Barefoot Running Update

I’ve been running barefoot three times a week for six months with no relapse of the knee or heel pain I used to suffer from when I ran in shoes. I have stubbornly refused to spend any money for minimal footwear (largely because I’m a cheap bastard), but I really don’t feel like I need to. I’ve run all of my barefoot miles on a decomposed granite path and have not had a single injury of any kind, not even a scratch. Danny Dreyer’s book ChiRunning helped correct some form issues. Some things I’ve figured out:

1. Running barefoot gives you instant feedback, but bad form from a lifetime wearing shoes can still pose a problem. I don’t think that feedback would have been as effective had I worn minimal shoes.

2. The guy who runs the anti-barefoot running website that’s the first hit in Google when you search “barefoot running” is a podiatrist who sells . . . shoes.

3. You have to transition slowly. I’ve used the following schedule running three days a week and lifting weights and using my bike for errands on the other days. I think this schedule could be stretched out even further.

Week 1-2: (run 1 minute walk 2 minutes) x 4
Week 3-4: (run 2 minutes walk 2 minutes) x 3
Week 5-6: (run 2 minutes walk 1 minute) x 4
Week 7-8: (run 3 minutes walk 1 minute) x 4
Week 9-10: (run 4 minutes walk 2 minutes) x 4
Week 11-12: (run 4 minutes walk 1 minute) x 6
Week 13-14: (run 5 minutes walk 1 minute) x 6 
Week 15 run 1 mile
. . . etc., adding 10% more distance per week until the goal of 5k three times a week is reached.

4. Running barefoot gives a you a direct contact with Mother Earth (and Mother Concrete) and that’s kinda cool.

Barefoot running is one of those “ah-ha” ideas. It makes you wonder what other sacred cows can be taken “barefoot.” How about that expensive college education, for instance?

See our earlier post on barefoot running, “No Shoes, No problem.”

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13 Comments

  1. I think this is an excellent idea, especially if you live on a farm or someplace where you are running on ground and not concrete or asphalt.

    Reminds me of something I read about with people looking into the sun for longer and longer periods of time. Ive read its one of the best sources of vitamin D, but there are some tricks to it. Obviously looking into the sun doesnt sound very intelligent, but doing so within the half hour of sunrise and sunset is the time to do it, which is not harmful on the eyes.

  2. Another person who found swapping to ‘nearly barefoot’ running (Vibrams five fingers) almost instantly solved the foot, leg, knee and hip pain I had while running. Of course you have to start of slowly for short periods, but it doesn’t take long to get ‘up to speed’ so to speak.

  3. Thanks for the post! I was wondering how your barefoot running was going. About the same time as your original post, I started making a point of walking barefoot as often as I could: out in the yard, hanging laundry, doing dishes, taking a walking break at work. I noticed immediate improvement in my arches (less aching) and greater strength and mobility in my feet. Stretching out my toes helps, too, as they are mostly confined in shoes during my work day (alas). I have less knee pain when I go without shoes as often as I can, too – better foot placement when I need to be careful what I step on, and less heel-strike.

    My only problem is that with winter coming on, my feet get COLD without shoes, and slippers are just no good for anyones gait.

    Happy barefoot running!

  4. I feel more aware of the world (not just the world under my feet) when I am barefoot in the house. The grass on my feet causes horrid allergic itching, but I wear a sandal with absolutely no arch support, mostly a flat shoe, much to the chagrin of doctors and people who appear to know when my feet are happy! I cannot imagine my toes in their own little case! While I do not run, I might just get a pair to wear out in the yard and to the store. Thanks for all this information. Oh, having lost much of my balance after an injury and surgery on my knee and long convalescence, walking barefoot around the house puts me in touch with the “ground.” That is improving my balance.

  5. Very interesting. I had knee and shin splint problems for years as a distance runner. Now, post child birth, I’ve tried to get back into running and its agonizing. Yet I have no problem when a kid is in trouble and a leap out of my muck shoes and lit out across the farm in a full out sprint, even hours later when a jog to the corner would’ve been felt. Could be adrenalin… or could be that I ditched the shoes to run faster. ??? Just may have to get in on this “new” running phenomenon.

  6. I used to run barefoot for almost 2 months now, but decided to switch to wearing barefoot shoes because it feels much better, plus, the fact that it emulates the feeling of running barefoot is amazing. Our place also is not ideal for running without shoes as the ground made is of asphalt and some areas are somewhat rough too. I use Vibram Five Fingers and Kigo Shel, by the way. I must say I am very impressed as these shoes strengthen the calves and soles of my feet.

  7. Whoa – what’s this about education? An interesting comparison could be made there – an effect I’ve seen quite a lot. While you may receive instant feedback in terms of form when you run without shoes, you receive little to no feedback when you learn without a teacher or fellow students.

  8. The x4, x3, etc in your running schedule. Is that how many times a week you do it or how many repeats of run/walk cycles you do per workout.

    Also I have PTT, should I wait for it to go away completely before I try barefooting? I would go the VFF route for sure, since I already have a pair.

  9. Sarah,

    It’s how many repeats. Though I need to rethink this schedule, frankly. A running friend of mine pointed out some flaws and I need to do another post.

    I’m afraid I don’t know what PTT is. I’d just say listen to your body. If it hurts, stop.

  10. Glad the barefoot thing is working out for you. Hey, btw, have you heard of the Barefoot Runners Society? It is a community of barefoot/minimalist runners that you would find you have a lot in common with. :) Visit our website at http://www.barefootrunners.org (if you haven’t already) and see what you think. If you like it, drop me an email to miker(at)barefootrunners(dot)org. I’d like to send you some info on linking up to our upcoming blog roll. Good Running!

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