Volunteer Barefoot Runners (and writers) Wanted

I'm writing a book about running barefoot. Specifically, the adaptations (good and bad) experienced by ordinary runners in the early days of starting to run all, or some, of their miles barefoot.
We can read the research, find out about torque stresses of the joints and the effects of running unshod on a treadmill. But what about running in the real world? What can running barefoot offer the ordinary runner? Will it be good for us? Can it help us on the road to running injury free? What are the challenges that others faced when they started? How do they adapt and manage the transition?
These, and many others, are the questions I am looking to answer.
If you have recently started to run barefoot, I'd be interested in your experiences.
Please message me or look at the further info below for more details.
All contributors will receive a copy of book on publication.
More info here.
Read what others are writing here.
Graham Chapman


  • Hi there, Graham.

    I came across your post yesterday, just as I was researching barefoot running. I've been having a bit of a conflict lately between my motion-control road shoes and my very flexible off-road shoes, which offer virtually no support. I'm convinced the motion-control ones were doing more damage.

    I've just run 30 hilly miles cross-country in the off-road ones and started to get twinges in the joints of one of my arches. I was about to go down the route of more support - probably through corrective insoles, when I heard about the barefoot runner, Chris McDougall, on Midweek on Radio 4.

    This has made me think again and I've dug out a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes I bought about five years ago and just done my first run - which strangely made my right thigh think it was doing a lot of work.

    Anyway, if you're interested in hearing more of how I get on then I'm happy to let you know.

    All the best

    Dominic Weston
  • Graham,

    I guess that Scunty's post has brought this thread back up as I hadn't seen it before. Like Scunty I came to conclusion quite some time ago that motion-control road shoes were probably causing me problems. Like him I had a couple of pairs of fell running shoes and felt that these, with little or no support or control, were far better even on road sections.

    Also, like Scunty, I have only just heard about Chris McDougall (this time via the new Trail Running mag') and the fact that the only "shoes" he ever wears are the Vibram Five Fingers. I had never heard of them but checked them out, baught a pair and have started running in them.

    Not, perhaps strictly "barefoot" but I'd be happy to pass on my thoughts if they might be of any interest.


  • I also do a fair bit of barefoot and VFF running after falling out with my motion control shoes. I have the opinion that each persons biomechanical oddities are compensated for by the body itself and running in flat shoes or no shoes at all allow the body to do this effectively.

    I run treadmill barefoot most mornings and I run in five fingers at all other times. Depending on conditions I often start and finish my fivefinger runs barefooted as well.

    If I can be of help I'd be happy to do so

  • Hi Buzzard and Rob,

    I've seen Five Fingers but wondered if they would suit me as a couple of my toes are far from straight - how do you find them?


  • Dominic - I have a couple of crooked toes as well and I think running barefoot and in VFF's is starting to help straighten them (although I'm not 100% as it's still early days yet) I don't find any problems from wearing VFF's though.

    Do you have any pain from your toes at the moment? if you don't I doubt it will be a problem for you.

  • No, no pain, just a couple of dodgy nails from wearing over-padded running shoes that were cramping my toes. Thanks for the information. D
  • I don't think that anybody has "normal" feet Dominic and, since the toe sleeves(?) on the VFFs are very flexible, I doubt that you would have any trouble with them. The whole point of the VFFs is to allow your toes to move independantly, to help with the foot's natural cushioning, and so prevent the cramping so often found in "ordinary" running shoes.

    Unfortunately It's not easy to find a VFF retailer and try them on before you buy which is why I got my first pair on e-bay...£50 was rather more acceptable for a punt than £80odd!

    This site gives quite a lot of useful information on VFFs   http://birthdayshoes.com/

  • I have just started barefoot training as insoles didnt seem to help my runners knee and ITB problem. Its early days but so far Im adapting well and my foot strike, running gait completely changed, I have less noticeably pain on my knee so invested in Vibram bikila running shoe which is due out shortly this month.

    I have tried to vary where possible from smooth pavement to grass but hope the Vibrams will help me to train back to my marathon days image

     Be cautious people of buying online Vibram as not many websites sell the original product at a discounted price, if its really cheap be careful, after investigating I found out that 175 websites are FAKE and use different materials on the shoes, a yellow octagon vibram symbol on the bottom is likely to mean its genuine.

    I will be keeping up my barefoot training and really hope I can run my next marathon in sep with Vibram five fingers on my feet, better still barefoot! or perhaps with duck tape on my soles.....:0

  • Thanks for these comments, apologies, I've been away from the forum for a while.
    Yes, still looking for volunteers.
    For those who have just started to run barefoot (or have good memories of when they did), then I'm looking for regular progress reports; during your first 15 weeks (and beyond if you like). The original post gives links to more details.
    For those who are more established barefoot runners, then I have a questionnaire available which asks about your barefoot running journey; let me know if you'd like a copy; it'll only take a few minutes to complete and will help me to piece together what works and what doesn't with regards to barefoot running.
    Personally, running barefoot has eliminated my plantar fasciitis which had been stubbornly and painfully resisting other supposed remedies. It's also made me realise that I don't need a medial post or orthotics in my shoes to stop me getting runner's knee. But I've also had to deal with the odd problem or two along the way.
    Also eager to hear from people who've had no joy from barefoot running; so far, there are not many.
  • Where do you want these updates? On here or email or what? I'm game, currently do about 2 runs a week barefoot depending on weather etc and usually do mixed terrain, the rest of my runs are in five fingers or aqua shoes. I've been running this way for about 3 months or so
  • YB, if you look at GrahamC's first post on this thread you will see a link which leads to a runner's diary link. 
  • YR do you mean, how come everyone reads it as yorkshire bob? image does make me laugh

    Cheers Buzzard, I looked at that before but didn't spend much time on it really. I'll check it out

  • I did my first foray into BF running yesterday on the treadmill. I went for 10 minutes, probably with an average pace around 9-ish m/m. Getting off the 'mill and walking back to the changing room felt awesome - I felt that my walking form was the best it's ever been - my foot strike felt so natural. My form soon deteriorated once I got back into shoes.

    The plan is to go BF on the 'mill at least twice a week, with somewhere around a 10% increase p/week. I could probably do 30-mins+ now without problem as I strike on the FF anyway and wear race shoes, but I'm being very conservative.

    Keep up the good work Graham. There really aren't enough studies into BF running - you'll be doing the community a service.

  • Sorry YR.....never could spell!
  • Thanks for the encouragement, Is_it_safe?

    You raise an important point, concerning the early adaption to barefoot running.
    As you mention, your natural forefoot plant running style means that you'll probably adapt well to running without shoes. Most other runners, the vast majority who heel strike, will usually have to introduce barefoot running more gradually.
    Nevertheless, you say that you'll be conservative in the introduction of barefoot running; this is sensible and absolutely vital for most people.
    Good luck,
  • Hi GrahamC,

    Have a look  here - my earier posts have a bit about starting off bf.


  • I prescribe to the barefoot style of running. I currently wear Newtons and Viabrims. If anyone has problem with Viabrims, they might want to transition to them by wearing toe socks. My hammertoes hurt so bad that I had to quit wearing Viabrims. It has been about three weeks since I started wearing toe socks in my running shoes. Today i put my Viabrims on and am wearing them now without pain. So, if anyone has bad hammertoes don't give up on the Viabrims ; try transitioning to them with toe socks. If it hadn't been for the barefoot style of running , I would not be running today. The positioning of the leg under the hips with the foot strike on the ball of the foot and a slight lean from the ankle has made my running effortless and enjoyable. Though I am not running barefoot, I have gotten away from the cushoning in the shoes but do have some protection on my feet with Newtons and Viabrims.
  • I will be keeping up my barefoot training and really hope I can run my next marathon in sep with Vibram five fingers on my feet, better still barefoot! or perhaps with duck tape ADIDAS fludmotion shoes on my soles.
  • scroll to next post>
  • (couldn't get my post to separate from the quote)


    an update:

    It's rather apt that this thread should be in the health+injury forum... Having found 10 minutes on Friday felt so easy, today I went for 15 minutes at slightly increased pace (never exceeded 13 kph though). Everything was fine until I got off, whereupon I felt a stinging sensation in my little toes... 

    Although the rest of my toes / feet are unaffected, this 15-min treadmill run has taken the top layer of skin off the pads of both of my little toes... I can't even walk, let alone run now. I was signed up for training at the club tomorrow, and for a race Saturday... No hope. Absolute agony. 

    I'm not sure if it was the heat, or friction. It definitely wasn't pronation as there's a mirror in front of the 'mills.

    I'm highly p*ssed off. I can't even figure out how I'll crosstrain this week. The ends of my toes are totally shot. image

  • Treadmills are pretty tough on barefeet if you're not used to them. I used to do 5 mins at a time and it left hotspots. I'm fine doing 20-30 mins now although I don't tend to do treadmill very often anyway.

    For future reference, try lifting your toes a little and if possible direct a fan onto the belt to try and keep it a little cooler as they do get hot. heat + friction = bad news image

    I use boots sports strapping tape for toes if they're a little sore and it works wonders.

  • Will try the tape - thanks.

    Oddly enough, the only time I've been properly knobbled (as I am now) due to blisters has been from the treadmill, BF or not. They don't bother me when running road or trails in shoes. I think it's something to do with the rubber of the belt. 

    BTW - I'd be very nervous about deliberately lifting the toes. It strikes me as unnatural, and possibly increasing metatarsal injury chances? 

    NB - note that I hate treadmills as well. I was on it purely as I can't think of anywhere I know that's safe and local to begin BF training.

    edit - just standing up is agony... one of the most painful injuries I've ever had. I'm ready to quit any BF training right now. One of my toes looks so ugly I'm going to try and get a chiropodist appointment tomorrow.

  • Re - lifting the toes. I don't mean pulling them as high as you can, just try not to scrub them on the floor/belt when running. The ultimate goal is to place your foot down and pick it up again with very little friction.

    I find that trying to find somewhere safe to run barefoot becomes a pointless exercise. Best way is to run where you normally would, just take a pair of shoes with you in case you come across a section you can't manage. I run all sorts of terrain barefoot now and most seemingly unsafe surfaces are actually fine.

    I find the tready doesn't really compare directly to barefoot running because it makes you run differently and the impacts are slightly different, but in other ways it is a good place to start out because you can stop when you've had too much and don't have to get home.

  • How come it got so bad without you noticing? With barefoot running you should never run through pain or discomfort, that's the body telling you you're doing something wrong
  • That's the question I've been asking myself! I didn't notice any discomfort until the end of the cycle - none at all. Because I've had a few injuries lately, I've become a touch neurotic about injury - believe me, if I think there's an issue, I'll stop. I've cancelled a few sessions unnecessarily lately, due to being over-cautious.

    It felt like I had dirt stuck on my toes. Things didn't get really painful until a few hours later... I can't believe how ugly it looks - ouch! I'm currently washing the worst one every few hours - I'm worried it'll get infected. Before I go to bed, it'll get a light bath in dilluted TCP. 

  • You have my sympathy, I've had a few painful feet/toes experiences when learning barefoot and it can be surprisingly painful for such a small area.

    I have noticed something odd though and it would be interesting if anyone else has noticed similar, when I get a blister or a sore spot or a cut or whatever on my feet or toes it seems to have begun healing up much quicker since running barefoot. I'm assuming this is in some way down to increased circulation in my feet or similar but it's definitely changed in the past few months. For example, the hideous blisters I incurred during the Leeds 10k a week ago have disappeared now. The skin there is clearly dead and will fall off shortly I'm sure but the pain had disappeared after about 2-3 days and I was able to run on them again. I had one blister almost the entire width of the ball of my foot and about an inch across, and it was a deep blister too (struggled to get a needle through to burst it actually and the fluid was pinkish) and there was a few more spread about too. I was expecting at least a week off running but it seems not. Managed a long run on Saturday with no problems as well and did a hill session tonight too.

    Odd... but good

  • Hi Rob, 

    Noticed something similar too. I get a pleasant tingling in the soles of my feet after every run now (barefoot or otherwise) which comes and goes for hours. Could be better circulation - certainly feels like something is happening. I get the odd cut and bruise and these seem to clear up quickly.

  • Sorry to hear about your toes, Is-it_safe?
    The feet are very sensitive to any slight changes in running action, I suspect the slight increase in pace (coupled with more distance), did the damage.
    You are not alone in suffering a delayed onset like that. The first time I ran barefoot I stopped when it got a little uncomfortable, a few hours later I could hardly walk and deep blood blisters had formed (feet looked absolutely ok when I stopped running).

    Another very revealing episode yesterday. Ran just 1.5 miles on the road barefoot, which should be no problem at all. Yet, outside of ball of foot (behind little toe) got pretty sore. The day before I'd cycled 45 miles. As a consequence I guess my gait altered slightly, maybe through tired legs or perhaps because the feet were clipped into pedals with limited movement for a long time; I certainly felt more 'clumpy' than normal.
    My point here is that we all know that tired legs alter running action and hence increase our risk of injury. I think that my sore feet told me more about my leg fatigue and consequential plodding than perhaps I knew.
  • Hi Graham,

    If I'm honest, I also think that my return to 'long runs' on Sunday weakened the soles of my feet. I haven't been above 5-6 miles in several weeks, and a 10 miler on Sun was a shock to the soles (although comfortable everywhere else). Going on the mill, BF, on Mon was just one insult too far. 

    I think I will try and return to BF at some point, but probably not for a while, and maybe not until the summer 5/10k season's over. 


    BTW - Your point about form and fatigue is very, very important for people to note - BF-ers or not. I pronate when I'm towards the end of a hard race / session, and it's not a good thing - the chances of injury are massively increased. 

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