The Barefoot Professor: The Barefoot Book

barefoot running
  • Do start SLOWLY; low mileage, slow pace
  • Do walk barefoot frequently
  • Do walk/run on smooth, flat surfaces
  • Do check your form; usually land 'flat foot'
  • Don't run in grass; grass hides dangers. "Don't step down where you can't see the ground"
  • Don't heel-strike or forefoot-strike too much; this can lead to metatarsal fractures
  • Don't start in minimalist shoes; run first with your naked feet
  • Don't be afraid of what others will think; you are the cool, trendy one!

Running Barefoot

How to Start Safely

Growing Popularity
Barefoot running has exploded in popularity recently. A few people (such as Ken Bob Saxton and Rick Roeber) have been doing it for years, but the number of barefoot adherants really took off after the publication of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall in 2009. The summer of 2010 saw the publication of The Barefoot Running Book (Jason Robilliard) and Running Barefoot (Michael Sandler) and soon other books on the topic followed. (My book, The Barefoot Book, was also released in 2010). Why the explosion in interest? Because lots of runners get injured (statistically much higher than doctors, coaches and trainers know it should be) and people are beginning to realize that it's the shoes, stupid!

Although there's a LOT of science that favors walking and running barefoot over shoes, it honestly doesn't take much consideration to realize that shoes are unnatural, man-made devices that change the way we stand, walk and run. Those changes, because they are deviations away from the natural, are generally bad for the body. The more "bells-and-whistles" you put on the shoe (like motion control, arch support, toe springs, elevated heels, etc.) the further you get from natural and the more problematic they are to the body. People are throwing off their high-tech shoes and discovering that running barefoot not only feels liberating, it may actually be better for you, too!

Do's and Don'ts
You wear shoes. You grew up wearing shoes. You might even think you go barefoot a lot but trust me - you don't.* Consequently, your feet are debilitated. Certainly you should not throw off your shoes and run 5 miles expecting your feet to perform like champions. Your feet must be rehabilitated, and rehabilitation can be a slow and arduous process.

I recommend you walk at least 50 miles barefoot before you run your first step. If you walk just one mile a day barefoot, then you can complete your 50 miles in less than 2 months. Not only will walking barefoot begin to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and bones at a safe pace, it will also prepare your skin for running (I'm talking about road running now, not trails). Walking barefoot thickens and toughens the skin on your feet even better than running barefoot, which can actually have an exfoliating effect.

*If you've spent more than 1 full week barefoot in the past month, then I will concede you go barefoot a lot, but you still wear shoes more than you go barefoot.

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