Straight to barefoot running (no shoes)?

I used to do about 20k a week but injured myself (about 3 years ago). This pushed me to the gym and then to circuit training. I'd like to get back to running and I think that the novelty of barefoot running (plus the apparent benefits) would help my motivation.

But! I have feet like Donald Duck and so finding shoes has been a nightmare. Vivobarefoot don't fit even when 2 sizes larger. Shops rarely have minimalist shoes in stock and when they do they are only in a few sizes (never mine!). TBH I am sick of trying to find some now.

So, could I just go straight to full barefoot? I appreciate that I need to build this up. I only run on roads/pavement so I don't see that the lack of protection will be much of an issue although they may get a bit cold!


  • Be soooooo careful. I did exactly what you are considering and it has cost me big time. I have had an achilles tendon issue for the past 6 months that I am trying to shake off.

    I built up gradually too, I was able to run 4 miles completely barefoot. Then a few weeks later did a 10k with a few hills and completely knackered my achilles.

    My physio says she has made a fortune off of people running bare foot.

    I'm not saying it doesn't have advantages, I'm just saying it isn't for everyone.

  • If you like the novelty - why not run and juggle at the same time ? It makes about as much sense ?

    The benefits of bare foot will be enhanced by people flogging them. And how expensive ? They're simpler than normal shoes so they should be cheaper.

    Running on concrete and Tarmac isn't the easiest. I am sticking with normal shoes. I don't get injured so why change ?
  • Straight to barefoot is a better way of adapting to minimal shoes imo. (assuming that's what you want to do). The distance you will be able to run will be so minimal that there's very little of chance of doing any damage - excluding cuts and blisters. You'll also find out very quickly if you're scuffing and mashing your feet into the ground. Most road tarmac is pretty horrible but some is absolute bliss.  

  • Im sorry Ian M that is complete tosh.....your first line makes no sense at all!!

    Minimalist first GENTLY, then if you really want to go au naturel barefoot it takes a long long long time to adapt to that sort of running.

    Really worth the risk? like cougie, why change? you've just come off an injury.....that sounds like weakend muscles for a start so why push them to the limit straight away by running in no cushion at all. Baffles me image

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    Find out what caused the injury and fix that.
  • Frimley, I did a bit of running in VFF bikilas last year and got up to 7.5 miles then started reading more. As Ian says, (apparently) it is more advisable to learn to run barefoot and once that is mastered you can consider running in 'minimalist' shoes (there is no such thing as barefoot shoes imho).

    I'm currently up to 1/2 mile barefoot but taking a day or two off as I banged my heel and the OH found a thorn in it yesterday (not from running I might add).

    Not everybody wants to run barefoot and many will knock it but if you want to try it then read some more and do it properly.

    Medicalert, I guess building up to four miles and then running 6.22 isn't doing it gradually and might have been the cause of injury?

    as cougie alludes, if it ain't broke don't fix itimage

    Jason, Ian's first line makes perfect sense to me and wish I'd done that now image

  • I spent weeks and weeks doing nothing but half a mile to a mile and gradually building on that. It was another few weeks after I ran 4 miles. I had no issues at this milage and this was completely bare foot.

    I'll admit there was a bit of a jump, but given that I had spent months building to this distance and the injury started around mile 3.

    I'm not saying it isn't beneficial for some, but I just think people need to be really careful. The whole Born to Run and the rest of the barefoot crowd are extremely persuasive. But I'm 6'1 and with broad shoulders and a medium to large build. Barefoot running is just not for me!

  • Most African elite runners trained on desert sand bare foot and only ran in shoes when they were discovered. Their success is due to running bare foot and their altitude training. We can all learn from the African runners and run bare foot by choice and do some altitude training to improve our running economy in a oxygen deprived state.


  • O.k RW ill just find a beach up a mountain and concentrate my training up there from now on shall i?

    Did i mention i live in essex image

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    I live at the top of a hill (in Wiltshire). That must be close enough.
  • I don't see any Africans winning the marathon barefoot ?

    If as you say RW that their secret is running barefoot - then why is this ?
  • When were shoes discovered?
  • XX1XX1 ✭✭✭
    Millsy1977 wrote (see)
    I live at the top of a hill (in Wiltshire). That must be close enough.

    If that's Milk Hill you're sorted image

  • cougie wrote (see)
    I don't see any Africans winning the marathon barefoot ?
    If as you say RW that their secret is running barefoot - then why is this ?

    You don't seem em because it isn't faster and your feet will get trashed. That in itself doesn't mean it isn't the secret of their success (BTW I'm not suggesting in any way it is the reason of their success though). For instance you won't also see the winner running with a weighted rucksack, or fasted, but that in itself doesn't mean that therefore running with weights, or in a fasted state is inherently bad, just that it's daft to do during a race. 
    I'm not suggesting that either is good, but to argue that because you don't see it in a race it can't be good doesn't really get you far.

  • I don't agree. They run barefoot because that's what they have to work with.

    African kids can run miles to school - all their pals do - its harder to have a bad diet - running is a big sport and there's decent money to be had. Altitude might help too - but barefoot isn't a factor.

    Running with a weighted pack is also a rubbish method unless you want to get injured - or you have to run with a pack.
  • Did you read the bit where I said I'm not suggesting a weighted pack is good?

  • XX1XX1 ✭✭✭
    wannabebarefoot Andi wrote (see)

    Frimley, I did a bit of running in VFF bikilas last year and got up to 7.5 miles then started reading more. As Ian says, (apparently) it is more advisable to learn to run barefoot and once that is mastered you can consider running in 'minimalist' shoes (there is no such thing as barefoot shoes imho).


    This is correct in that the leading exponents of barefoot running do suggest learning the barefoot technique in bare feet, and then revert to running shoes if desired.

  • Running barefoot by choice is becoming more popular since "Born To Run" was launched in 2009. Shoe manufacturers are even designing lighter and lower drop shoes to cash in on the trend of bare foot/minimalist shoes.

    For many years running shoe companies, podiatrists, medical community have falsely preached that the human foot is fragile and needs protecting with high built, cushioned and supportive shoes. This advice has been misleading and deceptive and has adversely lead to an increase of more injuries being created by the footwear that were supposed to protect feet.

    Bare foot running/walking and or using lighter shoes with low heel drops and offering minimal protection may be the step in the right direction. When we walk around inside our homes we do not need shoes to protect our feet from the surface of the carpet or tiles, etc.

    The human foot is as not as weak and fragile as the experts may have us believe. The arch structure of the human foot is as strong as the arches of a bridge or a doorway. An engineer would not advise his builder to put, an architect would not design a bridge or a doorway with a wedge to prop it up to provide extra support.

    Why on Earth do we believe a wedge of fabric in shoes or  an orthotic will help strengthen the arches of our feet? Using an object to take up the support of the foot will only lead to the muscles within the foot weakening over time. 

    Bare foot walking/running and minimalist shoes that enable natural foot movement could be a step in the right direction. Motion control and stability/support shoes prevent the foot from its natural foot movement and the shoes do the work that the muscles within the foot should be performing. 


  • However, 30 years plus of doing what you talk about as bad advice along with (in lots of cases) relative inactivity will have lead to some muscle degeneration. Injuries and damage to bones and muscles may have lead to imbalances. Our extra weight that we should not be carrying and the weight from growth that our western diets promotes means that many of us are no longer able to run this way.

    It takes a lot of dedication to bring yourself back from that, it may take years and if not at least months in most people's case.

    I have read the books and tried both completely barefoot and with minimalist shoes and there are parts of it that I loved, but in the long run I was damaged by doing it. My physio (who I believe is exceptional and I can't recommend highly enough) has said that she sees a tonne of injuries from this style of running.

    We just need to be super careful if you are going to embark on such a plan.

  • Hi All,  really useful stuff here. To summarise:

    1. It is better to go straight to barefoot and use minimal trainers/shoes later on.

    2. My feet may be too soft (skin) for much running on tarmac

    3. My bones/muscles may be spent too long on normal footwear to work as nature intended

    4. Potentially I may injur myself (last time I had Plantar Fascitus due to old/knacked running shoes - according to the shop anyway).

    5. Top atheletes don't run barefoot and there's always the 'It ain't broke so don't fit it' arguement

  • So how about supplementing 40 weekly miles of road running wearing nice protective shoes with a barefoot run round a football pitch three times a week to keep your arches nice and strong?

    Any views?


  • How about using Vibram Five Fingers for easy recovery runs? Once or twice a week give the VFFs a week. The other days of the week are your running days using shoes with extra cushion and support.

  • Ok, update! Tonight I went to the gym and tried running barefoot on the running machine as a test. I managed 0.2 miles. I noticed that my left foot over pronates (turns in) and this stressed the area on the top left of my foot. Additionally I could feel the big tendon which goes from the heel to the front of the foot (underneath) twinging and my calf muscle also began to hurt. After this I put my trainers on (New Balance) and ran 2 miles without incident.Decision made for me.

  • I'm not sure that African runners are amazing because they run barefoot. more likely that they run everywhere from a young age, probably wearing flipflops carrying a school bag.

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