The Dirty Truth About Barefoot Shoes and Feet

Is running barefoot in barefoot shoes the same as straight barefoot running? Yes and No. Barefeet shoes do give you a better feel for the road than cushioned shoes, but they don’t automatically stop injuries. In fact, they can increase them.

Shoes such as Vivo, foot gloves and other minimalist shoes will not turn you into Barefoot Ted. To run barefoot is NOT to run naturally. Natural running happens when you’re a child, but once you put on shoes, your stride and body change. Just going shoeless will not save you from bad barefoot running form. In fact, BAREFOOT SHOES and BAD BAREFOOT TECHNIQUE can INCREASE BAREFOOT RUNNING PAIN and can CAUSE BAREFOOT RUNNING INJURIES such as stress fractures, tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.

The secret of natural running is LISTENING TO YOUR FEET and consciously seeking A LOW IMPACT STRIDE. Barefoot shoes are better than traditional shoes, but they do buffer you from the ground. They do muffle feedback. They also protect the sole of your foot; so, it’s much easier to run faster and further than you should. The skin on the bottom of your feet serves as an automatic distance indicator. If you can’t run a mile straight bare, you SHOULD NOT RUN TWO MILES IN BAREFOOT SHOES.

Natural running requires practice. Cushiony Shoes have altered your natural stride. Even when running in barefeet, it is possible to get injured by running with the same HARD SHOE STRIDE. I suffered a partial Achilles rupture from barefoot running. The injury was the result of a HEAVY IMPACT STRIDE and adding too many hills and miles in a short time. I also ran barefoot sprints, which did NOT help with the injury.

My recovery from the barefoot running injury has been swift, but I’ve discovered that barefoot running pain is usually the result of bad form. When learning to run without shoes, you shouldn’t as run fast as you would in shoes and your SHOULD NOT hear the SLAP of your feet on PAVEMENT when running barefoot. If you do, you’re running with TOO MUCH IMPACT. The beauty of running shoeless is the feedback you get from the ground and your body. The GOAL is TO DIMINISH IMPACT, not break world records. If you’re running at the SAME PACE BAREFOOT AS YOU WERE IN SHOES, YOU’RE RUNNING WAY TOO FAST FOR A BEGINNER.

SLOW & STEADY. If you want to discover how to start barefoot running, read my page about HOW TO LEARN SHOELESS RUNNING. I have videos with barefoot running tips and ways to avoid barefoot running injuries.

11 Secrets to Enjoyable Barefoot Running

  1. St. Christopher can Help you Train.

    A long necklace with an amulet or weight will help track your stride. If it smacks your nose or causes temporary blindness, your stride is off. The necklace should not bounce around.

  2. Reflective Street Paint is your Friend

    The Oregon roads are mean and rough; almost like taking belt sander to your feet. Luckily, even the cruelest roads have a secret soft spot: the painted line that marks bike paths. It’s an excellent surface to run on, smooth and best of all it’s white, which means it lets you see most debris and stays cool in the heat.

  3. Be a Boy-scout or Girl-scout Bring a First Aid Foot Care Kit for Longer Runs

    Always be Prepared. A good kit should include alcohol or first aid wipes to clean cuts and abrasions, tweezers to pick out glass, pebbles, or thorns, adhesive bandages to cover cuts, scrapes, and the freaky blood blisters that blossom on long runs, and a mobile phone.

  4. Run in the Middle of Low Traffic, Residential Roads (NOT in high traffic areas–duh) or on the Flat Sidewalk.

    The asphalt is smoother and there is less debris. The roads in Oregon are beveled convexly to prevent flooding. Not only are they magnets for sharp metal, glass, and bolts and nails, but they also alter your stride, causing excessive wear on the side of one foot.

  5. Run through Stiff Mud

    Dude, mud is freaking awesome to run through. I love it. Feels great between your toes, but you can also use mud to check your stride. Find some flat, stiff mud, the consistency of clay; it should be stiff enough to record your footprint. Run across a patch of mud. If you see a deep hole toward the front of the print, you’re putting way too much pressure on your toes. I bet your calves and Achilles ache hard. Don’t try to tip toe land. Just let your foot land naturally.

  6. Solve Math Problems or Mind Puzzles

    Some people over think their stride. They get all caught up in technique and form; instead of just running and trusting their body. A good way to “forget your stride” is attempt to solve math problems while you run. The cognitive load will let your body’s natural rhythms take over locomotion. And you get a good brain workout, which is important.

  7. Skip, Jump, and Dance

    Yes, people already think you’re crazy for running without shoes. Embracing the weirdness can prevent repetitive strain injuries, which over stress bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. A skip, jump, or pirouette will vary the movement and will make you laugh. Who cares what other people think? They’re not out running barefoot. Varying the terrain you run on can also help. Grass and trails offer a variety of surfaces.

  8. Run in Place or do Jumping Jacks Before Cold Runs

    There’s no doubt that running on icy roads will numb your feet. But if you warm up before you go out, they will stay warm all the way through. Personally, I don’t like to run when my feet go numb–something is wrong. On cold days, I run on the treadmill to get warmed up, then go outside for my run. Usually, my hands are colder than my feet when I do that. It’s not a good idea to run with numb feet, you can seriously injure yourself.

  9. Have a Come Back Ready

    Unfortunately, some people are close minded idiots. They will hurl all sorts of insults or questions at the lively barefoot runner. It’s a good idea to have a come back. I learned this when riding a unicycle, “Where’s the other wheel?” people would ask. I had two stock responses: the funny one and the get lost one. The funny one, “Never buy anything from”; the get lost one, “Real Men/Women only need one wheel.” For barefoot running, I usually just say, “Shoes are over-rated” or “Shoes are for weak feet.” That usually shuts up the person. Or I just ignore them.

  10. Eat Chia Seed Gel before your Run

    Chia Seed Gel is super easy to make. Just add three parts water to one part Chia Seed. The gel has NO flavor. Really, it tastes just like water, but it’s packed full barefoot nutrients: EFAs, fiber, protein, and since it holds a lot of water, it keeps you hydrated. If you want something a little different, you can make Valen Longfeather’s Chiacolate pudding. Substitute Chocolate Soymilk for water. Now you have a tasty chocolate flavored health food that you can make in minutes.

  11. Smile

    Studies have shown that smiling lifts your mood, even when you’re a upset. There’s some sort of neural connection between smiling and happiness. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation–something about bearing your teeth, adrenaline, and mating. But I’m not an evolutionary Biologist. I’m a wild barefoot runner. If I were and evolutionary biologist, I would specialize in crypto zoology. All of my scientist friends would laugh at me UNTIL they watched me running barefoot in a pack with a Bigfoot, a Chupacabra, and a reptilian humanoid, then they would be totally astonished and afraid of me. I would not strike them down or organize a cryptozoolical uprising. I would, however, make them take off their shoes and do science barefoot. They would give me a plaque and money. They would want to worship me, but I would not let them. I would tell them to smile more. They would say, “The scientific reason for smiling and happiness is…”

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3 Robot Myths about Barefooting

Most Robots wear shoes because all of the other Robots wear them. The only sports that turn them human again are swimming, skim boarding/surfing, beach volley ball, and the like. Unfortunately, most Robots suffer from conformity programming: “imitate other robots”.

Here are three run-time myths that loop through the Robot mind.

  1. Going Barefoot Makes your Feet Stink.

    On the contrary, it eliminates foot odor. Your feet smell because shoes provide a party town for bacteria–warm, dark moist area with plenty of dead skin cells to feast on.

  2. Going Barefoot Means your Poor.

    The stigma of poverty and barefootedness is alive in some countries. But in America, it’s pretty much dead. Most homeless people wear shoes. In fact, in America barefooted people tend be better educated, healthier, and therefore wealthier than the Robots who think they’re poor.

  3. Going Barefoot Weakens your Arch.

    LOL. Shoes weaken your arch by providing a support for it. Going barefoot will strengthen it and completely reshape your feet so they look sexy. So, sexy that creepy dudes will ask you to stomp on grapes, watermelons, or other helpless produce. Probably the only drawback to being a barefooted. But, your feet will plenty strong enough to kick their ass; so, it’s really a benefit.

Snow & Icy Wind Too Cold to Go Bare Not Too Cold to Drive Wife Crazy

We got icy snow and some chilly wind. Much too cold to run barefoot outside. I decided to drive my wife nuts by complaining about how uncomfortable my shoes are.

That got old fast because I LOVE my wife, even though she wears shoes. So, I discovered a more productive way to pass the time indoors. I wrote a bunch of barefoot Conan O Brien Biographies and then I ran barefoot on my treadmill:

#COBio I had a fan rewrite my Twitter bio. Wanna hear something else scary? This isn’t my beard.

#COBio Yes, I’m the guy who got Martha Stewart to bring him Taco Bell & an Olde English 40oz.

#COBio I had a fan write my Twitter Bio. Now you know how I got through Harvard.

#COBio I had a fan rewrite my Twitter bio. If I could only get him to clean my gutters…

#COBio I went to Harvard and I host a late night show. One is meaningless jokes where nothing is achieved, the other airs 11/10c on TBS.

#COBio I think my photographer needs a hearing aid. I told him I wanted the photo to show me with a “chip” on my shoulder.

#COBio As you can tell from bio pic, Jay and I became friends.

3 Secrets to Barefoot Running

  • Start off Barefoot WALKING.

    Just taking off your shoes and going for five mile barefoot run is sure way to get injured. It takes time for the muscles in your feet to recover from chronic shoe-wearing. The skin on the bottom of your will need to develop in order for you to run longer distances. Barefoot walking will strengthen your feet and reveal the pleasure of experiencing the world without shoes.

  • GET Limber

    Always stretch before and AFTER your runs. Here are some excellent barefoot runner stretches.

  • Learn proper form on a treadmill, carpet, or front lawn (MAKE SURE YOU INSPECT THE LAWN CAREFULLY BEFORE RUNNING ON IT.)

    You will have to own your treadmill for this because most health clubs don’t allow barefoot use of facilities. Not only do treadmills have a lower impact than concrete, but they also have a tough, yet soft(ish) surface, which is perfect for building up thick layers of skin on the soles of your feet. Treadmills will blister your feet if you run too long on them. When you run bare, you go from regular blisters to weird blood blisters, but they heal quickly. Start out SLOW–decrease the treadmill speed significantly. I find that making it go too fast leads to heel striking.
    Your goal is to master good form, not run like the wind. Speed will come later. But good form will ensure that you don’t get injured and are able to run more often. Watch the stride technique videos for more information about proper running form. Running barefoot improper form will hurt and possible damage your feet; it may also cause other injuries such as ankle, knee, and back pain.
    It also helps to have someone make a video of you running. WATCHING YOURSELF ON VIDEO IS THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE FORM. Be patient. When your body re-adjusts to barefoot activities, your stamina, enjoyment, and health will thrive.

“…the hallmark of my barefoot running philosophy is regaining connectedness, mindfulness, and presence in your running and in your body.” —Barefoot Ted

Three Crippling Ways Shoes Deform Your Feet & Ruin the Planet

Shoes are perverse. They cut us off from the world, stifle our feet, and deplete natural resources. Here are three evils of shoes:

  • Muscle Atrophy

    Did you know that wearing shoes causes the muscles in your feet to atrophy? Arch support weakens your arch causing abnormal muscle loss. Overly tight shoes or oddly shaped shoes such as high heals cripple your foot by forcing it to conform to an unnatural and potential harmful position. Stilettos aren’t much different from Japanese foot binding.

  • Over Exposure to Germs

    Chronic Shoe Wearing can lead to fungal growth and bacterial infections. Shoes super heat your feet causing them to sweat. Worst of all, the material that causes the excessive heat also retains it and the moisture it creates. This over exposure to wetness can lead to foot fungus and other foot problems.

  • Planetary Waste

    Shoes are wasteful. Most shoe manufactures use rubber and other petroleum based products to make shoes. Since shoes are not usually recycled and since they tend to wear out fast or are used as fashion statements, they are discarded into our dumps where they will take centuries to decompose.

You don’t have to be a crazy barefoot runner to save your feet from the trauma of shoes. Just let them out of the trap for a while. Take a barefoot walk around the block. Even just walking barefoot around your house can help. You might also repair or re-purpose your shoes when they show signs of wear rather than just tossing them in the trash.

Soft Grass is Dangerous

One of the many joys in life is walking barefoot on wet grass. It’s like a foot massage from the hot Goddess Universe. But running barefoot on grass is packed with danger.

Many drunken teenagers, careless hicks, and serial polluters turn dreamy lawns into a runner’s nightmare. Camouflaged shards of glass, rusted nails, snapped screws, and wet feces of all kinds lurk between the gentle green blades of seductive lawns. If you know you are in a remote area, then running on the grass can be great, but in most cities, it must be done with great caution and should NOT be done completely bare.

Last week I almost stepped on a razor sharp shard from a green “rolling rock” beer bottle. It was embedded in a park lawn like those evil tire spikes at drive-in movies. If I had been running, I most definitely would have sliced my foot wide open. Those kinds of deep tissue injuries can become serious fast, especially when they attack your precious feet. Walking home with such an injury can easily lead to infection.

Beware the tempting green goddess, she can change into a bleeding red devil in a moment. For lawn running, it’s best to wear minimalist shoes. They offer much better protection against such dangers.

Mean Streets

The road takes much abuse. Cars scar its tough skin. They scrape and mar it. This agitates the surface. No wonder some streets chew up your feet. Sometimes, you can talk to the road. You can tell it you mean it no harm. You might say, “Oh mighty road, thanks for transporting me from place to place. I do my best to keep you safe from my fenders and steel. Please do be too hard on my feet.” When I do this, the road responds. It will alert me of rough patches, steer me from rocks, nails, and glass. It may seem a little crazy, but sometimes crazy works.

First Barefoot Runner’s Life Video

I hope you enjoy my first video and like my feet. Unless, of course, you’re a foot fetish person in which case please don’t get off on my feet. That’s CREEPY.

Future videos will have more instructional content and fewer text effects.