Barefoot runners

Any of you in RWland

As mentioned in other threads, the interview with Yanni Papastavrou in this months magazine he runs barefoot. Ran a 3;50:58 marathon in Lyon.

I know he's not alone a lot of runners don't have shoes, he says that it helped him overcome his injuries.

But is it practical? You never know what you can run into.

As he says i would imagine it would take your feet a long time to adjust especially if you have spent 20, 30, 40 or even more years in shoes

Ok ... over to you


  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭
    Thanks Farnie, had a look at his blog, very interesting
  • Pammie: I haven't read the article but I agree with the sentiment. I run barefoot on the treadmill to strengthen the feet. Likewise, I also do all my Pose (plyometric) drills barefoot.

    I'd love to run barefoot on concrete but I don't trust the cleanliness and safety of the pavement! Hence I run in very light thin shoes like Puma H Streets as a close approximation.

    I might give running barefoot a go...
  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭
    nrg-b Thanks

    Thats my view point as well the idea is fine but its whats left on the roads and paths, never thought of the treadmill though.
  • I'd been intrigued in the past by it all and I'd considered going as far as using running shoes that closely replicate barefoot running, such as the Free (never used it but might) and racing shoes such as the Nike Vaporfly (I use this often - lightweight, little support and cushioning).

    The intention was to free up my feet from the usual constraints of regular trainers but I found repeated usage actually caused me quite bad injuries (constantly going over my ankles - did it so bad it put me out for a week nearly), and therefore I just decided that trying this wasn't the best idea at this moment in time.

    Since then I've reverted to lighter but more supportive trainers and mix their usage with the Vaporfly's and have found the right balance.

    So to summarise, barefoot running interests me, but ironically I can see a lot of injury first before I can see the feet genuinely benefiting from this idea - and I don't really care as much for the latter to justify the former!
  • Pammie/StuartG: Using a treadmill you can gradually introduce barefoot running but keep the speed slow, cadence high and run lightly. My treadmill has a rough corrugated belt so I sometime wear sports socks.

    StuartG: I don't like Nike Frees, Vaporfly (or even Mayflys) - waaay too much cushion. Have a read here.
  • Hi,
    In my experience, running on concrete through town is much more predictable and clean than running on grass, where you can't easily see obstacles. Also, running on concrete more or less forces you to have good running form, since it is not a forgiving surface. Same for beach running. No way can you run hard, heel striking, pounding your feet on concrete, so you learn sharpish to run with really gentle, graceful form that does not pound your joints to oblivion. Running barefoot makes running with good form so much easier!
    Barefoot runner since December 2004.
    Check out for more on this.
  • Just started last week, and found on track it is way easier than I expected, the skin didn't come off in lumps, it will be a regular thing now, hadn't considered the treadmill, but will give it a go next time I'm at the gym.
  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭
    Yanni thanks for posting here will possibly try on the treadmill And thanks to monique (Hello there) try at the track when i next go out there.
  • Yanni: Well done on your 3:50 barefoot marathon, a remarkable achievement. I'm in total agreement with you. All my running is on concrete but in very light weight thin trainers. I completely agree that running barefoot requires a change of style. However, people need to be open minded to the concept of "running style" and that they can alter it if they want to.

    I run according to the Pose Method but quite open to new ideas. I would very much like to know what you think constitutes to good style. Join us here on the Pose Thread to discuss some more.
  • Re: Treadmills in the Gym:
    Some gyms insist you wear shoes in the gym, so it is better to ask first and avoid embarrassment, something that I wish I had thought about!

    My own gym asked me to make me wear shoes, citing "Health and Safety Reasons" but I explained that I would happily accept any responsibility for my actions. I asked to see their rules and regulations and there was actually nothing there about bare feet not being allowed in the gym. Would make doing Yoga, Pilates and some other activities difficult if "shoes must be worn at all times". They were quite insistent, pointing out that if a weight was dropped on my feet, they could not be held liable. But, unless I wore my steel-capped DMs, I doubt trainers would protect me from a large weight from crushing the bones in my feet!

    And, what about my head? I value my brains far more than my feet, so surely then I should wear a crash helmet to protect me from death in the gym from falling weights?

    Running is all about form, if you look at the top 10% in any race, do you see them heel-striking and leaning forward, and flailing around?

    With bare feet, you get the instant feedback that is masked when wearing shoes, which helps to fine tunes your form. Your bare feet become your two best coaches.

    A few notes on form:
    * land towards the front of the foot.
    * Posture upright.
    * Pick the feet up, DO NOT push off
    * Fast cadence
    * Bent knees
    * "Think tall" to straighten your spine
    * Run from your hips
    * Be relaxed and gentle, never ever POUND or STRIKE the ground, this will lead to injury.

    All this is far easier barefoot, since you get the required feedback as nature intended - we weren't born with shoes ;-) Learning to run well is somewhat analogous to learning a foreign language - would you wear ear-plugs? So, when learning good running form, why wear shoes? In each case, you need all the sensory information available to learn in the most effective and natural way. Any techniques to improve form such as POSE and ChiRunning are a huge merit, but in my experience, nothing is as simple, cheap and fun as running barefoot.

    Just my two pennies...
  • Right been meaning to try this for a while - now have 12 months til my next A race - am a carp runner anyway - seems a good time to get started

    Also suffering form ,al trackingpatella due to muscle inbalance and a large q angle on one leg - nothing to lose

    Have the advantage of access to a good allweather footy pitch to start on which will allow me to run barefoot with some 'give' til I get the form right

    How exciting
  • Luckily, I have my own treadmill.

    Maddy: There's no such thing as being a carp runner.

    Yanni: I just can't get over how much I agree with you. You're a breath of fresh air. Thanks for summarising all those points so nicely :-)

    What made you try barefoot running? And what were your initial experiences?
  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭
    Lucky you nrg-b

    I am a self-confessed heel striker. I have at times tried to concentrate running more forefoot with interesting findings.
    I'm told i don't slam my feet down really a bit of a shuffler if anything.

    So earlier this afternoon i had a go in the back garden for a few minutes (ok i had my socks on) and noticed without even trying i landed more on the balls of my feet, i couldn't land on my heels even if i tried
  • nrg-b,
    The short answer about why I started to run barefoot was that I was getting crippling knee injuries (ITB) and was on the point of quitting running, thinking "I want to be able to walk well into my retirement". Barefoot running stopped all these pains. The long answer is here:

    Amazes me how many people run through pain and ignore the fact that they are damaging their joints.

    Yes, no such thing as a crap runner. Consider that if you run, you are ahead of perhaps 80% of the population who are sedentary, as I was until about 6 years ago.

    Barefoot runner since December 2004.
  • Pammie: Well done. If you run regularly like this, then you'll soon find that when you run with shoes and heel-strike, it'll feel quite unnatural!

    Yanni: People also run to stiffly/tensely (especially when injured as they try to protect their joints/tendons; this can alter their running form).

    A key part is therefore to run relaxed. So when you pick your feet up your mental focus is precisely on that action. It is not on landing. It means that your other leg will land with exactly the right tension to support your bodyweight for the pace you're running at.
  • OK I am a slow runner but I want to enjoy running without suffering with my knees the day after

    I have asked at the gym I used and through the summer I should be able to get awya will some barefooot on the treadie but not once the undergrads come back
  • Is there any mileage in Nike Frees to help with this. I mean the low ones (3)

    Also has anyone seen the Newton Shoe from

    I hope an entrepneurial runner will start to import these shoes soon - Mr Sweatshop where are you?
  • Cabletow,
    No Mileage. Nike Frees are pretty poor as a barefoot-like shoe. From what I have heard from other people interested in running barefoot, Vibram Fivefingers are the best: . They are the best minimalist shoe if you want to strengthen your feet and improve form but are concerned with stepping on stuff.

    I would consider wearing V5F myself, perhaps on really rough trails or for when it gets below freezing, although that rarely happens in London, so I rarely have this problem of needing footwear. That said, with practice, even rough trails are possible barefoot:


    Of course, "Barefoot Ted" is no beginner....

    And, snow running is possible too, but again, not for the beginner:


    (That's me BTW, with several other four legged barefoot runners!)

    Newton Shoe looks even worse than the Nike Free - just another marketing gimmick.

    I tried the Puma H Streets in 2004 when I was getting my head and body around the idea of barefoot running. I then used some neoprene socks, which were better still, and more cost effective. If VFF were available then, I would have certainly used them.

    Barefoot runner since December 2004.

  • Whilst I agree with the sentiments behind it, I would rather wear racing flats.

    Although I disagree that you can run fast without pushing off.
  • Racing flats have the advantage over the VFF in that they don't look silly (IMHO, the VFF look a bit silly!) The more minimalist the better, so racing flats=good.

    I'm not saying that you cannot run fast without pushing off, I am saying that if you do push off, you greatly increase your likelihood of injury, particularly if you do so for every step of training for longer distances during endurance training.

    Sprinters can get away with it since they are running for a few seconds at a time. Even they don't push off at every step, only really when accelerating.

    Barefoot runner since December 2004.
  • The VFF do look silly but I want some - red and black :O)
  • I haven't been injured for 3 years, mind you I don't do marathons.

    It's hard to think if I push off every step or just when accelerating, I just go out and run (mid-foot).
  • Easiest way to determine if you push off - Do you get calf or achilles issues?
  • Not since switching to mid-foot.
  • Then you are unlikely to be pushing off significantly over what you are trained for.

    there is an element of push off in all forms of running. Even POSE the hamstring only pull exerts a horizontal vector at intitiation and that is what generates the lean at pose. On a truly frictionless surface there would be no forward motion (i Know Dr R has videos of him running on ice - but there is slippage going on). In chi the pelvis rotation along the spinal axis to lengthen stride also develops a push off.

    The idea is that most of the push comes from bigger muscles above the knee rather than the calf. To use the relatively weak calf for a push with every stride will result in calf and achilles pain
  • Yanni: Good posts (again). As well as push-off, landing on forefoot when over-striding will also increase the chance of injury. (Based on personal experience)

    CT: Agree with everything you said so far. Bit about "hamstring generating the lean" is not quite right. I'll demonstrate on Thursday.
  • CT, so you would disagree with Yanni then, that pushing-off greatly increases the chances of injury?

    I think he may have a point at distances above half-marathon.

    Running does seem to have quite a high injury rate.
  • No I agree with him - what we disagree with is that it is possible to run without a push off - it is not.
    You can run without an active calf push off but you still need to push whether that be with the calf, hamstring or glut you still need some leverage to move you forward. All gravity runners need a lever that needs to be anchored to the floor - otherwise newtons law about equal and oppsite action would mean you lean forward your foot would slide backwards.

    Over pushing, over striding and active landing all expose the lower leg to injury and you can minimise this by reducing your push off and relaxing the lower leg as much as you can - This is the fundamental principle of Chi Running
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