feedback of the hard surface.

If you want to see a barefoot runner get a wistful look in his or her eye, mention a newly painted white line on the side of a road. Smooth, solid, cool… it’s the best! ;-)

Oh, and it’s probably no surprise that the advantage of Xero Shoes is that when you wear those on the road, they still give you that feedback you need… but with protection from the surface.

Do not “transition slowly” to barefoot running

Transition to barefoot runningThe more time you spend around barefoot running and minimalist running — the more articles you read in magazines and newspapers, the more interviews you hear with doctors or runners, the more stories you see on the news, the more websites you see about it, the more research you hear about it — the more often you’ll hear one particular admonition.

Actually, if the piece is supportive of running barefoot, you’ll hear it as a recommendation. If the piece is anti-barefoot, then it’ll be a warning.

And that bit of instruction/caution is:

Transition to barefoot running SLOWLY. If you make the transition too quickly, you’ll get hurt.

Admittedly, even on this site I say something that could sound similar about how to start running barefoot.

But to focus on how quickly or slowly you make the transition is to miss the point. Running barefoot safely and enjoyably isn’t about whether it takes you a day, a week, or a year to do so. It’s about HOW you make the transition, not HOW LONG it takes to make it.

It’s about form and function, not about seconds on the clock.

In other words, the keys to running barefoot are following a few rules: Continue Reading

How to run an ultramarathon (or 7) in Xero Shoes

I love it when people ask, “Can you really run in those things?” as I run by them in my Xero Shoes. ;-)

Well, Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse, otherwise known as Ultra Mel & Jon — at — had that experience a LOT of times recently. That’s because they ran the Madagascar Race the Planet ultramarathon stage race, running over 250k in 7 days.

How’d they do it?

Well, check out this video we made where I asked them that, and a whole lot more.

If you’ve ever thought about running marathon+ distances, listen to what this young and talented couple have to say.

Who will run the first 1:59 marathon?

Dennis Kimetto finishing his WR marathonDennis Kimetto shattered the marathon world record when he ran 2:02:57 in Berlin.

But how fast can we really go over a 26.2 mile course?




Well, long-time distance running guru, Phil Maffetone thinks 1:59 is do-able. VERY do-able.

And he also thinks that the person who sets that record will be running barefoot!

Frankly, we hope he (and, I know it sounds sexist, but it’ll be a “he”) opts for a tiny bit of protection and wears a pair of Xero Shoes!

Phil’s book has some fascinating info about the sub-2 marathon, and even things that might help you run faster than you thought you could. And you’ll find out why he thinks the sub-2 wil be run without shoes.

Check it out on Amazon —

can we run a 1:59 marathon?And to show you something beautiful, look at this slow-mo video of Dennis. Even with a 10mm drop in his shoes, he’s a serious mid-foot strike runner.

I’d love to get Dennis in a pair of Amuri Cloud ;-)

National Runner Survey 2014

runnerCalling all RUNNERS!

What motivates you to run? What is your favorite race distance? How often do you run?

You are being invited to participate in Running USA’s National Runner Survey, a comprehensive survey to assess the demographics, lifestyle, attitudes, habits, and product preferences of the running population nationwide.

The National Runner Survey is easy to access and available online. All responses are completely anonymous and confidential.

Don’t miss this opportunity to join other runners nationwide!

To access the survey, click here:

Select Xero Shoes as the organization that invited you to participate.

The survey is open until December 15, 2014.

24 Hour Barefoot Running World Record

Andrew Snopes sets a barefoot running world recordIf you bump into someone who opines, “You can’t run in bare feet!” show them this.

Andrew Snope ran 131.43 miles, barefoot, in 24 hours!

Yup. Ran for 24 hours (with just a few bathroom breaks). Did it barefoot.

And if that same opinionated person counters with, “Yeah, but the world record is 188.59 miles from a guy wearing shoes,” you can reply with, “But Andrew’s only been a runner for 3 years, and he wasn’t trying to beat the record. Geez!”

We say a big congrats to Andrew and can’t wait to see what he does next!

Is barefoot running really BS?

Marc Lindsay recently posted what I’m sure he thinks is a scathing critique of barefoot running at called “Why Barefoot Running is BS.”

Sadly, it’s not the well-researched, well-considered investigation I think he believes it to be. In fact, given that the top of the article clearly says “Sponsored by Brooks,” one has to wonder if this anti-barefoot running article isn’t just a piece of shoe industry propaganda. Continue Reading

Barefoot Running Q&A – Transitioning, pain, and cold weather

Here’s another Barefoot Running Q&A video, where I take an email I’ve received and give an answer on video.

In this video we look at the relationship between barefoot and minimalist shoes, foot and calf pain  during the transition to barefoot, how minimalist shoes fit in with the transition to bare feet, and how to handle the cold.

Some of the links you’ll want to take a look at:

Transitioning to Barefoot Running

Is Calf Pain Necessary

Dealing with “top of foot pain.”

Barefoot running and cold weather

What are the benefits of barefoot walking and running?

I got a message on Facebook from Ben:

I have a pair of your sandals and I really enjoy the freedom, strength and all around sensation I get running free!

My only hurdle has been steeping on rocks on the ball or knuckle of my feet and bruising an irritating the nerves. I have had bouts with mortons neuroma and whenever I land on that spot with a rock or hard object – I am back to my cushy runners. Maybe I am destined to be a shod runner or maybe in time my feet will toughin’ up? Any advice would be helpful!

Thank you!

Now, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play on on TV (or anywhere else for that matter), so the best I can do is tell you what I’ve noticed since I ditched my shoes and started walking and running barefoot (in 2009).

I replied to Ben:

My experience has been that 4 things happened over time:

  1. My feet became stronger and more flexible (so they bend around the things that used to be painful). In fact, I was at a clinic for chiropractors not too long ago and the teacher said to his students, “If you have to, pay Steven to let you check out his feet… you’ll be amazed at how strong they are, but really relaxed and flexible.” Sadly, nobody paid me… but a lot of people did check out my feet ;-)
  2. My reflexes seem to have improved, so I step off things that might be painful faster, and therefore they don’t hurt.
  3. My gait changed, so that I don’t have my weight on my foot until it’s a bit more flatfooted as I walk — with more surface area, there’s less force/stress on any specific part of my foot.
  4. I pay more attention (effortlessly) to where I’m stepping, so I don’t put my feet on painful things as often. It seems like a combination of using peripheral vision, plus feeling what’s underfoot more quickly.

I hope that’s helpful.

And I hope that’s helpful for you as well.

If you’ve been barefooting, what have you noticed about your walking and running over time?

Leave your comments (and questions) below…

Is running in our DNA?

One reason scientists study mice is, much as we may not want to admit it, we have a lot in common with our rodent relatives.

We share enough DNA and physiology that studying mice often reveals quite a bit about us humans.

So, does this recent study from Leiden University explain why many of us like to run?

In short, neurophysiologist Johanna Meijer set up a running wheel — yes, the kind you would put in a mouse, or rat, or hamster cage — in her backyard and, after enticing animals to come near with the help of some food, watched that they ran on the wheel. Not to get the food. Just to run.

Wild mice would often come back and run as much as caged mice — mice who usually have nothing else to do — would.

As Emily Underwood says of the study,

Rats, shrews, and even frogs found their way to the wheel—more than 200,000 animals over 3 years. The creatures seemed to relish the feeling of running without going anywhere.

Maybe this tells us why we like to run.

Or maybe it just explains treadmill sales ;-)

Man running on hamster wheel

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