Cautions on Running Barefoot

The barefoot running craze has been sweeping the country. While Born to Run, by our friend Chris McDougall, is a fantastic book (he does know how to tell a story, doesn’t he?!) I am concerned that some may jump too far, too fast into barefoot running and think that it is a silver bullet for … well, everything, from better running form to increased performance to injury prevention. But, as Amby Burfoot wrote in A Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life, there is no panacea—we must not search for or follow false prophets.

We search too much for false prophets … runners believe … that they are most likely to find success by discovering new baubles in the physical world … I disagree … Success comes from within. It comes from consistent dedication to core principles and values.

Success in running, as with all things, does take work and dedication! One shoe, or lack of shoes, won’t by itself solve all issues. Here’s a great article that was published on the Hammer Nutrition site by Al Lyman that has excellent advice about barefoot running that I agree with wholeheartedly.

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4 Responses to Cautions on Running Barefoot

  1. jdawg says:

    I think it just takes a really long time to learn to run well without hurting yourself often. For me it was taking the 2 years to learn Pose technique, another midfoot striking style, and THEN adding Lycra Power compression shorts that really caused me to enjoy my running because it didn't hurt me often.

  2. clynton says:

    Thanks for the post, Marshall. I agree that simply taking one's shoes off and running barefoot is not a cure all. Heck, it's not even a guarantee that one learns a better running form. You still have to pay attention to your whole body and what you are doing.

    That being said, I do believe that everyone should do some barefoot running. But as a means to the end of learning a really good form and "teaching" their muscles what that feels like. I think allowing one's feet to feel the ground helps provide the necessary feedback to the brain, but proper form is not just about skin on ground, or even landing with the forefoot or midfoot first.

    I disagree that only 20% of the population is biomechanically correct and therefore can successfully run barefoot. Nonsense. We can all run barefoot. It's a question of how far, how long, not if.

    The number one mistake people, as you point out, is to do too much too soon. When starting out running barefoot (or even in minimal shoes) think feet, not miles. Go a short distance and see how the body feels.

    The problem with running too far barefoot at fist is that one will need to land on the forefoot. To do this successfully requires the calves to do engage and work much more than most of us are used to.

    To help myself and others ease into barefoot running I created and shared on my blog the 12 Step Program to Run Shodless ( It seems to be helpful for people. I'd love your thoughts on it.

    Thanks again for sharing your learnings and findings of what others advise. Dialog, practice, and patience is what we all need with running, whether shod or not.

    Running Quest

  3. Thanks for your thoughts jdawg and clynton. As you both understand, it all takes work and commitment. There is no "silver bullet." A little bit of barefoot running may help… or not.

  4. clynton says:

    Yep, you're right, no silver bullet (damn it:)

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