barefoot running
Credit: User Yarkoski1012 @ Wikimedia Commons

My Early Experiences

If there is only one bit of information you take from this article let it be this: START SLOW!  The reason I say this is not to scare you out of barefoot running but instead it is to emphasize the most important action you can take when starting out (as I learned the hard way).  When I began going barefoot I had already been running for about 2 years and was doing a few miles per day.  Because of this fact, I fell into the trap of thinking that doing just one 5 mile run to test the waters couldn’t hurt anything, but as you may infer, I was wrong.  To make a long story short I ended up in a state of barely being able to walk for about a month, and couldn’t even think about running for an additional month after that.  Despite injuring myself I distinctly remember my first experience being barefoot very freeing and surprisingly comfortable.  Looking back I now see where I made an early error.  Because the sensation was pleasant and felt very natural I was reluctant during the run to stop and unfortunately paid the price.  The reality is that no matter if you are a novice runner or someone who has been running for years, if you haven’t ran barefoot before your body has not had the time to develop the various muscles, ligaments, bones etc. which are used to a lesser degree when running with a shoe.

What About the Bottom of My Feet?

There really is not an interesting answer to this question.  The more miles you run barefoot the more durable (callused) your feet should become.  I have found that the more callused one’s feet becomes, the less prone you are to getting cuts and bruises.  Now obviously these calluses won’t protect you against objects which are unusually pointy such as nails, pins, etc.  That being said it has been my experience that when you go barefoot you naturally begin scanning the ground as you run which usually is enough to avert these objects. 

If it is blisters you are concerned about all I can say is that it is different for everyone.  The only time I have experienced blisters is when I first began barefoot running.  I also have developed blisters if the pavement is particularly hot, which brings me to my next topic.

blister on feet
Credit: User AndryFrench @ Wikimedia Commons

'Barefoot' Running Shoes

Because of the growing popularity of barefoot running there are now an assortment of products one can choose from which claim to give the sensation of being barefoot without actually being barefoot.  I will tell you of my experiences with some of these products right after I say: If you run with ANYTHING on the bottom of your feet, it is not BAREFOOT running.

The first and arguably most popular product that you can purchase are the Vibram products.  About two months after I started barefoot running I purchased a pair of shoes from Vibram called Bikila.  I began running with these minimalist shoes simply because I needing something that would protest my feet for when the pavement is exceptionally hot.  The Vibram products seem to do this very well however (in my opinion) don’t provide the sensation of being barefoot.  For someone who is used to wearing a classic running shoe the Vibrams might feel like being barefoot.  My experience with the Vibrams was a double edged sword.  They did provide the protection from hot tarmac, but didn’t provide that same freeing and light sensation I got when I was barefoot.

The most recent minimalist product I have tried is called Xero Shoes.  Xero Shoes are a company that makes pre-made or do it yourself kits with a couple of minimalist shoes that can be used for running.  I won’t go into detail about the history of this sandal design, but I will speak for how affective they are for me.  Unlike the Vibrams most of the foot is exposed which provides more of the light weight feeling I was after.  They also come in different sole thicknesses which allows you to choose how minimalist you like to feel when you run.  If you are looking for something that is simple and provides you with just enough protection from the environment, then I would highly recommend this brand.

Personal Benefits

Apart from my early injuries in barefoot running I have had no serious injuries or adverse side effects from this activity.  If anything I would say that going barefoot has been entirely beneficial in that I have more enjoyable runs, less fatigue, and more money due to the fact I don’t need to buy specialty shoes. I hope you will learn from my mistakes and others in order to improve your experience with barefoot running. 


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments below.