Run barefoot – on your own schedule

by unshodashish on March 7, 2012

“How long was your transition to running barefoot?” must be one of my top-5 questions, right behind “do you wear those toe shoes?” and “what about splinters?”

If I don’t answer the transition question with a specific number of months, weeks, and days, it’s only partly because I don’t have records of my transition; mostly it’s because your legs and experience are different from mine, and your transition will be different too. When I say, again and again, “listen to your body,” I don’t mean it in some woo woo Marin hippie way. I really mean – run only till it hurts, then stop.

If the ubiquity of padding and of NSAIDs means that we no longer can feel when our body hurts, then that’s a problem that needs to be fixed. Sensations from your nerve endings are real electrical stimulation, scientifically measurable – this is not vortex healing.┬áLearn to listen to those nerve endings, and then pace your workouts to match the feedback from your body, not according to a schedule set by some dude who’s never even met you.

And yes, expect to allow at least six barefoot months, very likely a year, until you regain your previous shod running mileage. In the scheme of a healthy lifetime, isn’t that worth it?


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim May 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

Your book has me excited and conflicted :) I am so good at doing most things in moderation, but don’t think I can wait a year to run my next ultra. And I don’t believe continuing to run in built-up shoes is an option either.

I feel like I am lucky to have a pretty good running form already (at age 48, I grew up in the age of cheap sneakers). I tried a pair of minimalist shoes recently, expecting to jog for a couple of miles, and ran 15 miles in them straight out of the box. Since then, I’ve been running roughly 50 miles/week, with my longest run being 23 miles.

Have to say, though, that your book (which I read in one sitting last night) was very persuasive. I prefer trails to asphalt for aesthetic reasons, and the trails where I live are pretty rocky. Your book has me thinking about checking my form in town before I hit the trails tomorrow. I’m also thinking of some ultras with nice mulch trails (western WA) where I may be able to run truly barefoot.

Your book has me thinking a lot. I don’t want to cancel the events I planned to run in this summer; I don’t want to run those events in built-up shoes, but I can’t run some of them barefoot (rough trails). So I guess I’ll wear the least shoes I can (huaraches with flat 4mm vibram soles), mix in some truly barefoot training to keep my form honest, keep listening to my body, and hope for the best.



unshodashish May 29, 2012 at 7:37 am

Jim – your practice of moderation is more intense than most (!), but your current program seems to be working for you, so I think the idea of adding in “some” barefooting to tune your form is a great way to go. Glad to have contributed to your appreciation of our sport.

ps lift your feet, don’t push off!


Jim May 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm

That’s good advice – “lift your feet, don’t push off!”.

I think I mostly do this naturally. I’ve checked my footprints and I seem to leave an impression that’s pretty even. Last night however, I felt the arch in my right foot getting tired. I focused a bit more on making sure I was lifting/not pushing off and felt immediate relief.

I also took your advice on the foam roller for self-massage. It arrived in the mail this morning; I am about to try it out now :)


Phoebe Fennell July 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Thoroughly enjoying your blog entries, thank you!

I started running BF almost a month ago and am enjoying running again for the first time in 2 years. I’m building up slowly and loving the sense of floating, as opposed the pounding that had given me such heel pain.

I run mostly on wooded trails and gravel park paths since I live in a major European city where there is a great deal of traffic on narrow streets. The cars here will share the road with bicyclists, but runners…beware! LOL!

Please keep the blog posts coming and know that you are much appreciated!


unshodashish July 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Phoebe – your comment made my day. Keep on floating!


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