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.

THE WORST.

ABSOLUTELY.

Why?

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:

FEEDBACK.

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


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 Active.com 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!
Ben

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


You won’t believe what the best barefoot running shoes are

Ron Hill wearing the best barefoot running shoesRon Hill ran the 10k in the Mexico City Olympics barefoot.

When asked why, he responded, “They were the lightest shoes I could find.”

At Xero Shoes, we believe the best running shoes are, well, your feet.  Bare feet.

You don’t need pronation control. You don’t need a bunch of padding.

You need to be able to move your feet naturally. To flex, to bend, to stretch, to feel the world.

Now, that said, barefoot isn’t always practical or ideal.

Ron Hill was on a track — even, basically smooth, no obstacles or rocks or uneven patches. That’s the best place for his barefoot running shoes — his feet.

But what about you, on a road or a trail.

There are a lot of times where you’ll want some protection, but with as close to a barefoot experience as possible.

That’s why we developed Xero Shoes.

When you’re looking at footwear that simulates being barefoot, please be careful.

Almost all of the shoes sold by big companies that call themselves “barefoot” or “minimalist” are about as close to barefoot as a pair of stilts. I’ve seen shoes with an INCH of padding that still advertise themselves as “just like being barefoot.”

Are these minimalist shoes?

The next wave of “barefoot shoes”?

Uh…

The Running Clinic Rates the Best Barefoot Shoes

Canada’s The Running Clinic devised a rating system to evaluate the best barefoot running shoes.

I’m happy to say that Xero Shoes came out on top. The next closest competitors are not shoes that you want to run in, frankly… unless you like replacing your footwear every few miles. And most of those cost way more than a pair of Xero Shoes.

RunningClinic.ca rates the best barefoot running shoes

Our 4mm Connect DIY sandal kit is the closest thing you’ll find to barefoot. The Amuri Cloud is next, though with the addition of a tiny bit (3mm) of BareFoam, it feels like even more protection. The 6mm Contact DIY kit and Amuri Venture give a great barefoot feel with a bit more protection.

Check them all out at our online store.

All of our Xero Shoes barefoot running shoes have the best warranty you’ll find: a 5,000 mile one!

Start enjoying your Xero Shoes today… and Feel The World!

 


Daniel Lieberman studies the Tarahumara running

Daniel Lieberman studies the TarahumaraDr. Daniel Lieberman is one of the fathers of the barefoot running movement. His study showing how barefoot runners strike the ground with less force than shod runners, combined with Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, catalyzed the growth of barefoot and minimalist running.

Well, it’s as if Dr. Lieberman had a child with BTR, since his new study looks at how the Tarahumara run. And, more, it compares Tarahumara runners in huaraches to younger Tarahumara who run in padded running shoes.

You can read the study for free here.

Before I talk about what the study reveals (and what it doesn’t), let me address a myth about barefoot running… Continue Reading


Happy Born to Run release day!

Born To Run TreeMay 5th is an important day in the barefoot running world. And, for the same reason, it’s one of the most important days in the Xero Shoes world.

What makes it so important?

As Brian Metzler from Competitor.com reminded me, “Journalist Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” hit bookstore shelves five years ago Monday—on May 5, 2009.”

Brian describes 11 ways that Born To Run influenced the running world, from simply being a really great read, to inspiring the growth of ultrarunning, to creating a number of great races, to inspiring people to run barefoot, to encouraging shoe companies to make minimalist footwear (of course, if you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know I think most “minimalist shoes” are as close to barefoot as a pair of stilts).

The 12th way that Chris’s book influenced the world is that it was one of the inspirations for Xero Shoes.

If you’ve read Lena’s and my story, you’ll know how BTR inspired us. But, more, the success of the book created a wave that we surfed. Were it not for the millions of people who read BTR, Xero Shoes would have remained a goofy little hobby.

Now, on days when we work 12+ hours, I sometimes long for those hobby times ;-) … but given the thousands of people we’ve been able to help — people who can now run or walk or hike enjoyably and pain-free — and the fun we have when a new person discovers the fun of being able to feel the world when they’re out and about, we couldn’t be more thankful for this anniversary.

Congrats again to Chris for his success. Thanks again to him for all he’s done for ALL of us. And stay tuned and cross your fingers for the Born To Run movie!

Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/05/news/the-legacy-of-born-to-run_72044#87lhfEDFlPMXujus.99


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