Learning to run barefoot

On my recent trip to the US of A, I was lucky enough to pick up a pair of Vibram Five Finger KSO’s for about USD$85 + shipping.  I’d been thinking about buying them for quite some time but getting your hands on a pair in Australia (for a reasonable price!) had proved extremely challenging.  Regardless, the Five Fingers served as my impetus to get started with ‘barefoot’ running.

If you’re interested in getting a pair, please feel free to check them out here: FiveFingers KSO – Men’s by Vibram or Vibram FiveFingers Women’s KSO.

I wanted to briefly share with you my initial experiences of learning to run barefoot. Bear in mind, that I am a relatively heavy-set male (think 100+ kilos) and have never really enjoyed running all that much. website speed test .  Part of the reason I wound up loving CrossFit actually!

To summarise my experiences so far:

  • Running barefoot is an absolute joy,
  • You don’t realise how badly shoes are impeding your natural running style until you actually get them off your feet,
  • You recognise that the musculature of your calves and quads are designed to absorb the shock of your landing – NOT your heels, knees and hips,
  • You recognise just how underdeveloped this musculature is once you start using it properly,
  • Your calves will hurt!
  • Start slow and build up your distances gradually,
  • Running on grass at a park is such a pleasure – you foot will spread out and act more like a claw, giving you more spring and speed from each landing,
  • Your agility improves significantly as you can change directions much more effectively when your toes can grip the turf,
  • Running barefoot is therapeutic for any ailments you might have accumulated from running WITH shoes.

I can’t recommend this more highly.  You honestly don’t need the fancy Vibram’s to get started.  They’re nice, but not essential.  Find yourself a nice patch of grass and start to FEEL the ground with your feet.  Its truly amazing.

Get your feet out of their leather coffins!  They’re capable of so much more if you just let them :)

I hope your barefoot running experiences are as enjoyable as mine.

***17/10/2010 UPDATE: Check out the below video for some useful tips on common running issues***

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12 Responses to Learning to run barefoot

  1. Pingback: 16-Days of Beginner CrossFit Workouts You Can Do From Home | Michael Ashcroft - Getting It Done

  2. Pingback: Footwear for CrossFitters - What you need and why it matters | Michael Ashcroft - Getting It Done

  3. Mike Rives says:

    Running on nice grass is truly a great feeling! Btw, have you heard of the Barefoot Runners Society? It is a community of barefoot/minimalist runners that you might find you have a lot in common with. :) Visit our website at http://www.barefootrunners.org and see what you think. If you would like to join (currently by invitation only) drop me an email to miker(at)barefootrunners(dot)org and I’ll send you one out. Good Running!

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks for your comment Mike.
    Keep enjoying the barefoot running! Your group sounds great.

  5. Chanel says:

    I live life barefoot, country girl who draws energy from the earth.

  6. Tara Lafferty says:

    Wow. I’ve never run. EVER. I was a dancer much earlier on and blamed my past dancing for painful feet. Doctor after doctor made me wear orthodics of all kinds. They’d end up making my feet hurt even more. I felt like I couldn’t walk barefoot, the second I’d get up in the morning my feet were in such pain. I’m only 5’2″, small build so my weight wasnt the issue. The issue was, I had built up muscle in my body when I was younger, using my feet (dancing mainly barefoot). Then, I stopped and had three kids. Now, I’m running barefoot, LOVE IT. I use them for everything now. Walking, running, playing with my kids, and I can walk barefoot at home again. I love how you called them leather coffins…they are! My feet are still painful, but not nearly as much as they were, just means I have more work to do.

  7. Manu says:

    Hi Bernadette,Thanks for the comments. I sugegst reading the article I wrote on plantar fasciitis (below) and following the exercises as a starting point. Hiring a really good fascial therapist who has a successful history treating PF would be a good idea too. I have had great success in treating PF. In most cases, moving out of the acute pain stage within 3-4 sessions. Once you are out of the pain stage, it is time to focus on flexibility and corrective exercises to strengthen the arches, knees and hips. You will find a few in this article.Now, my guess is that you have been wearing shoes with a significant heel lift for many years. (I consider the heel lift of most running shoes to be significant). The heel lift in shoes places your achilles tendon in a shortened position. It does not get stretched out fully when you walk. This is compounded by heel strike. Over time the achilles and lower leg muscles in your calf become somewhat permanently shortened. This is the primary issue that causes PF and just about every other foot pain issue. The shortened state places strain through the plantar fascia and other structures which eventually become inflamed (for lack of a better term). This is also the reason going barefoot is so painful. When you are barefoot, you are forcing the full natural range of motion of your now shortened ankle which places excess stress on the achilles tendon. Plus the muscles of the lower leg and arches are not strengthened to handle this new ROM. So they get fatigued quickly. The key will be to work through the active pain of PF. Then begin a rehab process that focuses on increasing flexibility and strengthening the ankle and calves. When it comes to walking around barefoot: I would keep the amount of time down. Spend 5-10 minutes a day at first and over the course of weeks slowly add more time. It MUST be PAIN FREE. Start buying shoes with less of a heel wedge. Don’t make a drastic move from the higher heels you are currently wearing to a zero drop over night. But eventually you will want a zero drop shoe, if your foot can handle it. This is a process that will take at least a year and possibly two years to fully adapt into. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. Also, something you didn’t mention in the above post. Do you wear orthotics?Jesse James Retherford

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