Dear Mark: Barefoot Criticism and Salmon Roe

BarefootingToday’s edition of Dear Mark is just a two-parter. We’ve got a question about the recent flurry of anti-barefoot/minimalist footwear criticism. In my opinion, it’s pretty weak criticism, and I’ll explain why I don’t think you need to ditch your Vibrams for some orthotics just yet. After that, I answer a question from an extremely lucky woman who’s just come into possession of an entire gallon-sized bag of fresh Alaskan salmon roe. She doesn’t know what to do with them. I wish I had her problems. Don’t you?

Anyway, let’s get right to it:

Hey Mark:

I haven’t seen a post on barefooting on your blog in a while. I ran across this article a couple of weeks ago and wondering if you were going to comment:

Is Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt

Thanks for all of the amazing content!



If someone only reads the NY Times piece, they’re left with the distinct impression that barefoot running (or barefoot-style running) is pointless. But when you look at the actual study referenced in the article, you see that they kind of misinterpreted (or misrepresented) its findings.

Contrary to the article’s assertion that “heel striking was the more economical running form, by a significant margin,” the reality is that “no differences in Vo2 or %CHO were detected between groups when running with their habitual footstrike pattern.” In other words, rear foot strikers and forefoot strikers were equally economical with their running when allowed to run with their normal pattern. However, when rear foot runners were asked to try forefoot striking, their running economy suffered. Forefoot strikers asked to try heelstriking, on the other hand, did not lose running economy. This is easily explained by the fact that most people nowadays – even the forefoot strikers buying out the latest Fivefingers – grew up running heel-first while wearing big clunky shoes. So, in a way, heel striking “feels right.” Forefoot strikers can usually “switch back” to heel striking without their efficiency suffering because they grew up running that way, and this study is evidence of that. Lifelong heel strikers switching to forefoot striking are faced with something they’ve likely never done since they were barefooted children playing tag or Red Rover or Steal the Bacon. It’s completely new to them. Most heel strikers I see trying to run barefoot or with a forefoot landing for the first time end up bouncing on their toes like boxers. Rather than gliding smoothly forward with minimal head bob, as seen in experienced forefoot strikers, newbies often bounce up and down. This wastes a ton of forward momentum and energy and severely hampers running efficiency.

We should also note that they used “running flats” for the study. Unless otherwise specified, “running flats” still have a heel drop. Even minimalist shoes, like the New Balance Minimus, still retain a couple millimeters of difference between the heel height and the sole height. If the running flats used in this study had a sizable heel drop, that’s going to make forefoot striking rather awkward, because you have to avoid that heel as you land. These weren’t minimalist shoes, let alone bare feet.

They mention a couple other studies in the article, too. First, they discuss one in which ten weeks of running in minimalist shoes failed to increase arch height. I’m entirely unsurprised. Ten weeks is a blink of an eye. It’s simply not enough time to undo decades of shoe-wearing. Arches don’t collapse in a matter of weeks, after all.

Another study consisted of researchers asking a bunch of runners about their experiences with minimalist footwear. A third of the 566 polled runners had tried minimalist footwear. 32% of that third reported injuries they attributed to running in said footwear. “Many” had switched back to their normal shoes. Again, entirely unsurprising. Forget barefoot running. You have to ease your way into simply walking barefoot, if you’ve spent most of your life in heeled shoes.

Then there were other minimalist running studies that found “no significant benefits” (which probably means there were some insignificant ones) to running economy. Okay.

Is “running economy” really what people who run barefoot or in minimalist shoes are going for? No; it rarely figures into most people’s motivations. Instead, minimalist runners do it for:

The increased sensory feedback from the foot-ground contact without a big slab of rubber getting in the way. This improves the runner’s proprioceptive awareness and allows quicker, unconscious reactions to changes in terrain.

The “lightness” of running without foot coffins. It’s hard to quantify, but there’s something about running in minimalist shoes, or none at all, that makes you glide across the landscape and kiss the ground as you do it.

The overall experience of feeling the actual world beneath your feet. There’s a great Ram Dass quote that goes something like “If you wear leather on your feet, the whole world is made of leather.”

Most of all, the reduction in “standard” running injuries. When I ask most people why they switched to barefoot running, it’s to avoid the chronic pain they’d come to expect as just part of the hobby. When I ask them whether it seems to have helped, they almost invariably say “yes.” From my experience, it only makes things worse when they pick things up right where they left off without bothering to condition their bodies or get accustomed to the new way of running. The scientific literature mostly bears this out:

Knee pain: Most recently, barefoot running reduces patellofemoral (knee) joint stress. Another study also found that forefoot landings result in less impact to the knee, but greater loading on the Achilles tendon; luckily, the Achilles tendon is basically made to absorb stress, while the knee arguably has a lower capacity for loading. Yet another study came to the same conclusion.

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS): CECS is an exercise-induced nerve condition that causes swelling and pain to the affected muscle. In one study, runners with CECS in the legs were able to increase their running speed and running distance while decreasing their pain levels by switching to a forefoot landing. Another study in CECS patients had similar results.

It all comes down to time. Human bodies are incredibly malleable and adaptive. You put us in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, and we’ll adapt to it. We may not flourish, but we’ll certainly survive. Bad, overly cushioned shoes are a perfect example of that. We adapt to wearing those shoes. To go from that back to barefoot/minimalist running takes time, even though it’s arguably the most natural way to do it. For many of us, shoes have become “natural.” This can be overcome, but it takes time, attention to proper form (or expert instruction) and an honest self-assessment of one’s abilities.

Hi Mark!

I love your blog! You are my most reputable resource I go to when I have a nutrition question.

Anyway, I live in Anchorage, AK. My boyfriend is HUGE into hunting and fishing. He has been his whole entire life. Well, he just got back into town from dipnetting at Kasiloff and brought home 20+ Red Salmon. We were fileting, gutting, washing, and vacuum sealing the salmon. He asked me if I wanted the fish eggs. I said HELL YEAH! I don’t know what I am going to do with them but I will figure it out.

So….My question is ….

If you had a gallon-size Ziploc baggy of Salmon Roe, what you would you do with them? How would you prepare them?

I am super excited to try them.

Thank you for your time.

Ashley from Alaska

Although by the time this answer reaches you, the roe will likely have spoiled or been eaten, I’ll give you a few thoughts.

In my opinion, the very best way to store salmon roe is to salt or soy-sauce cure them first. It’s not too hard to prepare, either. Here’s a basic salt-cure:

  • Fill a large bowl with warm (around 100 ºF) water and a generous amount of salt. You’re basically creating a brine.
  • Place the roe in the water and let it sit there for half an hour.
  • After half an hour, rinse the roe in warm water and carefully remove the skeins (the sacs holding the eggs together).
  • Once all the skeins have been removed, including the bits, place the eggs back in the brine for a few minutes.
  • Strain out the brine. Shake the colander to get the eggs as dry as possible, then place into sterilized canning jars. The roe will be good for a couple weeks in the fridge and longer in the freezer.

Here’s a basic soy-sauce cure:

  • Run the roe under warm water, about as hot as you can handle, to help you remove the skeins. Do this over a colander to prevent any lost roe.
  • Once all the skein has been removed, place the rinsed and cleaned roe into a glass container.
  • Add soy sauce and any other seasonings (sake and mirin are popular) and stir until all eggs are evenly coated. Cover the container and place in the fridge.

Enjoy for the next few days. Freeze what you don’t eat. A vacuum sealer will get you the most air-tight seal, but you’ll want to pre-freeze the roe to keep them from being crushed. If you don’t have a sealer, you can just stick them in a good ziplock bag and suck the air out with your mouth, then put that ziplock into another ziplock freezer bag (suck the air out of that one, too).

As for what to do with your cured roe, you can spoon them into your mouth direct and savor the *pop* of the eggs as they burst in your mouth, coating your tongue in phospholipid-enriched brininess. You can add a few spoonfuls to a plate of scrambled eggs (eggs on eggs) or an omelete. You can mash it up with lemon juice, pepper, olive oil, and diced shallots for a lovely vegetable dip. I bet you could even make mayo with them, allowing the roe to stand in for some of the egg yolk (you’d probably have to play around with the ratios, and the texture might not fully replicate regular mayo, but whatever you ended up with would be worth eating) and salt.

You can also treat the whole roe sac as an ingredient. Maybe beat an egg, dip the sac in the beat up egg, dust the sac with coconut flour, salt, and herbs, and pan fry the sac in your choice of healthy fat. Good luck!

That’s it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading!

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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108 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Barefoot Criticism and Salmon Roe”

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  1. I love my barefoot shoes, so don’t get me wrong here, but…

    If you want to be pedantic about it, high heels are more natural and primal than going barefoot. Our (hind) legs had to make some compromises in order to allow us to be bipeds. Our quadripedal cousins all have their “heel” way up in the air, except we call it a hock. On the other hand, they’re not landing on it when they run. Put on some heeled shoes and try to run on your toes and you might find yourself adopting a rather more primal posture (all fours).

    1. On all five more likely since your face would also be in pretty firm contact with the ground.

  2. Mark, do you have any view on the Vivo ‘v’ Vibram debate? Apparently, Vivo fans criticise Vibrams for unnaturally forcing the toes apart. Any thoughts?

    1. Forcing my toes apart is exactly why I bought my Vibrams….They are helping to correct my injury-caused bunion on my right foot, and once I became accustomed to wearing them, other foot and leg problems I didn’t even know I had were resolved. You know that saying “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” …. well, you also don’t know what you’ve been missing until it arrives (like better health from Primal Living).

    2. I agree with Jeff here.

      Most people have toes that are pushed in together from years of wearing shoes with narrow toe-boxes.

      Check out this link to see the damage shoes can do to your toes (warning: some people may consider the image on this blog gross).

      So, I enjoy how the Vibrams spread my toes out. It seems to be counteract bunion-formation.

  3. Studies, Studies and more studies…. If nothing else Mark, your site is full is study smashing real life stories and results.

    After my personal experience with Vibram FF, I laugh in the face (mostly silently) of the nay-sayers.

    I’ve had two knee surgeries almost exactly three years apart on my right knee to repair cartilage that’s been damaged from running (chronic cardio). After those two surgeries the only way I could run was wearing an knee alignment brace over a compression wrap. I spent a small fortune on foot coffins (Love that analogy, Mark!) trying to find a pair that wouldn’t make me devour the Advil after 6 miles.

    I talked to another runner wearing them at a 10k trail run this past spring, he loved his. We ran the first mile together and I focused on his form. He looked comfortable and smooth. I always felt like I had good running form but after seeing him run ‘barefoot’ I felt like a square wheel. I spent some time running on a track barefoot. After three weeks on running with nothing on my feet I was able to run three miles comfortably. That convinced me that I had to run barefoot as often as I could.

    I bought my Vibram FF’s and haven’t regretted it for a single second.

    Cheers All!!!

  4. Ohh..roe, yum! I’d make hand rolls-wrap it in nori with avocado, sliced cucumbers, carrots, and maybe some mayo/hot sauce mixture.

  5. Thanks for posting a rebuttal to the NYT article about barefooting. I had seen it and was unimpressed, but not surprised. I normally like reading the NYT but Gretchen Reynolds almost always ticks me off. Anything that doesn’t fit with her preconceived view of How Things Should Be (running, diet, fitness, you name it) and she will cherry pick and selectively write about “studies” in order to back up her beliefs. So when I see her byline, my BS monitor goes on full alert.

    1. I see a lot of bias in the New York Times, and this is a prime example of their journalism.

      I hate it when newspapers think they’re so stellar when it comes to health and fitness advice.

  6. Spent the weekend on my feet giving tours of a house, and the owners requested no shoes inside. Extremely glad that I’ve been “barefoot” for the last few years and have been working on my posture a la Gokhale method…and that I follow a Primal eating plan, because after a few 10-hour days on my (bare) feet I didn’t have aching feet and back that would have plagued me a few years ago, and never had energy crashes. Thanks Mark for introducing me to all this helpful info!

  7. That last part about the roe sacs brought back a childhood memory: The ranch my dad grew up on was right next to the White River (SD), and grandpa would take us kids down to the sandy, silty banks every morning to put in the fish lines. We’d use cheese, fish guts, whatever, as bait, tie the lines to the ends of big driftwood sticks, and jam the sticks into the mud. Then, me & my cousins would spend the morning ‘being kids’ (getting dirty). Grandpa would round us up before lunch, take us back down to the fish lines (we even had a theme song for this activity), and we’d pull in, on average, a half-dozen catfish. We’d watch as grandpa cleaned them, and grandma would filet them, and soak them in brine in the kitchen sink while she made the batter and herded us kids into the basement to wash up (hose down). She’d fry all that fresh fish, and the egg sacs were the most highly prized pieces of all. It’s been over thirty years, but I can still taste that catfish.

    Oh, and +1 for VFFs. I’ve been barefoot as much as possible for two years now, and wearing VFFs to the office counts as ‘shoes’. The Invisible Shoe – style sandals I made are my favorites, though.

  8. If only only wearing flip-flops with sandals was appropriate dress with a suit and tie. I am looking forward to there someday being minimalist dress shoes. For now, I can dream.

    1. Vivo, I believe, actually DOES make some minimalist shoes that I would consider perfect with a suit and tie. You should check out their website! I remember seeing what you could compare to a nice brown pair of loafers on there once.

    2. Google “minimalist dress shoes” and you’ll get quite a few results. Some of them are pretty ugly, but there are a few that would be appropriate with a suit.

    3. I’m sure Vivo has some dress-style shoes. And so far, I’ve used a slightly-too-large pair of loafers for my suit. Doesn’t look too bad, and sure is comfy!

  9. i’m not a runner. but i am a middle age woman who has lived here in the states for my entire adult life and had fallen into the shoe trap. arch support, sturdy structure, high heels for anything besides kicking around. my lower back pain was becoming a real problem. i tried running, in sneakers, and got crippling shin splints. while trying to figure out what shin splints were and how to avoid them, i came across MDA. a light bulb went off. humans are not designed to wear structured shoes. i grew up in the caribbean. the only time i wore shoes was to school and to church. other than that i was barefoot. i could walk over broken glass and not even feel it my soles were so tough. i have been on a barefoot mission ever since. my toes have regained their splay, my arches have risen and my soles are getting tougher. i found those old school, leather buffalo sandals on amazon and those are my summer shoes. i’ve read a lot about grounding and it makes a lot of sense. my winter shoes will be double leather soled moccasins. grok on!

  10. Oh man a gallon bag of salmon roe? I would make nigiri with it. Every time I go out for sushi I always get 2 salmon roe nigiri. It’s my favorite.

    As for the minimalist shoe thing, I have been wearing (and making) minimalist shoes for 5 years ever since I hurt my feet really bad on a long distance hike wearing shoes that were overbuilt. Somehow I intuitively knew that if I was going to heel my broken feet, it was going to have to be done barefoot. So I walked my neighborhood completely barefoot for 6 weeks until my feet started feeling better. Because there were no minimalist shoes in stores at the time, I started making my own shoes. I only wear flat shoes now. I walk so much better and my feet never get injured anymore. I’m not a runner but every now and then I feel like running and find that I like it best with my homemade flat sandals. (Not huaraches, I don’t like that strap between my toes.)

  11. Hi,
    Can you help me with the transition into barefoot running? My knee has felt great but my achilles tendon on my right foot is painful now. I got my vivo barefoot shoes on the 4th of July and went right in, jogging 4 hours/week in my 55-75% hrm. I am also walking for 30 minutes barefoot on a daily basis. I am going to take a week off from jogging. What do you suggest for transitioning, spending how much time between my traditional and barefoot shoes?

    Thank you, Laura

    1. You are going very, very fast with your transition.

      It took me an entire year to transition healthily into barefoot running. Walk first – walk 10 miles at a time on the weekends. After you have mastered walking that far at a time, then start sprinting for very short periods.

      Most of the people (including Mark) are against chronic cardio, so you might also want to look up jogging for long periods of time vs sprinting.

    2. I agree with Ashley, it sounds way to fast to me. When I started doing my trail running in minimal shoes I would do a run or two, and when I started feeling pain in my feet/calves/Achilles switch back to cushioned shoes until it went away, then go minimal again. It took about a year before I was running minimal all of the time. I was a heel-striker and had started to have chronic problems with shin splints/knee pain, so I also had to transition to a better running form, which took several months also to get to where that didn’t require constant attention and felt normal. It has been about a year now on 100% minimal, and I no longer have any pain at all from running other than the normal soreness from occasionally pushing too hard. You can’t just switch to minimal and maintain your usual mileage without injuring yourself. Barefoot Ken Bob dubbed this syndrome TMTS for “Too Much Too Soon”. I think runners are prone to pushing too hard, and this is very common. I know I did a few times, but you just have to take it slow and give your body time to change.

    3. I’ll echo the ‘too much, too fast’ statement. I spent a year in my VFF getting to the level of running I was at in traditional shoes.
      The Vibram website offers a great tutorial on preparing your feet for barefoot. The exercises here will probably go a long way toward relieving the growing pains your feet are experiencing…

  12. I love smelt roe but never could get myself to try salmon roe. It’s a texture thing and the thought of them “popping” in my mouth just sets up an inpenetrable mental barrier for me. Do they taste like smelt roe (the tiny bright orange stuff often found in sushi)?

    1. It’s funny, I ended up doing that exact prep recipe Mark posted. The popping is different but kinda fun 🙂
      I have been using the salmon roe on my eggs in the morning with “sauteed” Nori. I topped off my salads with it too. Its like salt. The popping just adds texture. Not fishy. 🙂

      Next time I get salmon roe, I will try his last recipe with coconut flour. That sounds DELICIOUS!!

  13. I love the barefoot shoes and the whole idea. Unfortunately, I tried to rush into interval sprints on a treadmill and got plantar fasciitis. Left heel has been sore for well over a year now and won’t go away with physio or stretching or massage therapy. And I can see many newbies having the same problem of over exerting their arches before their feet get accustomed to the minimalist shoes. Sure would love any advice you guys have to get rid of this aggravation!!

    1. It took me an entire year to transition healthily into barefoot running. Walk first – walk 10 miles at a time on the weekends. Do that for six months. After you have mastered walking that far at a time, then start sprinting for very short periods.

    2. Steve – I literally had exactly the same experience. I have a pair of Vivo Barefoot trainers and I went straight into training by doing an interval sprint session on the treadmill. The first thing to go was my lower back followed shortly by both of my achilles. Thereafter I developed ITB syndrome which has now lasted for nearly six months despite physio, stretching and foam rolling. I’m finally starting to make some progress by using a handheld Pro-Tec roller massager and trigger point release – undoubtedly the most unpleasant experience I can think of.

      While discussing the idea of barefoot trainers with somebody who was new to the idea, they raised the point that thousands of years ago there were no tarred or concrete surfaces and that these surfaces present a completely different set of conditions for a barefoot runner and may mean that barefoot trainers don’t provide sufficient shock absorption.

      Mark – any thoughts on this?

      1. I was wondering about the concrete issue myself. I would have hoped that Mark or someone might have addressed that issue, rather than running economy.

        Barefoot running sounds like a great idea on dirt. Not so much on asphalt and especially concrete. Horses wear shoes to protect their hooves especially from modern roads. (Although I understand there’s a “barefoot” movement for horses as well. 🙂 )

        It seems that an extra cushion for the modern issue of paved roads would be in order, rather than strictly barefoot under those conditions.

  14. mark,
    this is my first time commenting and thanks for critiquing articles like this in regards to barefoot running.

    And much thanks to the subject of barefoot running in general. I was recently 2/3rds of the way thru a transformative session of P90X and you popped up at the end talking about the recovery drink before i ejected the disc. later that day an acquaintance of my wife mentioned minimalist running soI looked it up on MDA for your take (typically and article picked up by Your endorsement of the concept in an older article sold me and I bought a pair of vibrams later than day. There also hasn’t been a day that I dont’ visit MDA since then. (Your postiveness provides a great balance to my typical cynicism).

    I have only been running in my bikilas for about 6 weeks now and I love them. I ran 1.5 miles for the first time and the calf pain (good pain, not bad pain) was rough for about 4 days (I expected it) but after that initial run there is no extra pain. When I played years of soccer (and later rugby) I always ran on grass in cleats (flat soes with nearly zero padding) with shorter steps landed on the front of my foot(basically barefoot running) but then I started running with my wife (who did track) and adopted her heelstrike method and have had a few lower back issues. Now I am running 1.5-2 miles once or twice a week. I do all my workouts in them. Long distnace for me is a 5k. I hope to get my 1 mile time down to the low 7’s as well as participate in the Susan B Komen 5k in MD later this year (my wife’s mother passed due to breast cancer).

    If you or anyone are interested here is my recent “transformation” documented on my site (The Strangest Brew), the post is titled 222.0 ( I will preface that it is a mix of many topics but is mostly a political site (I first found MDA when it was linked from and I subscribe to a similar anarcho-capitalist mindset as Lew) so if anyone checks out other posts they will likely be offended (just a fair warning). I have been incorporating more and more paleo/primal aspects into our nutrition and have even added a category on my site called “Hybrid Primal”.

    I have even taken the advise you give about “playing” and joined a small group playing pickup games of soccer, it was tough keeping with the 16-20 year olds but this guy with a a few grey hairs surprised them quite a bit too.

    Thanks again for your daily dose of wisdom.

  15. Barefoot Running: I grew up going barefoot 3 months of the year (small town summertime, never need to worry about stepping on anything unsavory). Since moving to the city, I have increased the amount of time walking / running barefoot and / or with Vibram Fivefingers. I have lost AN ENTIRE SHOE SIZE since making a concerted effort to go barefoot more. I now have very muscly ‘hobbit feet’. My arch has strengthened so much from going barefoot that it drew the arch up – and my foot in – an entire shoe size (unfortunately making it quite a tough thing to find shoes in the right size..). I’m lucky enough to have a job at an outdoor equipment store where I can easily share my love of barefoot and encourage others towards minimalist shoes. I make very sure to inform people of the dangers of ‘jumping in’ and our management staff are good about letting our employees know the need to share this easy-does-it method. I am constantly surprised by the people who come in looking for well-supported shoes that walk out with Fivefingers or other Minimalist shoes after I share my strengthened-arch story.

    1. Can you comment on how long it took for your arches to to reemerge? I always thought my feet were two different sizes but it turns out the bigger one is just flatter. I tried switching to Vibram FFs but ended up inuring my achilles tendon on my flatter foot because the vibrams were too small for that foot, but going up a size made my toes fall out on the other foot. The rest of the time I only wear barefoot Vivos and Merrells but I don’t know if I can get my arches back up wearing these. I’d go barefoot if I could (I do in the house) but it’s almost winter here in MA and I spend all day in grad school classes/hospitals.

  16. While I’m not a proponent of running in Five Fingers (except on the beach!), I’ve been a forefoot striker forever and I started running in “minimalist” shoes over six years ago. Knee pain – gone. Calf pain/injury – gone. Foot pain – gone. The only running-related injury I have sustained was in a sprint workout where I was fatigued and subsequently over-striding (read: heel striking!). The rapid deceleration of my lower leg in front of my center of mass coupled with the increased tension on the hamstring from the pulling motion of the sprint caused the injury. So while it might not be an economy issue (which I still disagree with), I think there’s plenty of evidence out there about injuries associated with heel-striking.

    Or you could just look at the mechanics of the vast majority of elite level runners (I am in no way “elite”) in the world and by percentage you would see that the overwhelming majority are forefoot strikers. There might be something to that!

  17. I love being barefoot, and also walking and running either barefoot or in minimalist shoes. That said, I rushed into the “minimalist transition” and strained my Achilles tendon two years ago, and it took over a year to heal. Thankfully, I’m running again now. The point of my cautionary tale: if you have been running your whole life in cushioned, raised-heel shoes, you likely need instruction to learn how to run well in minimalist shoes, or to run completely barefoot. I had success with ChiRunning, there are many similar programs out there (Pose Method, Evolution Running, etc), or find a reputable coach. Running well is a learned skill.

  18. There are two important points I feel that should be made here. One being that some people just naturally are built to heel strike a little more than others. I ran track in high school. We were not trained then to try to do less heel striking and more forefoot. We all wore the same kinds of shoes. Some of us were more heel strikers, while others naturally seemed to strike more with their forefoot.

    Second, I do not believe anyone should be running on any made mane hard surface barefoot, or even with barefoot running shoes. Our feet were not meant to run on these surfaces, even most tracks out there. I noticed the other day, it is much easier for me to not only run with a minimalist shoe on the trails because I feel better due to the lesser degree of impact, but because of this, I was more likely to run with less of a heel strike much of the time. The front of my knees feel like they are taking more of a pounding and are strained more when I do more of a forefoot strike on hard surfaces. On the trail this totally changes. The trails also force you to adapt to the terrain, which seems to force more of a consciousness of how you are landing and running. I recommend trail running to everyone. I love it and will likely mostly do this kind of running for the rest of my running days.

  19. As a young kid, I was diagnosed with “flat feet”. I wore orthotics for years on end. And to be perfectly honest, my arch never improved. I also wore shoes with so much cushion, I never felt completely comfortable with my balance. Three years ago I started wearing Vibram 5-fingers (contrary to everyone’s advice) and I couldn’t be happier. I own 4 pair right now and wear them almost everywhere.

  20. I’m sorry… soy sauce cure?! I’m pretty sure none of us around here want to eat that stuff – very strange recommendation IMO.

    1. I thought the same thing, Diane. Coconut Aminos, yes. Soy sauce, no. LOL

      I could go for some roe right now.

    2. Organic soy is perfectly fine. All the hype I soy, in and of itself, being harmful is bogus. There are ZERO real estrogens in soy. Plus, if we eat organic soy in the moderate amounts that Asian countries have for thousands of years, we will never suffer from any health issues related to soy consumption. Bottom line, break down all the research out there, and don’t believe the BS hype that places like Weston A Price put out there. Plus, if soy is fermented(you can get fermented soy sauce), it is extremely healthy for several reasons.

      1. Most soy sauce contains wheat, however! Makes me sick as a dog (fermentation doesn’t help there at all).

        LOVE those coconut aminos!

        1. Soy doesn’t contain wheat!!!! Processed soy products might contain wheat, but soy by itself does NOT contain wheat or gluten. Plus, clean organic soy is widely available these days.

      2. Morgan, just so you know, the vast majority of commercially available soy sauces – even the high quality ones – contain wheat. It’s a common ingredient not because it’s a cheap filler but because it adds to flavor profile of the soy sauce. People who are trying to avoid wheat generally buy tamari, which is supposedly made without wheat, but I have seen tamari labels with wheat in the ingredients list. To be sure, you have to find brands that are labeled wheat-free or gluten-free. Otherwise, I agree that a small amount of organic, fermented soy sauce in a person’s diet isn’t going to be harmful, and may even have minor benefits.

        1. Yeah I read that wrong. For some reason I did not see the word “sauce” in there at first when scanning through slightly distracted. Most soy sauce does contain some wheat. Still, if you don’t have an extreme sensitivity to wheat, no need to avoid it like the plague like so many do because of the BS propaganda hype Weston A Price and others put out there.

      3. You have read several things wrong, Morgan. First, soy sauce is fermented wheat. It isn’t an ingredient, it’s what it is. The bean is named for the sauce, no the other way around. Second, how is a phyto-estrogen not REAL estrogen? Because it comes from a plant? That doesn’t mean it doesn’t mimic human estrogen. Third, after numerous articles on the subject, most readers here already know that when Mark (and WAP) talks about soy he is talking about fermented soy.
        Wait, did I just get trolled?

      1. I didn’t think anyone was being particularly snarky, and I certainly didn’t mean to be. I am confident that soy sauces that list ‘wheat’ in the ingredients are a poor idea for people trying to avoid wheat. Those sensitive to gluten/gliadin may react to other components of wheat – they just don’t happen to be the ones testing detects.

        And, of course, some people left the studies where they tried to determine a permissible ‘detectible level’ of gluten – because lower levels than 20ppm made them sick. For those who can tolerate 20ppmish, it would be good to get ‘no detectable gluten’ info from a source that wasn’t selling soy sauce (the link your link is quoting, that is) At that link (, they say “This means that our two tested products may be considered as gluten-free soy sauce. ” and conclude, “The tested naturally fermented soy sauces are gluten-free and will probably not cause adverse reaction in gluten sensitive persons, especially when considering the small daily quantities of soy sauce used. Highly sensitive individuals who want to be 100% sure should use soy sauce which are advertised as gluten-free and which do not contain grains as ingredients.”

        1. No, I’m sorry, the “snarky” thing was not directed at you, it just ended up looking that way because my comment ended up in moderation and got bumped down several comments. (And honestly, if I could delete it, I would, because what is snarkier than accusing someone else of snarkiness? My inner twelve-year-old got through the filters.)

    3. I don’t think a little soy sauce every now and then will hurt you. 🙂 Life without sushi, for instance, is no way to live.

      1. Thing is, for people with wheat problems, the inflammatory reaction has an addictive-like effect without necessarily causing other visible problems right away, so you might be thinking it was nice, I’ll have that again soon, then before you know it you’re eating soy sauce on raw or blanched veg and might just as well eat a bowl of Shredded Wheat. 😉

        Source: colleague with wheat sensitivity who can’t get a dx of any problems but who found a hardline ban anything with wheat fixed her weight, cravings, and general fatigue & muscular soreness.

    4. Diane,
      This is Ashley fom Alaska.
      I completely agree with you….Very weird recommendation and I will not be using that recipe.
      The coconut flour recipe sounds DELICIOUS though.
      I will try that next time I get some salmon roe to prepare.

      🙂 🙂

  21. On being barefoot:

    I was fortunate enough to grow up on islands most of my life, Hawaii and Guam in particular. I am 39 now and I grew up hardly ever wearing shoes and as an adult the first thing I do when I leave work is kick those suckers off. My feet just feel better barefoot. When I tell people that I run barefoot and hike all over Yosemite in the most minimalistic shoes I can find, they always comment that my arches must be flat. On the contrary I have super high arches so much so that even the outside of my arch barely touch the ground. And I am by no means a wispy little thing. I always explain that wearing super supportive shoes is like wearing a brace. When you don’t allow the muscles in your feet to work and support you those muscles get weak. Think of the atrophy that occurs after 6 weeks in a cast. My feet are strong because I have never worn shoes. I kick off my shoes at the gym when we are lifting because I feel like having my toes work I get the best form. Although I leave my socks on because ewwww!

    My feet never get sore from standing or walking around all day at say Disneyland. But people still get so angry about the barefoot controversy. If you have worn supportive shoes all of your life and then you go to walking around and running with your highly atrophied feet….uhhh duh yeah you are going to feel it. It would be like trying to run a marathon without ever training for it.

    On the advice of one of those running super stores many years ago I bought some “supportive” running shoes. After a few times running in them my shins hurt, my feet hurt, as well as my hips and lower back. I went back to my flats. That was all the proof I needed.

  22. Why does no one ever mention the obvious disadvantage to running barefoot. Hurting your feet on rocks, sticks and broken glass. Do that once and you’ll be wishing you had your shoes on!!

    1. Well yeah if you have milky delicate skin from shoe-wearing, but that’s the whole point of the Vibrams. Essentially barefoot, no puncture wounds.

    2. The over-simple answer is: you MUST pay attention to where your feet go.
      Greater awareness of your environment is one of the major benefits of minimalist running, so the longer you do it the better you get at avoiding the hazards. The times when you don’t avoid the hazards are very strong reminders to pay attention.

  23. For years I had lower extremity problems. I had orthotics, shoes with arch support, cushioned comfort shoes, and doctors telling me how crappy my gait was and how I’d always need special care for my feet. I rolled my ankles a lot, fell down a lot, and sprained my ankles regularly. My feet and ankles and knees hurt all the time. I never could run between the joint pain, rolling ankles, and breathing difficulties.

    Getting off the grains completely fixed the falling down. Getting off the grains and dairy cured the breathing (and a boatload of other issues). A year and a half ago I got a pair of Vibrams to try. I figured strapping my feet tighter hadn’t helped, but my feet felt good wandering around out of shoes. No harm in trying. I loved them from the moment I put them on. Walking in them felt really good. I can run without pain, and I feel light on my feet. Forefoot strike feels more comfortable, and I can run more gracefully and faster. I don’t roll my ankles at all. I haven’t had a sprain since I switched shoes, I started wearing minimalist dress shoes, too, for work. I don’t care about the science or studies. My feet are so happy. My body doesn’t hurt.

  24. When I first started running regularly about a year ago I researched barefoot running and minimalist running thoroughly…mostly out of curiosity, because I never would have known that there was so much information about how to properly run! Man, does it make a real difference. Through proper form, my knee pain has gone away completely(which is why I never ran much before), but I will say it took quite awhile for my feet and, especially, calves to adjust (months, really) to midfoot/forefoot striking. I walk barefoot everywhere I can and run trails in minimalist shoes (as slow as I can, keeping my heart rate no more than 75% max, of course 😉 ). Anyway, nevermind that NYT article. I’m sure that not everyone is cut out for barefoot running, but my advice is to give it a chance and realize it takes time, but is well worth it!

  25. So what do people think about MBTs? It’s by no means minimalist, but I had a pair a couple of years ago and thought it was doing a good job working my arch muscles (I have fairly serious flat-feet). However, it didn’t stand up too well to wear — water got inside and I’ve avoided using them since the right one squeaks every time I step.

  26. Barefoot running saved my knees, made me actually enjoy joggin, and allowed me to do my first (and probably only) half marathon yesterday. I’ve been using “minimalist” running shoes for the last year as I changed my running form, and now that I have my half out of the way I’m making the full transition to running in my barefoot merrills. I’ve been walking a lot in a pair of Vivo’s over the last 2 months (I wear them to work everyday), so I feel like I’m definitely ready to begin joggin in the merrills. I always find myself laughing at articles and CW that talks about having the right “support” in your running shoes, but then it kind of makes me sad because so many people are getting terrible advice and misinformation. Sigh.

    Oh, and the salmon roe? I think you know who to get in touch with if you want to share Ashley! 😉

    1. STACE-FACE!
      I will DEFINITELY share my Roe. I should be getting more this week… Brad’s dad said he would save it for me after his dipnetting trip.


  27. OK I’m gonna have a rant about this one – Criticism of barefoot running is absolute unfounded shite!!

    Apologies for the language but 30years of heel striking in expensive, built-up supportive trainers has left me with arthritic knees. I’ve always tried to achieve a smooth gait but to no avail. 3 months primal & two months in Vibrams & I now get no pain in my knees when running (unless I heel-strike). I will admit to a minor achillies strain but thats is my fault for being over-enthusiastic (or rather the fault of CW training shoes weakening my ankles).

    Just follow good barefoot advice of easing into it & everything should be fine.

  28. Personal anecdote, no science involved here: I have always walked bare- or sock-footed a lot. Once recently while a bunch of us were sitting around with our bare feet up, a friend who sells shoes was scanning our feet. When she got to mine, there was a double-take, and she said in an impressed tone of voice, “Nice arch!” Not something I get complimented on very often, but fun. 🙂

  29. So funny about the shoe studies. Doesn’t it seem as though anyone could do a ‘study’ by trying a pair of shoes, or a running style, or a combo thereof? In fact, isn’t that what everyone does, *every single time* a new pair of shoes comes into their lives? And – isn’t that data the only meaningful result? Who cares if some other person-in-motion likes different shoes??

    I used to have horrible ankle pain for the first few days of our beach vacation every year, till my feet/ankles adjusted to their full range of motion in the sand. It was completely obvious to me that the problem wasn’t ‘sand’ – it was lack of that complete range of motion for far too much of the year! Correcting my diet alone made a huge difference in a lot of joint stuff – trying Vibrams, Vivo barefoot, Footskins, and going barefoot as often as I can took the improvement even further. So, there’s my big scientific study. Feels better. Is better.

  30. I have always been a “barefooter” (and looked at strangely) and believed that barefoot running was the right way to go. I still do. But it might not be right for everybody.
    Several years ago I broke my foot pretty badly. Several bones broke including bones in the arc. After six weeks in a cast and crutches, and several weeks more before my foot could bare weight, I was told to put orthopaedic inlays in my shoes to support the arch.
    I have been against those but thought that for a short time it might be the right thing to do, so I used them, inside my shoes and at the same time tried walking on the beach as often as I could (quite a drive so not that often and since it was winter I could only walk barefoot on the beach)
    Gradually started wearing them less and less. (of course during the rehab orthopedists told me things about feet that made me wonder if they had ever used their feet other than to walk to the car and to the sofa)
    Months later my foot got worse and my physiotherapist told me to use the inlays all the time.
    So I did…ditch them. Instead I went for long walks on the beach (barefoot of course ) as often as possible and that is what helped heal my foot (never used those inlays again).

    As fot MBT, not in the least bit like walking barefoot, but at a time when my knee was very bad they helped me a lot when walking in town on asphalt (of course barefoot when possible was even better)

  31. I exercise and now(!) garden barefoot. I don’t run often, but when I do it’s in grass – barefoot! I find I have better balance, can “feel” the ground better and I prefer it. I am looking into the vibrams!

  32. All this talk of fish roe, and no mention of taramosalata?! Come on!

      1. Greek fish roe “salad”, or dip. Rinse the roe, drain it, whizz it in a blender. Add a squeeze or so of lemon juice to taste, and pour a thin stream of olive oil in (while blending) until you get a fluffy paste with a consistency somewhere between hummus and mayonnaise. Delish!!

        PS tarama = fish roe (in Greece it’s usually Sturgeon fish), and taramosalata = fish roe salad.

  33. Ashley, I’ve also enjoyed the bounty in Alaska for many years and have thrown away lots of those salmon eggs. Thanks for writing and asking Mark about it because I always saw it as a real waste. I’m looking forward to trying the recipes Mark shared! We just started saving the salmon bellies that most people throw away (because their too fatty?!?) and smoking those.

    Some may be jealous of our “free” fresh salmon in Alaska, but we envy those who can get great avocados cheap. Isn’t part of the primal life just enjoying what is around you in abundance–local seasonal foods?

    About barefooting, I enjoy both my VFF’s and Xeroshoes (Invisible shoes). I use my VFF in Alaska without the worry of foot funk (odor) due to our lower summer temps but find the xeroshoes invaluable when I travel south in the summer for keeping foot odor to a minimum while still providing good protection on those hot blacktop parking lots. Still working on the ideal solution for zero drop footwear in the winter here, I really like the whole mukluk thing that’s been around for thousands of years with the locals but haven’t got any yet. Any others find a good solution for (serious) winter minimalist footwear?

    1. Hey Rob!
      Thanks for commenting on the post! I didn’t even know Mark posted this on his page until one of my friends texted me today knowing it was my question. 🙂 🙂

      Anyway, being in Alaska for 6 years now and fishing every summer, I always thought throwing away the salmon eggs was a waste. I am so happy I decided to keep them this time.
      I am stoked to try the coconut flour recipe.

      It’s funny though, I ended up doing that exact brine recipe he posted. I have been topping off my Alaskan Grown chicken eggs with the roe (delicious) and also put it in my fresh picked salad… just adds a different texture. 🙂

      Next is the coconut flour recipe. Another comment I read above said to wrap it in nori with avocado. I will do that too. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      I definitely envy what the lower 48 has (I am originally from AZ and there are Farmer’s Markets everywhere) but us Alaskans are SPOILED with, not just wonderful scenery, but the fish and game as well. You just have to GET OUT and get it, which gets you closer to Mother Nature 🙂

    2. Hey Rob– in regards to your barefoot footwear in Alaska winter query, I highly, highly recommend a pair of Steger mukluks. I splurged on a pair of these after a musher friend recommended them when I was whining about how cold my feet were. (Nome can make for some darn cold toes!) at the time I was totally ignorant about barefoot footwear, but I noticed that my sore shins & knees went away in winter (and I could go for miles in those things and my feet were never cold). Curiously, my shin & knee soreness would come back in spring and summer when I switched to extra tuffs & sneakers. Anyway, long story short, when I tried on my first pair of bfr shoes, my first thought was hey! These feel like my mukluks. I’ve had my Stegers for 5 years now and they still have tons of life left– so, expensive, but worth every penny IMO.

  34. I loved running in my Vibram FF for over a year. Then one evening I stepped off the path to run on the grass in the park and stepped on a rock or a tree root. Long story short – injured the plantar pad between the big toe and next one. Hobbled home. Took months to heal and deformed the angle of my toes. So after running for 25 years I’m now a swimmer. Perhaps it’s for the best. But beware – injuries happen.

  35. “…they discuss one in which ten weeks of running in minimalist shoes failed to increase arch height. I’m entirely unsurprised. Ten weeks is a blink of an eye. It’s simply not enough time to undo decades of shoe-wearing. Arches don’t collapse in a matter of weeks, after all.”

    This is so true. I’ve been wearing Vibrams for about a year. I do all of my lifts and sprints in them and wear them whenever they are (mostly) appropriate. My flat arches are just now starting to raise up. Minimalist footwear has done what years of arch supports couldn’t. In fact, they probably made my feet worse.

  36. I started barefoot walking about 2 years ago after reading some articles here. Result, my foot, knee and back problems disappeared (pain in balls of feet and arches plus knee, back and hip soreness) I have done a little barefoot running (max 2 miles) I started barefoot hiking on local trails last year after reading about the “barefoot sisters”. My longest is only 5 miles but that is barefoot over rocks, gravel dirt. I pretty much quit wearing shoes except for XERO Huaraches and flip flops. No complaints so far. I tell every one I know that has foot issues and they just think I’m crazy. They won’t even try it in their yard.

  37. I recently bruised my heel, badly, with time, ice and staying off it the remedy. I did not have the option of staying off me feet, and crutches are tough to navigate around on in a big City. Although i have a pair of Merrell’s with Vibram souls, I spent two weeks limping around wearing cushioned footwear, assuming that would be best. No improvement, and I strained other muscles in my foot and lower calf by limping unnaturally. I switched to the Merrell’s and started walking barefoot around the house. Instant improvement. Yes, it could be that the passage of 2 weeks was a factor, but the speed and degree of improvement was so fast, I think its gotta be the shoes.

  38. My late husband always called me “Nature Girl” (and he didn’t mean it as a compliment! {wink}) because I’m always barefoot at home and I wear Birkies when I go out. (I compromised, and when we went out *together* for lunch or dinner, I’d wear high heels.)(Well, high-ER heels, like 1-1/2″ or 2″ heels…) Since his death two years ago, it’s been barefoot and Birkies all the way.

    Y’all write about minimalist shoes/sandals and Vibrams and all — do Birkies count? They’re not minimal sole, but they seem pretty natural-shaped. I like them esp. cause I can slip out of them in an instant — no shoes for a second longer than needed!

    (I actually used to work for a … large Pac NW airplane mfg … as an editor, and I wore my Birkies with stockings, silk blouses, and Pendleton-wool skirts — so, *actual* business attire except for my feet… But then, I always WAS perceived as a bit (or more) weird!)

  39. I referee soccer. Wearing typical shoes I experienced hobbling shin sprints for about the first third of the season, and by the end of the season my achilles was in such pain I was afraid to do more than walk. Then I read about Vibrams and got a pair. No more shin splints and no more achilles problem but also, no more pulled hamstring, no more sore quads, no more low back pain, and no more exhaustion after games. Not to mention all the kids (I mostly do high school games) love them and ask about them. Doing what I can to prevent foot injuries for the teens of Houston.

  40. Unfortunately, Mark left out the very last line in the study.

    “The results suggest that the FF(forefoot) pattern is not more economical than the RF(rearfoot) pattern.”

    So if the authors are stating it’s not more economical…why would Mark say the New York Times got it wrong?

    1. Um…the entire second paragraph discussed why the conclusion, while technically correct (both forms, when done by runners using their natural gait, were equal; and forefoot runners switching to heel-strike saw no difference in running economy), isn’t why people switch to begin with. The idea of running economy is essentially asking the wrong question.

  41. I wear five-toers as much as possible. But I do sprinting twice a week in running shoes with an orthotic because of a neuroma from damned shoes. But I think if one has good feet minimalist foot gear is great. That said I often see a young man locally running barefoot on cement side walks. He is heel hitting. That would be like ancient man running on ledge all the time. I think running on earth, toe or heel striking, is okay. But pounding your heels on cement for many hours a week I think is a forumla for misery. And I know… I just know… that if I said to him “you are ruining your feet running barefoot on cement” he will tell me barefoot running is good for the feet et cetera…

  42. Ahhhh, roe. As a kid, I grew up eating Perch Roe which may dad would catch while drift-net fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. My mom would simply lightly pan fry the sets of roe and we would enjoy as a main dinner course. Delicious! But, my mom would eventually stop cooking it because it had such a bad rap as being off the charts with cholesterol with the general public. Now, my sister gets it and cooks it for me.

  43. Feh! The barefoot/minimalist controversy is a non-issue to me.

    This I know: when walking/jogging in minimalist shoes, I can go five miles without any discomfort. In modern running shoes I can barely last a mile before my knees and right hip start complaining. When I run in my minimalist shoes, I have no discomfort but in modern heel-striking shoes I hurt. Even when I weighed 290 pounds, I could slowly jog two miles but with modern shoes I couldn’t even make it a half of a mile. (I’m currently at 240 pounds, jogging five miles three or four times per week.)

    I didn’t read the study cited in this article but the studies I have read seem to forego mentioning the physics of running with a forefoot strike vs a heel strike. When running with a forefoot-strike, barefooted or in very flexible minimalist shoes, the entire leg from the foot through the large leg muscles act as shock absorbers. The muscles, tendons, and arches in the foot absorb shock, the Achilles tendon and lower leg muscles absorb shock, and the slightly flexed knee and upper leg muscles absorb shock resulting in very little shock reaching the spine and ultimately the base of the skull. Landing properly results in a smooth, discomfort-free run. On the other hand, heel-striking basically sends the shock of landing right up the skeleton into the base of the skull. The heel, ankle, knee, and hip take a real pounding, even in today’s marshmallow-soled shoes. Shoe manufacturers have spent millions of dollars coming up with ways to alleviate the shock of heel-striking to no avail. Every year sees new gimmicks to soften the heel-strike landing and keeping the foot “aligned” and “help” the arch. (Ask any structural engineer and he’ll tell you the easiest way to destroy the efficiency of an arch is to support it from underneath.)

    Humans ran around, as it were, barefooted or in sandals during our time on earth and heel-striking was not an option while running. (If you don’t believe me, try barefooted heel-striking while running, it hurts.) Today’s running shoes, with the arch supports and fluffy soles have been around only since the mid-1970s. Some people, after spending a lifetime in constricting shoes, will prefer modern running shoes but I am convinced that, unless one’s feet are completely destroyed by modern shoes, one can, with patience, transition to the safer and less damaging barefoot/minimalist style of running.

  44. Thank you everyone for the help, especialy Ashley. I will be returning to a slow transition after my achilles heals. One thing I wanted to say, in response to your chronic cardio comment. I am following Mark’s plan with 3-5 hours of moderate exercise, which in my anal mind turns out to 30-45 minutes, 6 days a week to get 4 hours. I sprint 1/week and do 2-15 minute grok-style workouts.

  45. I’m another one from Alaska who has been looking for ways to enjoy salmon roe since learning of its high vitamin content, and to get my husband to unknowingly enjoy it as well. *cackle cackle*
    I like it cured, as in Marks salted recipe, and then put on top of a cracker or bagel spread with cream cheese (if you’re into that kinda thing). I also blend them into a liquid and mix that into things (as to disguise them) so that my husband eats them too! Salmon quiche is a good one for this as it hides the fishy taste they have. I haven’t tried it, but smoked salmon dip would probably be another good one. Traditionally the Native Alaskans dry them so they are available to eat year round, which is especially good in the dead of winter when there is little sun, as they are high in vitamin D. I tried drying some in my oven last year (I don’t have a dehydrator) and it stunk up the whole house, but was well worth it. The dried ones have added a nice flavour to my fish soups, and I imagine fresh or salted would work well to. They make a nice crunchy topping on salads as well (think bacon bits, but with a fishy flavour), and could be used in all kinds of recipes where a little texture is welcomed. Just remember, as with all dried foods they are WAY more potent than the fresh version, so sprinkle lightly. I learned this one the hard way 🙂
    I’ve been wanting to try them smoked as I’ve heard they are yummy that way as well, but I’m pregnant and didn’t have the energy to do any of my own smoking this year.
    This is my third year harvesting the roe and I decided to individually freeze each fresh skein for easy preparation. (It is no fun IMO to de-membrane more than a couple of skeins at once, talk about time consuming!) They freeze well, and this way I’ll be able to save them for when the days are short and we’re low on vitamin D, and for when baby arrives and begins eating soft foods.
    I am always amazed when down at the river how many people leave the salmon roe for the seagulls to eat, not knowing how healthy and delicious that it can be…then again, that used to be me!

  46. Friends, what a timely post. I have just successfully returned to running after what feels like a million years of IT band problems and started in shoes with the intention of abandoning them for some alternative. So this helps me a lot. I also read Chi Running which additionally helps. (I also have the delightful “curly toe” and one toe digs into the other so the shoes with toes could really help).

    I have been boxing, lifting and doing other exercises barefoot and I cannot tell you how much better I am and how much easier it is for me, mostly because I can use my toes. My feet are like horns from wearing shoes w/out socks and going barefoot.

    I still work in 3″ heels and have a fortune in clothes that go with them but something there has got to give. Awesome timing because I’m on vacation this week and shoeless (or flip flopped) and I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK!

    1. Why do you still feel the need to wear high heels after listing the problems you’ve had? That definitely needs to give. I’m sorry that women have been out in this place where they feel they have to wear heels. I see so many that can’t even walk right in them. They end up looking worse wearing the heels then without. I see it as just another patriarchal aspect of this society. Women were heavily influenced to wear high heels based on what men wanted them to do. It’s pretty effed up if you ask me.

      That said, I can’t deny that a woman wearing high heels can look very sexy. But, I would not want or need my significant other to wear high heels often. When the time is right, for the right occasion, sure, only of they want to though.

  47. I agree, the barefoot/minimalist is a non-controversy for me. When I wore ridiculously expensive cushioned running shoes I had horrible blisters, hip and lower back pain and shin-splints chronically. Read Born to Run 4 yrs ago, bought VFFs and nearly tore my Achilles from going out and running 5 miles the first time. Finally took my shoes off to transition at the rate my body allowed me to, and haven’t looked back -not to mention $$ saved. I’m actually offended by how much money the minimal shoes are going for. I do wear cheap water shoes or flats if the terrain is too rough or unknown, otherwise, I like skin on surface and it’s been about a year since I last ran with anything on my feet. The soles of my feet are tough like paws, but surprisingly smooth.

    Still a typical runner though, and when I recently ramped up my mileage too much, experienced pissed off calves and ATs all over again. (Rocktape and a baseball are my go-to’s to work trigger-points and to speed recovery.)
    My doc says whether shod or bare, over-training injuries will happen.

  48. Hi Mark!

    I have a quick question. I love my minimalist, barefoot running shoes, a little too much! The first couple of weeks I had them I did mostly walking and slow, short runs. However, after that, I decided I felt too much like a little kid to limit my distance.. Big bad idea! My forefoot has been in pain for almost 7 weeks now. I cannot run in the barefoot shoes until the metatarsal pain relieves. I talked with a podiatrist and she had said – do not run in those shoes again (while also telling me I most likely had a stress fracture)
    Basically.. I told her once my foot healed, I would probably continue running.. But. I wanted to know what you thought. How should I go about this, next time.

    Thank you for all your fun articles, tips and guides!

    1. Go slower. You got injured because you were impatient. If you started Olympic lifting and felt that the bar was too easy, would you immediately put the 45lb plates on? No. You’d add 5 or 10lb and see what’s it’s like, and *gradually* go up. Doing otherwise is a recipe for disaster (and serious injury).

      The same goes for running. If you’re used to thick shoes, you’re used to slamming your foot down with little to no consequence. Take the pillow away and suddenly you can’t slam your foot down like you did. Likewise, with the shift to forefoot strike comes the use of different muscles. You have to train those muscles the same way you train any other that has atrophied – slowly.

      Yeah, you may feel like a little kid, but how would you feel if you had to struggle to walk to your kitchen? Take that slice of humble pie and don’t get impatient next time. Work up slowly, just like you probably have done with your running training in general (you couldn’t do a half marathon overnight, remember – you may have even started off by struggling through the C25k program).

      Also, go everywhere in your minimalist shoes, or barefoot completely (you know, all the “move frequently at a slow pace” stuff). The more you do it, the more you’ll be used to it, and the easier you’ll be able to transition into running.

  49. Thanks for the tidbit on compartment syndrome (CECS). I spent 6 years in the Army, 4 of which I suffered from CECS. It took over a year to diagnose and would generally kick in around one mile (give or take). I was told by the Army docs that they could just exempt me from running (i.e. the biggest part of Army physical fitness, yep just stop exercising was their plan) or they would do nothing – no advice, no help, and “no, we won’t subject you to surgery, it’ll scar your legs and you’re only 23”. I chose to keep running, through the pain, when there might’ve been another way to ease the CECS… simply by forefoot striking. I’ve kept running but shorter distances or sprint work. Thank you again, this may have just enabled me to go the distance (at the expense of chronic cardio)!

  50. Hi Mark,
    I am 18 years old and wore fibreglass orthotics in stability running shoes for 3 years while doing long-distance running and other sports. I no longer use orthotics, but my chronic achilles tendinopathy is linked to my poor flexibility and ankle ROM. According to a leading sports podiatrist, this lack of ROM is irreparable so I will “always have to wear heel inserts in my shoes”.
    Do you think, for people like myself, eventually adapting to bearfoot/minimalist foowear is possible? I would love to one day reach that point, but understand a very gradual progression is required. During this slow progression, can one still perform HIIT such as sprint 8s in running shoes, and thereafter walk around mostly barefoot?
    Are there any strengthening exercises you would recommend to accelerate this process?

    Thanks heaps Mark,