The important barefoot running blister

Getting a blister from barefoot running was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

Let me back up and tell you the whole story so you can understand why.

On my second barefoot run ever, I was so fascinated by the sensations, and so transfixed by experimenting to see the effects of different stride patterns, that I didn’t even notice I had run 5k. Now that may not sound like much to you ultra-marathon guys, but I’m a sprinter. I’d never run more than a mile before!

About 20 minutes after the run, though, I noticed that I had a big blister on the ball of my left foot, under my 2nd toe.

It wasn’t lost on me that I only had a blister on one foot. And it was particularly interesting that it was my left foot, because most of the injuries I’d been getting (the ones that inspired me to try barefoot running, with the hope it would cure me), were in my left leg.

Clearly, I was doing something with my left leg that caused the blister, something I wasn’t doing with my right leg, which felt fine.

A week later, I went out for another barefoot run, well before the blister had fully healed. I thought that I’d experiment some more and see if I could run in a way that didn’t hurt. And, I figured, if I couldn’t find a way to run pain-free in about ten minutes, I’d just stop and try again when the blister was gone.

As a ran, I kept thinking, “How can I stop doing with my left leg what I’m already not doing with my right?” But no luck.  For the first nine minutes of that run I was in pain. I couldn’t find a way to move my leg, or meet the ground, that didn’t hurt.

I put my attention on my good leg, my right leg, and wondered, “How can I just do THIS, whatever that is, with my left leg?”

About a minute later, something changed.

At the time, I didn’t know what it was, all I knew is that I was able to run without my left foot hurting. I wasn’t doing whatever it was that caused the blister in the first place.

And, simultaneously, I started running easier, faster, lighter and with less effort than I ever had. I finished the run (only about 3k this time, but still…) and felt fine.

That was the last time I’ve been injured from running.

What changed? I know now that I was doing 3 things:

  1. Overstriding (reaching out with my foot rather than placing it under — or closer to — my center of mass)
  2. Pulling my foot towards me (which puts strain on the hamstring)
  3. Pushing off with my foot with a slight “pawing back” motion (instead of placing my foot then lifting it off the ground)

I don’t recommend getting blisters, but one of the best things about barefoot running is that you learn to listen to the feedback — sensations — you get, and use those to coach yourself to become a better runner. It’s an ongoing process of continual improvement.

That blister was the best thing that ever happened to me as a runner.

  • Bente

    Hi, I like that very much, thank you for sharing! There is hope for me to then : ) I just started running barefoot, and Í got one little blister on the ball of my left foot, right under my big toe. And in the middle, same foot, I was very sore, like if one more blister was ready to arrive in just a minute. It didn’t, I was lucky.

    I am not even a runner to begin with, I just started to learn how to run some months ago and I have not been able to run more than two minuts at a time, then I had to stop, because of such pain in the lower part of my legs – my chin, ankles and my calf muscles.
    Okay, wrong kind of runningshoes, I think, I was about to bye some new ones, when I saw something about barefoot running on the internet and I knew this was for me!!!
    First time on bare feet, I could run 7 minutes and could have proceeded if it wasn’t for the fact, that I was home by then. And the pain in my legs was all gone!!

    There was some pain afterwards, but it was just soreness and it was entirely different muscles this time.

    The second time I tried running in the rain with a tiny patch on my blister, but it went loose of course
    and it just got worse.

    Now I am waiting for my Invisible Shoes to arrive, I hoped they would help me, so I can run with my blister untill it is gone away. But, after reading this I think I will give it one more try on bare feet, so I can learn : )

  • Michael Arau

    Thanks so much for this Steven. I also heard your phone call into the NPR station regarding similar. I just got back from my Sunday Six miler. I typically start out in some sort of shoe (VFF) until my muscles warm up and my feet start to cooperate. I used your advice and payed attention to lifting my feet and not striding out. I did my middle four miles this way and was very happy that I managed to go that long. I generally feel a burn in my feet (from scuffing) after two barefoot miles. I also noticed muscles coming into play that I don’t usually feel. Best of all, when I was done, I felt more invigorated than usual. Looking forward to future runs with your sage advice. Thanks again.

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  • Dale

    I just went on my first real barefoot run today. A little tenderness, which I expected, as I haven’t really been going barefoot much. But I noticed exactly what Steven experienced: a blister, on one foot only (the right). A few days ago, I went on my first run in months (with minimal shoes), and noticed the following day that my right lower leg was much more sore than my left.

    It’s clear to me that whatever I’m doing with my left leg, I need to be doing with my right. I did spend a little time trying that today, without success. I’ll keep trying. And I’ll also do some non-running exercises to strengthen and stabilize the right lower leg.

  • Tammy

    Hey Steven!
    Thank you so much for posting this! I have been having this same problem, only with both of my feet. I get big blisters underneath my second toes on the ball of my feet. I am pretty sure now, that it must be from pushing off when I walk and run. My strike is pretty good now, I’ve been working on it for a while. But I hadn’t realized how I was pushing off. Learning how to walk correctly is sure a work in progress for me. I am so glad I am keeping my toddler in minimal shoes and sandals! I just got him his first pair of invisible shoes. I have yet to make them, but I plan on taking pictures or video when I’m done. It may be a bit of a task because I’m not sure if the cord will even be narrow enough for his little toes…ha ha…
    Thanks again!

  • Caleb

    I did my first “barefoot” 4 miles the other day and had the exact same blisters that you describe here. I knew there was something that I needed to change in my form, but I couldn’t figure out what. This gives me hope that things will improve as I listen to my body.

  • andy trisconi smith

    Thanks for the tips. I just dont know what my body is telling me sometimes but now i have some things to listen out for and hopefully this will move me to blister free running

  • kbs1138

    How about if I just walked for 30 minutes in them and got a sore spot below my second toe on my left foot which feels like the start of a blister? this is my first pair. I was thinking I still haven’t figured the proper tightness on the tying.

    • It’s not going to be tightness. It’s going to to be form.

      Notice that you didn’t get the same thing on your right foot. The odds are good that the tension is the same on both, but that your form is different.

      Pay attention to the “good” foot and you may notice the “bad” one adjusting.

      • kbs1138

        well, tried several things, adjusted how I walk, don’t make any noise, redone the laces, walked around a for few days practicing. Today I took another 30 minute walk and about two-thirds of the way I could feel blisters developing behind the second toe on both feet. No adjusting worked. I’m definitely not over striding. By the time I got home, really bad. I’m hobbling around the house. I think these are nice for short walks like to the car, but definitely not for extending walking or running. At least for me, I’ll look for something else for exercise.

        • Keep in mind that there are tens of thousands of people who can walk or run for as much as 100 miles at a time without a blister. There’s no reason you can’t do the same, I assure you.

          One thing: 30 minutes is clearly too much to start with (or, from what you said, 20 minutes). We often recommend starting with as little as 200 yards.

          The blister you’re describing is not uncommon in barefooters (with or without huaraches) and is always from either overstriding or pulling your foot towards you after landing (depends on how you land).

          I know you *think* you aren’t overstriding, and maybe you’re not. But if I had a dollar for every time someone ASSURED me they weren’t doing something that, upon looking at video, they were in fact doing… we’ll I’d have a lot of dollars 😉

          As I like to say: excess horizontal force = friction = blisters … and isn’t an intrinsic part of being barefoot or in Xero Shoes. Knowing this, wonder, “Where might I be applying extra force/friction in that area?” and you’ll probably discover the answer.

  • Paul

    Very insightful! I tried my xeros for the first time yesterday and got a little blister. I’ll try to apply this tomorrow. Thanks Steven.

  • Ron Laskowski

    I walk, run and workout barefoot and I get all sorts of blisters only on the ball of my right foot (it is also the foot I sprained my ankle on 7 months ago while playing tennis in shoes). I really want to figure out why my good foot is smooth and happy while my other foot is riddled with patches of missing callous skin. I guess I’ll just have to really think about it while I’m running next time.

    • It’s kinda simple: You’re creating friction with your “bad” foot and not with your good foot. Now the question is: How am I creating friction?

      And the answer to that is almost always the same: Either “over striding” (reaching out with your foot too far when you land), or pulling/pushing your foot when it’s on the ground.

      Like I suggested, pay attention to your good foot and see if you find/feel anything from that awareness.

      • Ron Laskowski

        One more question. So I ran again, this time paying close attention to any difference between my feet and this time I had much less friction on my bad foot. Unfortunately, this time I was getting some pressure/pain the side callous of my big toe of both feet! Does that mean I’m still stepping off the toe too much instead of the ball? Or should I have more of an up and down motion?
        Thanks for your help!

        • Without seeing a video, it’s hard for me to comment… but think about the *principle* here: a) blisters/callouses come from too much horizontal force (which produces friction); b) You can only get a blister/callous on a place that’s in contact with the ground (I’ve had more than my share of people with abrasion on their heels who ASSURE me they don’t heel strike 😉 ); c) that much horizontal force isn’t necessary (those of us who spend a lot of time barefoot don’t have blisters/callouses).

          So, the key is to figure out where during your stride the blistered/calloused part of of your foot is touching the ground in a way that then gets more friction than is necessary.

          It could be during landing, during the contact phase (pulling/pushing too much), or during lift off (scraping your foot).

          During landing, you can get friction from overstriding as well as from landing on a part of your foot that doesn’t want to be landed on 😉 (in other words, ignore “instruction” about where/how you should land and EXPERIMENT and find what works for you).

  • Josh

    I tried my first pair of xero shoes today and they held up very well for my 5km run in 38 c weather. I have been gradually adjusting to minimalist running for several months. In addition, I grew up in a beach area as a child and rarely wore shoes for most of the year. After my run today I have no issue with my left foot but my right foot, on the heel, is quite badly blistered. Now I am not blaming the shoes, but I am curious if anyone has had the same issue. It is curious that only one foot is affected, perhaps I am heel striking on the right foot to cause a plantar blister? I have been told that I ‘lurch’ when I walk. Any advice would be appreciated as I think this might be the right time to fix my stride:)

    • The only way you can get a blister is if you’re putting force/friction on that spot. So if you got a blister on your heel, you’re probably landing on it.

      Like this article says, pay attention to what your “good” foot is doing and try to get your “bad” foot to match.

      I LOVE “unilateral” problems… because you know that it’s possible to do things correctly since your “good” side is, well, good.

      Then just get the “bad” side to stop doing what caused the problem in the first place.

  • Marna Marie’ Strauss

    I’ve been in Zeroshoes for the last 3 weeks, walking 7km per day, apart from sore feet (while my feet strengthens up) one odd blister whilst flattening the knot, no real problems.

    I did my first half marathon yesterday in my Zeroshoes. I got looks, ridiculous comments, extremely rude remarks from the older running folks and a healthy interest from the younger people. I referred a number of people to the South African Zeroshoe distributed – I was a true Zeroshoe ambassador.

    Planning to walk it I got so excited and started running, without even checking form or shoes. I did however had to stop twice to re-tie my shoes.

    My Zeroshoes were slapping and shifting – I was stopped at 17km with severe blisters on both feet and had to opt for mizuno’s..and the remaining 4km.

    Can’t wait for my feet to heal to go running 😉

    Any advice healing blisters?

    I don’t have any pain after yesterday – first time in my life.

    Thank u for developing Zeroshoes!

    • Most importantly, it’s great to hear you’re pain-free.

      Secondly, the only thing that heals blisters is TIME 😉

      Third, both slapping and “shifting” are symptoms of the same issue: a form problem (almost always: overstriding). See for more info.

      Keep us posted, and thanks for the kind words!

      • Marna Marie’ Strauss

        Good Morning Steven,

        I have figured out what’s giving me blisters. Its the knot under foot.
        Is there a video showing how to make the knots smaller/flatter?

        The knot’s flatten quite a bit in the last 3 weeks but I got blisters when I started running in my Zero’s.

        Have anyone else reported blisters or sore feet caused by the knot?

        Marna Marie’
        Cape Town, South Africa

        • a) Look at the video on this page for the “lace bead” —

          b) I hope this doesn’t sound rude, but now that I’ve dealt with tens of thousands of huarache runners, I’ve never had a time where someone’s idea that the knot caused a blister was correct.

          I’d need to see a photo of where your blister is to verify this, so feel free to send a photo to

          Here’s why I don’t think the knot is your problem:

          The knot is between your toes and in front of the ball of the foot. If you overstride and end up landing on the knot, then the real problem is overstriding, not the knot. If you’re not overstriding, then all blisters are friction related, and the only other way to create excessive friction is pulling/pushing with your feet rather than placing/lifting.

          Again, try the lace bead, but send me a picture for better diagnosis.

  • Daniel Rosales

    I’ve been running for 13 years now and went from Brooks, Mizuno to ZEMGEAR, LEMS and Xeroshoes. I started training up for the GoRuck challenge (Las Vegas) in the Sensori’s while running with a 20-30lbs pack. I noticed the friction is indeed in the placement of the foot. I realized that while wearing a ruck sack on my back and running caused less friction than running without a ruck sack. So I agree with Steven’s response on the whole blister issue. I do get lots of attention at 130lbs running with a ruck sack and now with Sensori’s it just changes the whole dynamics of running.

  • Duane Armitage

    I just bought a pair of 11s, I’m in between a 10 & 11; I got a blister on my left foot where the thong meets the sandal between by big toe and 2nd toe. Could this be a striking problem, or are my shoes too big?

    • Hard to tell for sure without a photo. Send us one — — showing where the blister is, and your feet in the sandals (from a few angles).

      Odds are, though, that it’s a foot striking issue… notice that you didn’t get a blister on your RIGHT foot (similar to my story). That’s almost always a sign of something related to form.

      • Duane Armitage


        Thank you for such a quick response! I’ve attached a picture…I’ve also experienced knee pain (upper calf and behind the knee), could this , again be a foot (heel maybe?) striking problem (I also could be over-doing it) ?

        I love these shoes!! They feel so great to run in…

        • Guest


        • a) Again, if the issue you’re having is on one side only, that’s almost always a sign of a form glitch (otherwise it would happen on both). Like I say in this article, pay attention to the “good” side and experiment to see what you can change on the “bad” side.

          b) You’re pulling the lace a bit farther to the outside of your foot than I would. I’d change the tension so the toe strap goes straighter back toward your shin. I’d also try moving the knot down toward you toes about 1.5″ (better geometry that way). See what that does.

          c) Calf/knee pain is most likely going to be from either landing too stiffly (bend your knees a tiny bit more), overstriding, or even heel striking. Or… if it’s really mostly calf pain, overstriding or pushing off the ground rather than LIFTING your foot off the ground by flexing the hip.

          d) All of the above can also happen if you’re simply doing more time/distance than your body is ready for

          • Duane Armitage

            Thank you Steven! This helps a lot.

  • The odds are extremely high that the cause was how you handled the downhill sections. Most people run downhills by overstriding, extending their feet out in front of them, and applying braking forces.

    Instead, you want to continue to keep your feet “underneath you” and let your cadence (faster) be your throttle… or simply FLY down the hills! 😉

  • Totally consistent with applying braking forces on the downhill… see my new video about this at

  • Simon

    Hi Steven, I have some blisters past two runs with xeroshoes and I was wondering what I should do in my situation. I got my xeroshoes last Sunday and I have been excited to run with them, but soon after I start running, I start to have sharp blister pain on my foot. As a result, I finish my run with barefoot and I do not have any issues running barefoot and I can finish my run.

    Blisters are located on an odd part of my foot. They are between my ball of the foot and toes (I never had blisters there in my life). I am new to xeroshoes and I am thinking of few different options for this issue.

    1) trying different tying method – I used the basic tying with double hitch knot as demonstrated in the video.
    2) trying different running style – I am not quite convinced that I should change my running style since I have no problem with barefoot (barefoot of course, I have some trouble with sensory overload on rough surface, but still no blisters on asphalt or grass).
    3) trim the outsole to fit to my feet more closely – as of now, I trimmed some but I was afraid of trimming them too much.
    4) flatten more of the toe hole knot – I feel them running/walking they are not a huge hinderance to my walk/run but I do feel them. They are about 2 mm.

    What would you suggest me to do or are there other suggestions?

    Best wishes,
    Simon Oh

    • Simon

      I am replying to myself on this posting. I tried different methods of tying the xeros from Randy Kreill and it worked amazing. I think the major problem was the heel straps that gave too much room for wiggle and vibration. Also a bad habit of kicking off on the ground too much. I guess my feet were too exited about the new protection allowed the bad habit of kicking back instead of lifting the foot.

      Now I run blister free with xeros. I have picked up a new form that helps me to run better in both xeros and barefoot because of the blisters. I can see why blisters are great things; they are great running trainer.
      I love xeros and I can’t see how I will run without them. Thank you for making these great shoes.

  • morri85

    I am also a sprinter…when ever i try getting into a running trot my ankle protests, whatever I do I havent found out how not to aggravate the ankle…

    • Sadly, there’s not much I can do to help you based on a one sentence description of a problem. And, really, the only way I could offer anything meaningful would be to see you run. Without that, the best I can say is: a) Experiment and see what you discover, or; b) If it hurts, don’t do it. 😉

  • Steven Perez

    So I just got my new xeroshoes (cloud) and went for my first run in them. Being a long distance runner I decided to go for a run. Being a first time sandal running user, I found these to be very delightful and so easy to use.

    I intended to go for a 6 mile run but decided to go the long route since these sandals were such a delight to be running in that I went 12 miles.

    I was told that I should not be doing a long run for a first time user.

    Well my issue that came up was blisters. i had one on the tip of my middle toe and one on the ball of my foot in between my toes and the ball. What’s odd was that it was only my left foot and although I had some discomfort on the same locations on the right, it was no where near as bad as the left foot.

    I had transitioned from vibrams and alta one’s so I was hoping that I would not run into issues. I guess I will have to learn to make some corrections. Time to pull out the bodyglide and toe socks (with toe guards) while I learn to correct my gait and/or stride.

  • grason bush

    I just ordered a pair of the clouds and this up coming week we are going to the palo duro canyon. We go quite often and I normally take some 4-5 mile trails. I’ve been using the Chaco sport sandals, and I know you kinda have to break those in. I’m new to barefoot wear/minimalist shoes so I was wondering can I go and hike my favorite trails in these xeroshoes with out breaking them in?

    • Xero Shoes don’t require any break in period. But YOU may need a bit of time to get used to walking/hiking in them.

  • BakerMaker

    Can you elaborate on what you mean with number 2: pulling your foot towards you? I always have thought hamstrings (though I have them even when I haven’t been running) and any info helps. Thanks

    • When your foot is on the ground in the proper position, the hamstrings work isometrically. Your foot placement should more like “placing and lifting” than “pulling/scraping”.

      If you land with your foot too far in front of your body, you have to pull your foot toward you, and you do that with your hamstring overly stretched… which isn’t ideal.

      Make sense?

      • BakerMaker

        Yes! Thank you for the clarification. I think this is what I was doing while simply walking, and also somehow in sitting because my hamstrings were tight for months. Last week (after finally having started to run a bit after recovering from an unrelated surgery) I was compelled to go 12 miles in my huaraches on a whim, and suddenly my hamstrings weren’t as tight while my quads were pleasantly sore. Thanks again!

  • Brian Logee

    Hi. I have a question about barefoot running. I am 53 years old and new to barefoot running. I am currently making the transition from maximal shoes to barefoot, as well as the amuri venture sandal. I think I’ve got the forefoot landing dialed in and I’m not overstriding. Where I’m struggling is with toe off. I can’t seem to unlearn the habit of pushing off with my toes and it’s giving me blisters on the balls of my feet as they do a little skid backwards on every step. I don’t get blisters with my ventures, but I can hear a little squeek on every step that lets me know I’m still pushing off. I can’t get my head around how to move forward without pushing off the ground. When I just lift my foot, I feel like I’m not going anywhere and my pace slows to where I feel like I’m marching in place. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks! Brian

    • If you’re getting blisters on the ball of your foot, the odds are extremely high that you’re overstriding. “Toe off” blisters tend to be, well, on the toes. Regarding “toe off” the “secret” is:

      a) Wonder how you can relax your calves and ankles more and use less effort
      b) Think about lifting by flexing your hip rather than pushing off your toes… and definitely don’t think about “scraping” your foot to get it off the ground.

      What moves you forward is not the small amount of horizontal force that happens as you lift your foot off the ground.

    • You may also find the first 2 videos at helpful.

    • Chris Speakman

      Check out this book I found it very useful. Keith has some great drills tho help you concentrate on hip flex instead of toe off.

    • Chris Speakman

      I also found strengthening toe lift with a light weight whilst watching TV was helpful. Small dumbbell weight 500g was plenty; put toes under it and lift it up, try not to end up using quads. Keeping knee bent and relaxed even heel on the ground initially will help with this.

      • Brian Logee

        Thanks for the helpful suggestions. As I write this, I have ice packs strapped to the top of both feet due to pain at the front and just to the side of my ankles. I think I need to back off this barefoot running thing for a while until I heal up. As I try and fix one thing, I injure new things. Extremely frustrating, but I guess a lifetime of incorrect running form can’t be overcome in a few weeks (six, to be precise, since I started this.). Brian

        • Chris Speakman

          Definitely learning to listen to the body and adjust is the biggest and sometimes the hardest lesson to learn from your bare feet👣 I’ve been going 3 years now and I still sometimes forget to relax and enjoy🙂

          • Brian Logee

            How long did it take until you could run decent distances without pain or injury using this forefoot strike running technique?

          • Chris Speakman

            Pretty well straight away (first attempt was a10k race on sand) but bare in mind that the heel must also still kiss the ground on each foot placement (no foot strike in barefoot running). The elastic return from each compression should be through the whole foot on the ground so that the calf muscle works in compression as impact absorption not as prime mover. Leave that for the elastic return after compression through the whole leg, lastly the larger leg muscles (glutes) that’s their job.

            Swing knees/upper leg from the hips and relax the lower leg and ankles so they can passively get out of the way in time.

          • Chris Speakman

            If you consciously try and forefoot land you are in danger of reaching forward and overstriding. Upper leg swing and hip flex to move your weight forward is more important the feet will then take care of themselves and end up directly under your centre of weight. Check this out

          • It’s not that you’re “in danger” of reaching forward… it’s that you want to pay attention so that you don’t 😉

          • It’s different for each person, so I’m hesitant to talk about my experience as if it’s typical.

        • Chris Speakman

          Yep listen and recover. 3 years and I’m still learning it’s part of the deal. Can be frustrating at times but worth persevering….

    • Einars Mednis

      To reduce pushing off, im thinking about pressing down heel to maximaly strech achilles as last move. Rest heppens automaticly.

  • Mrigank

    Hello!! Firstly, I love these shoes to the core. Me and my wife have been running in the DIY 6-mm since more than an year now. The only problem I face is when I walk long in them, it gives me blisters (pretty bad ones !!) under my feet, between my toe and index finger. I am almost certain I am doing something wrong, but just cant figure out what. Any suggestions? It would be really nice if I could fix this, somehow.

  • Chris Speakman

    Interesting! Check this out…
    Similar effect called the mirror trick for fixing niggles I the run….