Ask A Question
Free Subscription
The Raw Food Blog

Making Your Life Easier

Raw Weight Loss And Vitality

Savory Dressings And Sauces

The Raw Lifestyle Ebook

Raw Food Coaching

The Vitamix!

Product Suggestions

The Basics

The Raw Food Diet

Escape Disease

Weight Loss

Success Stories

Andrew's Recipes

Reader Favorite Recipes

Raw Food Videos

Food Choices

Which Raw Foods

Fruit List

Cooking Damage


Fruit Handling

Fruity Locations

Harmful Diets


The Raw Lifestyle

Mind Over Matter

Caring For Yourself

Body Care


Improving The World

Save The Earth

Organic Gardening

Structuring Society

The Joys of Movement

Born To Run

Odds and Ends

Meet Andrew

What's New

Article List/Sitemap

Become An Affiliate

Advertise On This Site

Amazon Store

Contact Andrew

Support This Site

Good Books

Barefoot Running: Why You Should Consider Leaving The Dangerous Status Quo Behind   

Barefoot running is not some fad or a regime fit only for masochists, but an old tradition that can bring some sanity back to our injury-prone running tradition.

Hardly new, barefoot running was the only way to run for countless generations of man. It is only since the invention of the running industry and the widespread adoption of running shoes in the 1970s that we began our perpetual waltz with injury.

We've got strained hamstrings, plantar fasciitis, and bad knees by the thousands, and it's needless.

Running shoes and other corrective devices like orthodics cause a wide range of injuries and there's no good reason for it. Our species was born to run, and our current state is just a butchery of our impressive abilities.

If you're interested in bringing some sense back to your running, then I hope to introduce you to something that can help. 

Barefoot Running Five Fingers Stretch

Barefoot Running: Getting Into It

Barefoot running is not something you can jump into in one day. Even if you managed to get the technique down right away, your muscles, ligaments and skin have likely been moldering in your shoes for most of your life, and are now so weak from disuse that you'd quickly injure yourself if you attempted too much too soon. It will likely take months or years, depending on your fitness level, to fully make the change over.

But gradual increases to your barefoot routine as well as the use of minimalist footwear can put you on a sustainable path to improvement.

The deconditioned musculature of the foot is the greatest issue leading to injury. Only two to three percent of the population has real biomechanical problems, so we're basically creating new problems by treating ones that don't exist
-Dr. Gerard Hartmann, exercise physiologist for a number of
Olympic and professional runners.

There are some purists out there who disagree, but I'm willing to throw truly minimalist footwear, such as the Vibram Five Fingers, and authentic huarache,  under the banner of barefoot running.

Others, such as the Nike Free, which include a significant heel and quite a bit of padding to disrupt sensation, I would not place there. Something like the five fingers just serves to protect your skin from abrasions, while leave most of the sensation intact. Barefoot Running Stride

There's no question that actually running barefoot is far superior in terms of sensation and ability to receive feedback, but you'll get most of the basic benefits and pleasures of barefoot running in minimalist footwear too. 

All the same, I encourage everyone to put in time completely barefoot, because it's with nothing on my feet that I've seen greater improvements in my running form than at any time in minimalist shoes. 

Barefoot Running: Why It Matters


Kick off your shoes and socks and step outside. Move onto some grass and press your feet down into it, feeling the blades tickling you. Now step onto some concrete or asphalt and notice the retained heat of the day. Try walking on a beach some time and notice how the little pebbles and sea shells dig into your hide.

You can feel so much that it almost seems dirty. There's good reason why there's a giant grin on my face when I take off down a trail with nothing between the earth and my skin. If you're used to being barefoot only briefly indoors, moving around outside can be almost too much to take at first.

The reason is because your feet are chock full of nerves designed to do nothing but sense. The falanga technique, a regime of torturous foot beating and whipping in use since at least the Ottoman Empire, was developed for good reason: it hurts like all hell, and those nerves pick up every last bit of sensation. Barefoot Running Grass

Yet we cram our feet into little foot coffins every day, which block out all hope of sensation. It's like a sensory deprivation chamber for each foot.

From a tiny grain of sand to a sharp rock, your feet will start feeling everything when you go out barefoot running, and it's glorious. 

That sensitivity will give you a relationship with the terrain like you've never experienced.

Barefoot Running: But What About Getting Cut Up

I've been skinned and cut more than a few times while running barefoot, and anyone who tells you that you won't be is lying to you. Minimalist footwear will help you avoid this, if you're not interested in going barefoot.

But as you continue to adapt, you'll notice an entire new world of running cognition developing almost outside of your awareness.

I was pleasantly surprised one day while out on a trail when my bare feet danced between a series of sharp rocks strewn across my path without me giving it a second thought. My body would have been completely unable to do so before I developed the awareness and reflexes necessary through running.

I've even had my foot collapse, for lack of a better term, around a hard rock so that my skin didn't bear the full brunt of it. Again, this was not something I'd planned, but just a reaction my body developed. 

All the same, my feet are far from being able to take serious abuse, and I need to wear five fingers for runs on hard surfaces longer than a few miles. 

Barefoot Running: The Hard Ground Argument

I often run across people who agree with barefoot running in principal. They get that shoes weaken the foot, but they say something along the lines of: "but man was meant to run over grassy fields barefoot. Asphalt is not a natural terrain, and so we need cushioned shoes without pronation control to run on them. This cushioning makes it so we're running over something soft like grass."

Barefoot Running Dirty Foot

And so even if they askew motion control, corrective shoes, they'll go for cushioned clunkers like the Adidas Megabounce

Unfortunately, their argument is full of holes.

First, the idea that finger-width of padding is going to help support your foot is ridiculous.

The foot is based around the arch, one of the strongest structure in the natural or man-made world. Put pressure on it and it gets stronger, not weaker. 

Go find an engineer or an architect and ask him if he'd consider putting padding under an arch. Of course he'll tell you that's insane, because jamming something flexible under an arch only weakens it. You'd be asking for your building to collapse. This holds true for feet too.

The impact of your body running on the ground can be up to 12 times your weight, and a few centimeters of rubber isn't going to make a difference. Science has even backed this up, noting that running shoes do not reduce the forces working on your body during a run (1).

Such padding also impedes the good work our body is supposed to do when we run. When running barefoot on solid ground, we compensate for our lack of cushioning by plantar-flexing the foot on contact, creating a softer landing (2), but we can't do this effectively in shoes.

While we can consider shoes protective devices in the sense that they will stop your feet from getting cut or bruised if you step on something, they're laughably inefficient at doing what they're supposed to do.

Barefoot Running: But I Have A Flat Arch Or A High One

Barefoot Running SkipIt doesn't matter. My feet are as flat as pancake...or at least they were before I started barefoot running. Now they're as flat as slightly lumpy pancakes. As I refined my technique and started putting in serious mileage in minimalist footwear, I noticed that my arch was strengthening and becoming visible. Now the inside of my foot visibly arcs, if only slightly.

Regardless, people put way too much stock in how their feet look. There's an arch, be it high or low, there unless you've suffered a serious injury or have a physical deformity, so give it a chance to work.

Barefoot Running: But I Under Or Over Pronate

Relax, we all pronate. Somebody is just trying to make a buck off your hobby. I bought the whole overpronation thing for years and I wound up severely injured because of my shoes and the technique they allowed me to develop. I also wasted a ton of money on "magical thinking" anti-pronation shoes.

Pronate is not a dirty word. It's actually quite a useful function. 

(Bare) feet flex, spread, splay and grip the surface, meaning you have less pronation, and more distribution of pressure.
-Jeff Pisciotta, the senior researcher at the Nike Sports Research Lab,
 who headed development of the Nike Free shoe.

To see this in action, take off your shoes and go run a few steps. On a hard surface, your foot will likely land on the outside edge of your foot automatically and and then gently roll in towards the big toe. It's a shock-absorbing twist which allows the arch to compress, therefore strengthening it.

You can't land on your heel because the pain will tell you it's not a good idea, so the whole dynamic of your landing, and your ability to over or under pronate, will change.

Even if you're not like everyone else, you don't have to worry. Pronation is a natural thing. Be happy that it occurs, cause it's one of our body's little advantages. 

Barefoot Running: Escape the Injuries

Your shoes are not protecting you, they're harming you. The ridiculous injury rate of runners can mostly be blamed on their unnatural footwear. 

All the fancy motion control gadgets we throw in makes things worse.

The more expensive the running shoe, and the more packed with injury-prevention and anti-pronation gear it is, the more likely you are to get injured in it. Cheap shoes that have less protection cause fewer injuries than expensive ones (3).

Shed your shoes and escape your injuries.

Barefoot Running: Feel the Strength

I've already mentioned that my arch has developed slightly through barefoot and minimalist running, but more importantly, the muscles in my lower extremities have all become tremendously stronger.

Taking a foot in both hands and thumbing it, it  feels incredibly firm and muscular, which it never was before. My calf muscles and ankles have likewise become stronger.

Remove the crutch, which causes your muscles to shrivel and your tendons to stiffen, and your foot will spring to life again. It will take some readjustment, but it's for the best.

Putting your feet in shoes is similar to putting them in a plaster cast. If I put your leg in plaster, we'll find 40 to 60 percent atrophy of the musculature within six weeks. Something similar happens to your feet when they're encased in shoe.
- Dr. Gerard Hartmann, exercise physiologist for a
 number of Olympic and professional runners.

Barefoot Running: Following Up

Read why man was born to enjoy barefoot running.

Learn about the raw food diet that that perfectly compliments distance running.

Get tips on how to start running barefoot.

Barefoot Running Sources:

(1) Bergmann G, Kniggendorf H, Graichen F, Rohlmann A (1995). Influence of shoes and heel strike on the loading of the hip joint. Journal of Biomechanics 28, 817-827

(2) Frederick EC (1986). Kinematically mediated effects of sports shoe design: a review. Journal of Sports Sciences 4, 169-184

(3) Robbins SE, Gouw GJ (1991). Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 23, 217-224

ng barefoot isn't without its hazards, but by following these tips you can make the transition a lot easier.

Receive the free Raw Food Health Journal

Keep up to date with new articles from this site.

Enter your E-mail Address

Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you The Raw Food Health Journal.

Search Raw-Food-Health.net

Copyright © raw-food-health.net | All rights reserved. Website design by Cre8ve Online
Click here for the mandatory privacy policy and terms of use, which you agree to by using this site.

Raw Food Health Site Build It