Top 3 Barefoot Running Injuries & How to Treat Them

The #1 cause of barefoot running injuries is GOING TOO FAR TOO FAST. You can’t just run the same distances barefoot as you did with shoes. You WILL INJURE YOURSELF. Watch the Video in my “How to Run Barefoot” to get started SAFELY.

Here are three of the most common Barefoot Running Injuries and How to Treat Them. (Site Disclaimer)

  1. Monster Blood Blisters

    I’ve had blood blisters before, but nothing like the ones I got the first week when I started running barefoot. They looked like purple marbles shoved deep into my toes.

    What causes them? A combination of heat, friction, pressure, and moisture form blisters. So, running barefoot on a treadmill is a fantastic recipe for blisters. Luckily, as the skin on the sole of your foot thickens, blisters are less of a problem.

    Blisters can talk. Heel blisters, for example, suggest heel striking or over-striding. Blisters under your toes or the ball of your foot at the base of your toes imply a tendency to “push off” with each stride.

    Blister Treatment

    Clean the blister with soap.
    I let nature choose whether my blisters pop or not. Sometimes they break other times they don’t. The fluid or blood is there for reason; so, I just let it do its thing. I don’t pick at scabs either. I trust my body.


    Sterilized needlesBut if you’re determined to conduct minor surgery on yourself. At least, buy a box of tattoo “liner needles”. These are single use sterilized needles. Get a small grouping 3 or 5 tight liners will work great.  Don’t GET MAGs, Flats, Double Stack Mags, or Round Shaders. Those needle groupings are way too wide. You want a LINER, better yet a TIGHT or SUPER TIGHT LINER. (BTW, placing a sewing needle in a flame/hydrogen peroxide will NOT STERILIZE THE NEEDLE. You can give yourself a staph infection if you break the blister with dirty instruments.)

    Moleskin For Blisters
    Helps Prevent Further Blistering

    Use moleskin to prevent further blistering. Just cut a hole the size of the blister and stick the moleskin around it. MOLESKIN is USELESS for SMALL BLISTERS UNDER TOES. Blisters are common to shod runners. As a barefoot runner, I no longer get blisters.

  2. Top Foot Pains and Aches

    My wife had this, not me. She described it as a dull ache on the top side of her foot. Pain on the top of the foot is usually from the anatomical changes occurring in your foot. The new stresses of splaying your foot forces your foot to change. Overworked muscles, stretched tendons, and ligaments cry out for relief. Pain on the top of the foot can also result from the stress placed on the metatarsal bones (metatarsalgia).

    Treatment for Top Foot Pains and Aches

    Treatment is simple: RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). If the pain becomes moderate level or you experience sharp, shooting pains, stop running until the pain subsides. If you keep running on it, you can bust-up your metatarsal bones. Do that, and you’ll be on the couch for months.

  3. Achilles Tendonitis & Calf Pain

    Barefoot running puts a lot of stress on your lower leg. The calf muscle and front of the leg become sore quickly. This pain is from the lengthening of the calf and Achilles. You’re going from a raised heel shoe to a zero drop (heel and forefoot are the same height). Your lower leg, ankle, and Achilles are actually put to work. Some Achilles and lower leg trouble results from bad barefoot running form. YOU MUST LET YOUR HEEL TOUCH THE GROUND. JUST DON’T LET IT HIT THE GROUND FIRST. WHEN YOUR HEEL TOUCHES THE GROUND WITH EACH STRIDE, IT UNLOADS SOME STRESS PUT ON THE ACHILLES AND CALF. A lot of beginners overstress the Achilles by running on their toes. The heel NEVER touches the ground. a HEELESS stride will over stress your calf and Achilles.

    Treatment for Achilles & Lower Leg

    If you’re Achilles aches, STOP RUNNING. If you experience sharp, shooting pains, stop and do not run again until the pain subsides. If you rupture your Achilles, you will need surgery, you’ll be in a cast and you won’t be running for a good long while. Take a break from running, let it heal.

    Rest Ice, Compresses, and Elevation will heal the injury.
    These Ankle Wraps are awesome. You can freeze or heat them. They’re great injury aids.

    Once it’s healed STRETCH AFTER runs.  Then use a Rolling Pin to Massage your Lower Leg. The Rolling Pin Massage will break Up scar tissue, increase circulation, and help your Achilles out tremendously. I have an entire post devoted to My Achilles Tendon Injury Recovery.

Use Bellows Breathing to Aid All Barefoot Running Recovery

Wearing Regular Running Shoes is NOT a SIN. Use them to transition to Barefoot Running. You can run with the same great barefoot stride in shoes.

7 Replies to “Top 3 Barefoot Running Injuries & How to Treat Them”

  1. I have problem 2, top of the (right) foot pain, or perhaps the ball of the foot. Problem has persisted the last week, even as have rested from running, or only run briefly on grassy surfaces. Having switched to vibram/barefoot a year ago, my normal running routine is with vibrams on city (concrete) surfaces, 30-50 miles per week, 7 minutes a mile on average.

    My QUESTION is regarding the advised solution (RICE)– what does this mean in practice? Does it mean suspending all running until the pain goes away completely? How can one balance this with training for a forthcoming marathon? Are there any circumstances where switching back to thicker soled shoes may be necessary? And lastly, any tips on how to prevent this top-of-the-foot / ball-of-foot pain would be great!

    Thank you

    1. It depends on thee extent of the injury. When I run barefoot, I sometimes have slight issues with top of foot pain, but it goes away in a day or two. It usually strikes when I run on rocky, uneven surfaces or when I add too much distance. Pain at the ball of the foot that creeps up to the top of the foot usually results from stepping on a rock or pebble. My pain was a dull ache. I happened after running 7 miles on a rocky trail. The most annoying thing about barefoot running is how long it takes to gain any reasonable distance. If you’re having issues with foot pain, it means your adding to much distance or switching up terrain (adding hills and uneven surfaces). I took a few days off from running. I did other aerobic exercises.

      As for RICE, you shouldn’t run on a hurt foot. The general rule of thumb: If the pain alters your gait, don’t run on it. If the pain lasts for more that ONE BLOCK, don’t run on it. If you have SHARP SHOOTING PAIN, don’t run on it. But that doesn’t mean that you have to stop exercising, you can do aqua-aerobics, sometimes you can even run in place.

      BTW, if wearing shoes eases the pain, then by all means use shoes to transition. I wear sandals when my feet act up. I don’t understand why they help. But they do. I am NOT a doctor. And I am NOT offering medical advice. I’m just letting you know what worked for me.

  2. Very helpful advice and excellent links.

    I am curious what you meant by “the most annoying thing about barefoot running is adding distance.” Need one approach a marathon (or longer race) training regimen differently if this is the first attempt going barefoot at this longer distance (my last marathon was with shoes several years back)? Are there general rules of thumb in this regard (adding longer distance in barefoot vs. shoes)?

    Thanks!

    1. Yes, for me it took much longer to get up my regular distances in barefeet. I was much heavier though and I wasn’t eating well. That said, it takes a while to build up foot strength. But everyone is different. If you’re young or if you’ve been running a while, it might be easier to transition. The most important thing to remember is not to push too hard early on. I tore my calf doing that.

      1. Basically, if your feet are hurting then you’re doing too much. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. The shape of my lower leg has been transformed by barefoot running. It takes time to (re)adapt to barefeet.

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