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The Case for Barefoot Running

by Tiffany in Health & Healing

The Case for Barefoot RunningThis is not a book I would typically review here but It has been so helpful to me I thought I would. A couple months ago I started running again.. after over a decade long hiatus. When I did take it up again I was wearing Skechers Shape-Ups and at first I liked the extra work that the shoes seemed to heap on my calves but then my feet and legs started to hurt badly after each run. After I was forced to take several days off due to this I decided to go to the library and see if they had any running books and low and behold this baby jumped off the shelves at me. If there is a way to make running even more natural, then this is the way… Barefoot Running.

It first goes into how the author was badly injured while roller blading and how he could not run anymore without great pain. Not being able to run, when you are a runner is hard to explain but it is kind of like a druggie not be able to get his drugs. Bad analogy I know but running gives you an all natural high that has no equal. Run in the morning and you can be riding a natural high all day long. Its an amazing mood booster.

Anyway the author found that he was able to run again by running barefoot. The book contains all the research he has done on this subject since and he makes quite a compelling case. Right from the beginning many natural parents opt to buy their babies soft sole shoes because so many pediatricians tell us that it is better for foot health if their feet can feel and grip the surfaces they are walking on. We see first hand how they walk like Frankenstein when we put heavy, clunky shoes on them. Yes, they eventually learn. We all do. But there is certainly some compelling evidence for why barefoot is better.

Now that said I am not running barefoot now. I still prefer some sort of shoes so I jumped on the minimal shoes bandwagon and got some shoes that are as close to barefoot as you can get while still having the outer protection of a shoe. It hadn’t escaped my notice how popular these types of shoes are getting either. The primal/paleo diet crowd have been fans for awhile and their idea is that barefoot shoes bring us closer to the caveman days. One of the primal blogs I read has a header photo of the blogger wearing the shoes I opted to get… Vibram Five Fingers sprint shoes, in bright blue.

Yes, they look a little strange but they are VERY comfortable. You can hike in them, run in them, swim in them… just about anything. You feel close to being barefoot and yet they are sturdy and offer a lot of protection. Many other runner’s have stopped me to ask me if I am having knee pain wearing shoes with no support but I just explain that my feet are meant to be natural shock absorbers. Our feet have lots nerve endings, fewer only then our hands and genitals, and the reason for that is because they sense our environment and automatically make needed adjustments so that we step with care. Shoes can mess that all up and even weaken our feet because we aren’t using them the way we should be.

My husband laughed when I bought these shoes and then purchased a second pair of Shape-ups for himself. He laughed even harder when he saw me wearing them to the gym (yeah they look kind of silly, I admit that) but now he has been dropping hints that the Shape-Ups aren’t so great for his own workouts. If only I were a “told you so” kinda gal. And they do get a lot of attention at the gym and from other runner’s but its good attention.

This book has a lot of good info in it and it supports the general idea that we really do have a super computer (our body) at our disposal that can help us take each step in a healthy and safe way. But we are putting padded shoes on our super computer consoles kind of like putting boxing gloves on before we type. It makes a good case for barefoot running and just going barefoot more often in general… adults, kids, even the elderly who seem to have balance issues as they get older. Also has information on the spiritual and sensual aspects of going barefoot as well as exercises to get you ready and advice on cold weather running (think snow on the ground). There is something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

  • Hi Tiffany, I jumped on the barefoot wagon myself today, and snagged a pair of Merrell’s with Vibram soles… I am also ending a long hiatus from running – excited to see how it goes with new runners.

  • Jenn

    I remember in high school when I told my gym teacher that I wanted to start running barefoot, using the argument that god didn’t make running shoes, his reply, with a friendly smirk, was that god didn’t make pavement either. I left it at that. :) curious if the book recommends keeping to natural surfaces when running barefoot?

    • The author addresses all types of surfaces. In many of the photos he is running on dirt trails though.

      • Good point Jenn! I imagine that running on concrete, period isn’t good, shoeless or not.

  • Georg

    Merrell just came out with a new shoe that is the alternative to the toe shoes for those of us who find them to be quite hideous and hilarious looking…. I recently bought a pair and like them! They are so light and comfortable. They can be found on REI, amazon, and the company website found here:

  • From Sketchers Shape-Ups to VFF’s! Such polar opposites; that’s great. I’m not a barefooter or even a full-time VFF wearer, but I do think it’s really fun to wear them on trails… like you say, our feet have a lot of feeling in them, and one upshot of that is stimulation from the ground that actually makes running more enjoyable (I think).

    I’m sure the book goes into this, but just make sure you ease into this type of running really gradually. So many people get stress fractures and other issues when they get overly excited about minimalist running. Our feet are so accustomed to having support from shoes that it takes some time to build up strength required to avoid injury.

    Have fun!!

    • Excellent advice Matt. The author does advise a gradual start (which I followed myself) and lots of exercises meant to build foot strength.

  • Racheldehoff

    Running barefoot immediately healed a knee injury I had & brought me such renewed joy! I would never run any other way now- love my VFFs!!!

  • Thefitnessmoms

    I have shape-ups but I feel that they weaken my ankles and I don’t like them at all. In fact, I’m not a big fan of shoes so your post really intrigued me. I’ve seen all of the shoes lately that have simulated bare feet and was curious about them. After reading your post, I think I’ll give them a try! Thanks!


  • Mckella

    If I could only have one pair of shoes, it would be my five fingers. They’re the only shoes I can run in without knee pain and I even wear them when I know I’m going to be standing or walking a lot, like on my recent trip to Disney world. I’ve also been going barefoot more often and I never wear shoes in my home. My feet and calves feel stronger and my balance seems to be better. The only problem I’ve noticed it that my feet sometimes hurt when I wear normal shoes. Can’t decide if that’s a good or bad sign.

  • Frugally Savvy

    I would never run in my bare feet because it is just not healthy for u

  • This is very fascinating. I tried earth shoes and loved them (they have the negative heel), but then they didn’t seem too good in the long run. I wouldn’t run barefoot but will try to be in the house in barefeet more. Thanks. Amy

  • Hmm. I’ve been reading a bit about the barefoot lifestyle online too, and it interests me. Dh was recently diagnosed with plantar fascitis, I wonder if going barefoot (which he never does) would help. It started when he was running and roller blading, which he has done for years. The pain got so bad he had to stop.

  • Dcromney

    Did you read Born to Run? Such a fantastic book. If nothing else, its so much more fun to run barefoot, right?! You feel like a kid again… like you’re running for the joy of it, not as a chore to burn off that leftover pregnancy fat!!!

    • I haven’t but I will look for it at the library. Thx! 

  • Karina

    Our agronomist (at the company I work for) just bought a pair of these funky shoes & showed me yesterday.  As a former ballet dancer on pointe, I have spend years in yoga recovery that has helped my feet very much. Maybe it’s time to try these shoes too.  One putting it out there thought: that all grass & soil is respected (no toxic chemicals are used) so that we CAN RUN BLISSFULLY BAREFOOT!    

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