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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 28 2011

How to Prepare for Barefooting

By Mark Sisson
144 Comments

“Just go barefoot.”

How many times have you heard that from the dude with big calves, wide feet, and soles like supple calf skin? (Hmm, that came out weirder than I imagined.) Or maybe you’re that guy, and you’ve said it. Heck, I’ve probably said something to that effect before. It’s a casual recommendation that we long-term barefooters toss around… but maybe we shouldn’t. (Heresy!) Okay – bear with me, here. Everyone agrees that shoelessness is the foot’s natural state, and that getting to a place where you can enjoy that natural state is ideal. Natural isn’t always synonymous with good, but in the case of the human foot – a sensitive, capable, highly mobile appendage packed with innumerable nerve endings, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and fascia that responds and reacts to the environment as you walk and/or run – natural is almost certainly desirable. The human foot is pretty amazing, and sticking it inside a restrictive shoe obscures that fact. I think we can agree on that.

But before you tell your friends to burn their shoes, consider something: the shod foot has been living in a cast most of its life. It occasionally enjoys a bit of freedom, but it’s a fleeting, temporary freedom that’s usually only granted when there’s nothing to do but lounge and sleep. When the modern foot is called into action, like at the gym, on a walk, or when going about daily business, they are usually wearing shoes that restrict muscle engagement and turn the feet into passive pieces of leather and rubber that slap along the ground. The feet are merely along for the ride; they do nothing, while the hips and ankles must shoulder the load. Ever seen an arm that’s just had a cast removed? It’s a skinny, withered shell of its former self. The muscles have atrophied, so it’s weaker. The connective tissue can’t quite handle the demands of regular use, so strains are a real possibility. It’ll even smell bad until you wash it (just like some feet), because it’s been cramped up for so long.

The perpetually shod foot is in a very similar state. All that reactive organic material (the bones, tendons, muscles, fascia) has either atrophied, tightened up, or weakened from disuse, so you need to ease into it. Eh, “ease into it” is another phrase that gets thrown around with very little substantiation or elaboration. How, exactly, does one ease into barefooting?

Let’s explore some concrete strategies.

Buy a Lacrosse Ball

I’d like you to purchase a lacrosse ball and use it on your plantar fascia and your calves. Huh? Allow me to explain. The fascia, that interconnected sheath of connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, gets extremely tight and ornery when the muscles aren’t used, or when they’re used incorrectly. The plantar fascia, located on our feet, supports the arch and can get notoriously tight and unresponsive after a lifetime of shoe wearing. You’ve been wearing shoes for most of your life, and your plantar fascia is likely tight. This will impede your abilities to use your feet and develop natural arch support. Walking and running barefoot loads the calf muscle far more than walking and running in shoes. In fact, one of the most common complaints I hear from new barefooters is the calf pain. They go from rarely using their calves to absorbing the impact of a footfall with them – and the soreness can be excruciating. Reducing that tightness before it gets worse can go a long way toward making the barefoot transition a smooth one.

So, how does one roll one’s plantar fascia? Extremely intuitively. Place a lacrosse ball on the floor, stand on it, and roll around. Just explore your foot with the ball. It’ll be really painful at first, but that’s how you know it’s working. Roll each foot twice a day for about five minutes. Be sure to flex your foot and move your toes around as you roll over tight spots – try to put your foot through every possible range of motion it might see in the real world. You can do it while sitting, too, while watching TV or messing around the computer (at your standing workstation). It’s simple and can be done almost anywhere. There’s no excuse not to.

Rolling the calf takes more dedication. You have to be on the floor for it to work, and you have to focus. It’s still really, really simple, though: sit on the ground with your leg outstretched and the lacrosse ball underneath your calf. Place as much weight on the ball as you can handle, and roll up and down your calf. When you hit a tight spot, flex and extend your ankle until it starts to feel less tight. Be sure to hit every aspect of your calf. Roll each calf once a day for about five minutes.

All said, this won’t take more than thirty minutes out of your day. Furthermore, you don’t have to keep this up forever. Just do it for the week leading up to your barefoot transition, and thereafter on an as-needed basis.

Strengthen Your Feet

If you had spent your entire life barefoot, you wouldn’t need any specific foot-strengthening exercises – foot strength would have developed naturally – but you haven’t, so now you need them. I discussed similar exercises before in an old post on strengthening flat feet.

Toe spreads: Loop a rubber band around your toes, tight enough so that it pushes your toes together if you let it. Now, spread your toes out and hold that position for a few seconds. Do two sets of ten reps with each foot.

Toe squeezes: Stick pencils, fingers, or anything that can fit in between each toe and squeeze them together. Hold the squeeze for a few seconds before releasing. Do two sets of ten squeezes with each foot.

Toe points: Pick something in the room and point at it with your toe. Hold the position for five seconds, then try to point at your own face. Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat the process ten times with each foot.

Side roll: Stand up and slightly bend your knees. Roll onto the outer edges of your feet, take a few steps forward, then a few steps back to your starting spot. Roll back. Repeat for fifteen reps.

Sand walk: This obviously isn’t available to everyone, but if you have access to sand, go walk in it. As you walk (barefoot, of course), squeeze the sand with your feet. Sand grabbing is an old trick for grip building, and the same concept applies to your feet (which used to be grabby ape feet, if you go back far enough). I suppose you could also fill a bucket with sand and use that instead, if you can’t find enough sand to walk on.

As you move into frequent barefooting, your feet will naturally get stronger, but these overt exercises will help speed up the process.

Think About Your Walking Form

It’s important to have a few ideas about barefoot walking before actually kicking off the shoes and heading out. My basic foundation for barefoot walking? Take shorter strides, land softly; avoid over striding and harsh, jarring footfalls.

If you haven’t already, read the Definitive Guide to Walking and try out the various walking styles.

Use Linear Progression

While I’m a big fan of feeling things out and going with the flow, there’s something to be said for linear progression. That goes for strength training, endurance training, sprint training, and yes, barefooting. You don’t go from squatting the bar to squatting two plates, do you? Sure, you might get the weight up once or twice, and you might even finish the workout, but what about next time? Where do you go from there after the initial big jump? How do you think your connective tissue is going to feel without adequate adaptation?

When you start walking barefoot, keep it short. Don’t go to failure. Do a ten minute walk on flat ground (sidewalk, track), max, and head home. You’re sending some very strong, extremely new messages to your nervous system, feet, and legs, and you don’t want to overwhelm the physical structures before they’re ready.

The next time you walk, add ten more minutes. Maintain this progression until you’re up to an hour and it’s easy and effortless. Once adding more time doesn’t result in sore feet, calves, or legs, you’re ready for new terrain.

Sample New Ground Cautiously

The beauty of walking, hiking, and running barefoot is that you get to experience the ground in an entirely new way. When you’re wearing shoes, everything feels the same. You might notice big topographical changes, but you miss the little things. You miss the blades of grass between your toes, the way gravel sort of massages your soles, the way scalding sand gives way to cool, damp sand at the beach. Going barefoot, then, can shock your system. You will be awash in sensation that cannot be ignored. You can’t just clomp around in rubber soles. You’ve now got a new sensory front to consider. Eventually, this will give you greater mobility, stability, and control over your body, but it can also throw you off and lead to missteps, or even injuries, when you’re just starting.

Be ever aware of the ground on which you walk. Look for rocks, sticks, and other sharp things. In time, you will glide across the ground effortlessly, subconsciously integrating the sensory input from your feet, but not yet. No – for now, you have to focus on focusing on your surroundings. It’s a subtle distinction; you’ll never not focus on your surroundings. It’s just that the focusing will become second nature.

Swallow Your Pride

You’re effectively a beginner now, so act like it. Don’t try to be a hero and tackle a three hour hike right off the bat. And when you do head out for an extended walk, take a pair of trusty shoes along with you… just in case. Whenever I hit a decently-sized hike in bare feet, I bring a pair of Vibrams along, too. You never know what’s gonna happen and it pays to be prepared.

Especially for your first few real walks, runs, or hikes in bare feet, cut it short if anything goes awry. I mean anything. Weird foot pain, stubbed toe, tight calves, bee sting – just call it a day and stop where you are. You’re still getting acclimated to barefooting, you’re excited about it, and the last thing you want is to be sidelined for weeks because you went too hard too quickly.

Swallow your pride. It might not taste so great, but it’s a valuable nutritional supplement when transitioning to barefooting.

I don’t want to scare you away from barefooting. It’s really quite wonderful, safe, and rewarding (it’s certainly safer than regularly wearing shoes, in my opinion), but only if you do it right and acknowledge that the habitually shod foot is a pampered, emaciated thing ill-prepared for real work. Besides, the strategies I’ve outlined take maybe a week to implement and integrate. If you can’t spare a measly little week for the health and strength of your feet (you know, those miraculous pieces of evolutionary artistry that have been serving hominids well for millions of years?), you probably shouldn’t be barefooting in the first place.

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144 thoughts on “How to Prepare for Barefooting”

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  1. Good post. I was just thinking… I should start doing some garden and yard work barefoot.

    1. I absolutely love gardening barefoot! Something about dirt between the toes is very therapeutic.

      1. I think that it’s because we were made to have dirt between our toes 🙂

  2. This is something I need to start doing, but I practically live in my shoes-they go on first thing after I get out of bed, and don’t come off till bedtime at night. My problem is nasty varicose veins in my ankles and legs, and shoes help relieve the pain. I’m going to start slow, andstart doing the foot exercises you recommend-thanks!

    1. you should take a copper supplement, its cheap and over a few months it should get rid of your varicose veins

  3. “Especially for your first few real walks, runs, or hikes in bare feet, cut it short if anything goes awry. I mean anything. Weird foot pain, stubbed toe, tight calves, bee sting – just call it a day and stop where you are.”

    This is the most important advice in this post, but I’d edit it by taking out “Especially for your first few” and just say “Always”. I’m going on 2 years barefoot running and still have occassions when I feel weird pains and will take a few days off. Overall, I still prefer barefoot to shod as I believe barefooting provides early warning signs that shoes cover up until its too late.

  4. I’ve tried barefooting a number of times. The only thing I don’t like is the near constant jabs of sharp stones or twigs into my soles, I guess with time that’ll change but for now, for me it’s the big thing to get over.

    1. Steve: You’re right, with time it does change. Initially there is no denying that you’ll need to grin and bear it but the soles of your feet will develop a denser layer of skin over time. Not only that but you’ll also develop an instinctive softening reaction when you land on something uncomfortable. Picture jumping amongst rocks by a river or beach and placing your foot with the anticipation of a rock being slippy and/or unstable.

  5. Thank you! I just finished college, rigorous studying was all I accomplished. Any working out was slowly lost to “higher priorities”.

    I’ve been scattering runs into my workouts now and I’m not exactly barefoot, but really close using martial arts shoes (haven’t been willing to go with Vibrams yet).

    Recently my calves have been really tight and looking around the internet wasn’t helping. I’ll try this technique soon!

  6. Here is my best advice to offer newbies…

    Take it as slow as possible. DO NOT run barefoot right away. It may be the biggest mistake of your life.

    Walk, walk, walk, walk. Properly. If you wear vibrams then wear them all the damn time so your feet get used to them.

    Walk. Hike. For a long time. Then start to jog. Then run if you wish.

    Everyone is different. You must decide how long each stage is for you. Just take it slow!

    1. Taking is SLOW is the best advice ever. I’m a hobbling example of going too hard too fast when it comes to barefoot. I’ve been wearing minimalist shoes for well over a year now but only recently started sprinting hard. One day I was sprinting and I cut hard to my left, there was a painful pop and now I have a metatarsal bone spur that is SOOO SLOW to heal, the bump on the top of my foot is still there going on a month now and I have to wear loose fitting shoes to keep pressure off it. GO SLOW fellow groks!

  7. I resorted to making my own sandals. Buy leather at the tannery, cut out my foot shape, attach 3 or 4mm climbing rope. Hurache style.

    It’s like being barefoot. The leather molds to the shape of my foot, it’s only a few millimeters thick, and very flexible. Upside is that it’s still easy to walk on hot pavement, and there’s no problem walking into stores and coffee shops.

    I’ve been making them for friends: HosingBear.com

    1. I made my first pair of huaraches in January–same style as you describe. I think I’ve made six now, with varying degrees of success. The last two pair I’ve made, I’ve drastically shortened the cord, since I don’t live in the Copper Canyons and don’t need six feet of cord in case I break it.

      I’ve also been shoeless since the school year ended more than six weeks ago. Before that, I went as long as I could during the day wearing Vibram Five Fingers, huaraches, or nothing. My question is: when will my feet stop hurting? The first few steps every morning are pretty painful, until I stretch my sole, toes, and ankles out by walking around.

      1. Huaraches are the best! They’re great for everything from minimal rules-compliance in stores to running. I used a kit from invisibleshoe.com with their thinner 4mm Vibram material.

        About the pain: When I first went barefooty, and of course I jumped right in, my usual pathology, and wound up with traveling plantar fasciitis (from foot to foot). So I used plantar inserts in regular shoes until the pain went away and from then on transitioned more gradually to barefoot or minimally shod (huaraches, Soft Star moccasins, Feelmax shoes, and a pair of Vivo Barefoots for dress).

        Transition completed, and now my feet are great! The soles are toughening and structurally the tootsies are back 100% and free!

        PS: I live in a small beach town in North Carolina, so actual barefooting is not usually frowned upon. If it is, my huaraches are in my back jeans pocket.

        1. Thanks for your reply, Pete. I feel like I eased into barefooting by starting in the winter, going barefoot for short periods in everything but snow, until I finally tossed my shoes entirely in late June. I don’t think I have the plantar fasciitis problems–my feet only hurt for a few minutes. Reminds me of how my calves used to feel when I used to run. The first mile or so was pretty bad, but then it either went away or everything else hurt so much I didn’t notice.

          Anyway, thanks again for responding.

          (I keep a pair of huaraches in the car, for going into stores and such.)

        2. Ioelus – that does sound like plantar fasciitis, actually. It hurts at first, and diminishes as you start moving around. You’ll need to start back at the beginning, with structured shoes, minimal time on your feet, and rolling a golf ball under your plantar fascia. Best of luck for a quick recovery!

  8. I’ve made a point of going barefoot as often as possible this summer. Although for me, that pretty much means evenings and weekends only. Early on in the summer, I walked with my children to a nearby playground a couple of blocks away. It felt great at first, but on the walk back I began to feel some nasty blisters developing on both feet. Ouch.

    After a few more weeks, though, I took an hour-long walk through my neighborhood. I brought along a pair of shoes this time, just in case, but I never needed them. No blisters this time!

    1. Yeah, the skin on the soles is some of the fastest-growing AFAIK (which makes sense when you think about it), so it adapts pretty fast to heavier use. Just take a look at the bottom of your foot and how flushed it is, full of oxygenated blood that keeps it growing and healing all the time!

      I really want to start barefooting, so maybe today is the day! The only problem is, I live in Phoenix so the pavement will literally char my feet if I don’t walk either very early in the morning or after the sun goes down. I don’t want to start out in the dark where I can’t see what I’m walking on so I guess I need to bite the bullet and start getting up earlier. 🙁

  9. Hi Mark,

    After following your blog for a while, I bought a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers about 3 or so weeks ago. I have been very slowly increasing distances of walking and running, and the muscle pain hasn’t been too bad. However, I have been experiencing some fairly painful blisters on the balls of my feet. I think that may just be because that part of my foot has always been cushioned within a sock and running shoe, but I was wondering if you had any other thoughts. Thanks!

    1. Is it behind the big toe, or the second toe? If it’s behind the second toe, is that toe longer than your big toe? If it is, congratulations! You have Morton’s Toe, (aka Morton’s Foot aka hyperdistalia), a rather common condition that causes you to put most of your weight on the knuckle of your second toe when you walk, instead of the big toe. That toe is not supposed to carry all your weight (that’s why your big toe is so big; it spreads out the force and keeps the pressure low in the toe tissues), so you develop blisters in the skin behind that toe as well as sometimes pain in the ball of the foot (because a too-small bone is taking too much weight). You don’t feel it in regular shoes because the padding in the sole and sock spreads the weight across more of your foot and masks the problem.

      If you keep walking on it, you’ll develop a callus on the affected area, which will protect you from blisters but unfortunately can have the effect of making the bone aching worse, because it actually elevates the toe more and makes it bear more weight. I can only presume that building up the skin across your entire foot by going totally barefoot would probably help even out the pressure (I will be trying this myself soon). The other thing I have found that helps is to consciously alter your gait to try to lean your weight over your big toe instead of your second toe whenever you take a step: If you imagine the point of contact moving along your foot as you walk, it first hits the ground in the heel, then travels forward as your weight shifts onto the foot, around the outer edge. As it reaches the front pad of the foot it then shifts inward toward the big toe, then forward along the toe before the foot picks up off the ground again. Really concentrating on that inward shift of the weight past the middle toes helps me to avoid putting too much pressure on that one toe.

      Other than that, your tissues will naturally strengthen and accommodate over time, so keep at it.

      If Morton’s Toe is not your issue, well, I don’t know what’s going on, so just ignore me. But someone else might find the above useful. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to mitigate this issue for myself. 🙂

      1. the pain i get is behind my middle toe and its is longer then my big toe, is there a cool name for that?

        FWIW im slightly pidgeon toed (toes point in) when i walk, i suspect some of my problems stem from that

        1. It may be the other way around; your pigeon-toed-ness may be your foot’s way of trying to compensate for abnormally shaped toes! Your body can do some weird stuff…

          It sounds like it may be a similar sort of problem but with the third toe instead of the second. I’ve never heard of that before though. I only know about Morton’s because I have it.

  10. I’ve been barefoot most of my life (before moving to the city) and have hiked and run countless miles shoeless. I never had to take lessons on barefoot running I just let my body be my guide (of course there were no classes on barefoot running back when I started doing it in high school). My calf skin is so thick I can put a cigarette out with the sole of my foot. It’s cool.

  11. Hey all…PB newbie here. I´ve always had some type of foot trouble, so get more and more padding on my shoes, so this is an interesting article.
    Anyway, I as told that the reason my feet hurt when I´walk barefoot is because the “natural padding” on the soles of my feet wear´s down with age, as does your arch (I have pretty flat feet to begin with) I´m only 41, but have put my feet thru the ringer (marathons, triathlons, tons of city walking, etc)…

    Is all that true, or can I strengthen and regain some level of pain-free barefoot walking?

    thanks…loving the site by the way.

    1. I am not very knowledgeable on this but: in general if you use a crutch you will weaken whatever is being ‘crutched’. in other words: all that padding is actually doing the opposite of helping your foot be stronger. Arch supports weaken the arch, walking barefoot strengthens it. Our bodies are not made to ‘wear out’ as we use them, but the opposite. You don’t wear out a muscle by muscle building: you strengthen and grow it! and with our bodies all things are connected: your muscles ligaments tendons bones skin all are made stronger by proper, un-modern-device-enhanced use.

      (that paragraph got a little complex, sorry!)

  12. Amen. I used to wear orthodontic insoles and my feet would still hurt. I went through every kind of shoe that promised “barefoot”, including Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Free, all kinds of sandals.

    It took me years to finally find a real working solution for being barefoot – in an urban environment – two.cedonulli.com/2011/06/shoes-what-for/

    1. Chris,

      I think you mean “orthotic”, not “orthodontic” (which is specifically about teeth). 🙂

      Unless you have teeth on your feet, in which case it’s no wonder you had trouble finding the right shoes. 😀

      CJW

  13. And for something closer to barefoot than Vibrams, and 1/4 the price, and easier to toss in your pocket — invisibleshoe.com

  14. Great post, and good timing for me. I do all my workouts barefoot and most of my day to day activities. Pre PB days I had horrible plantar fascitis pain, but after losing weight and learning to move properly it has been gone for some time now. Now I am looking to start running further distances barefoot(there’s actually a race I want to run). In this I am very much a begginer and I’m trying to take it very slowly. Its pretty easy to want push myself further than I’m ready because it feels ok at the time.

  15. Great stuff here, as always. Was wondering though: is there any indication that collapsed arches or their symptoms can be alleviated with barefoot running/walking? Is there evidence that a life-time of wearing shoes contributes towards fallen arches in the first place? Any thoughts?

    1. My arches have come back from going barefoot, and my feet are a half size smaller now! I don’t run barefoot, I just go about my business in vibrams or other minimalist shoes.
      But…I am a body worker and I know what parts of my feet to roll more than others. Plus the tibialis anterior/peroneus longus sling that Tom Myers discusses is also very important. I don’t think I would have had the same results without that.

    2. I used to have the flattest feet of anyone I knew… after a few months of barefoot walking/running, I was developing arches.

      They’re not crazily high (that’s genetic), but they exist. When I get out of the pool and step on the ground, my footprint looks like, well, a FOOT, instead of the paddle it used to be.

  16. Just learned this the hard way. I’ve worn shoes every waking hour of my life since childhood. 80% primal for over a year now: weight’s down 20 lbs, 5-10 more to go. Decided to do a “Tough Mudder” in December and started cardio training for the 12 mile course. I’d been sprinting in my vibrams every 10 days or so, with pretty sore shins and calves but they had time to fully recover before sprinting again. After my first 2 mile jog in vibrams it was clear my feet / legs were not prepared. The severe shin and foot pain that followed made walking uncomfortable and running impossible. Haven’t run any considerable distance since highschool cross-country 20 years ago. Decided to start from scratch and downloaded a couch to 5K app to prep for the run, and went back to traditional running shoes for the jogging with attention to correct natural form. Only a couple weeks in training but shins and feet are responding well. Otherwise going barefoot around the house as much as possible with lots of stretching and flexing of my feet. My goal is to build up strengh to 10K in shoes then step back into my vibrams. I’ll prob drop back to no more than 2-3 mile runs once or twice a week once the mudders over. Thanks Mark for all the Great info.

  17. Is there any way to make the bottom of my feet tougher so it doesn’t hurt as much when I walk over sticks, mulch, rocks, or whatever else is in my path?

    Or will it just come with time??

    1. I find that it helps to try to perceive the pain differently. It helps me to realize that it hurts some when these things are stepped on, but no damage is actually being done. I think if you want to not have those things “hurt” then you should go walk on just those things until it doesn’t hurt any more. Get your body used to it. If you walk on smooth concrete all the time, then some rocks or twigs will hurt, but if you walk on rocks or twigs a lot, then it probably wont hurt as much.

    2. I havent done this as an adult, but I remember as a kid, dirt road neighborhood in wv with lots of big rocks… At the beginning of summer, my feet hurt bad, I had to tiptoe, by the end of summer, I could run on the rocks…, so I think it comes with time…

  18. I live in the deserts of Arizona and usually wear my vibrams on short walks. One day, I stepped on a thorn 3/4 of an inch long that not only punctured the sole of my shoe but into my entire foot. I had to use pliers to remove it. I am wary of going barefoot now… I do still go barefoot most of the day though as I am lucky to run my own business.

    1. how is your foot now? Did it heal? What are you worried about then?

    2. You have to be aware of where you’re stepping, a practice we don’t learn when we wear shoes.

  19. Ah, Mark, this is why I love your site so much. It’s like you have a sixth sense for what posts I need. Just picked up my first pair of Vibrams this week. Couldn’t be a better time for this post!!

  20. I especially like the lacrosse ball idea. I know from working with a Rolfer that the muscles in the bottom of my right foot are much tighter than in my left. He thinks it’s because of a long-standing foot injury that keeps me from walking properly. Rolfing helps and so does self-massage.

    My Rolfer has recommended a tennis ball, but I don’t even have one, so I may as well order a couple of lacrosse balls. Using one at my standing desk is a great idea.

    HERE’S AN IDEA FOR A POST: Bone fusion. I’d like to know more about it because foot pain is linked to the absence of cartilage in the part of my foot called the talonavicular joint. Two doctors have told me that the pain is from the bones rubbing together, and the the only way to decrease the pain is to fuse the joint.

    My Rolfer doesn’t agree – he thinks the pain is from the tightness in my foot muscles. He may be right, but I only get partial and temporary relief from massage. My doctors tell me I’ll get greater and permanent relief from fusion.

    So … it would be great to see a post on the upsides and downsides of bone fusion.

    Thanks!

    1. Hey, had the same problem…bone fusion was one of the possibilities but couldn´t really go with it, seemed there woudl be too much lost mobility. Finally had and operation to “shave” down the bone so they don´t rub as much and have been fine since. May be slightly different with me given the way the bone was shaped, but again, I just thought the fusion thing would not work.

      1. Thanks. It’s good your procedure helped.

        If I have the fusion, I’ll be non-weight bearing for 6 weeks, and still pretty immobile afterwards for quite a while – 4+ months. It’s a lot to consider.

        The trouble with not doing anything is that I’m in pain, and I’m not that stable. I can see myself falling at some point and really getting injured.

        Luckily, I have a lot of faith in second doctor I’ve seen about this. I’m inclined to go forward with the surgery. Still want to know what Mark thinks, though. 🙂

        Thanks for replying.

        1. I work for a foot doctor…I have seen far too many surgery problems come into our office. I would have a hard time being convinced to have ANY surgery. I also disagree with the doctor on many things. I go barefoot as much as possible. When the doctor went to Haiti where the majority of people are barefoot, she came back puzzled because she did not see the foot deformities we have in the states. The only problems there were from wounds. I was told after a cast to keep a shoe on so I would not re-break my foot. I asked why and she told me that “my bones were weak from the cast”
          …so I said…”Most shoes are like casts.. They are as supportive as a cast…They keep our bones weak.” It still did not compute. After the prescribed time of the shoe, I gradually began to be barefoot again. In martial arts class there are two inch rubber mats and we twist and turn our feet in every conceivable position. Our feet get very strong. I would get a second opinion.

    2. I think your rolfer is a little off. Rolfing has nothing to do with muscle but everything about fascia. rolfing is not a massage.

    3. Over time the rolfing, with strengthening of the foot and training in proper form and funciton use will help. Between my husband and I we have seen too many people whose doctors pushed them into surgery, specifically fusions, telling them that the pain would go and stay away only to find that the surgery created more problems. If you fuse the joint without proper retraining you will likely end up with more surgeries and more pain.

      Find a great physical therapist that specializes in feet as well as non-scalpel happy podiatrist and get multiple second opinions. You may indeed need the surgery, but don’t let them cut you until you are absolutely convinced there is no other way to solve the long term problem.

  21. Well… we not only invented shoes, we also invented asphalt (macadamised surfaces??) and concrete. While I walk around barefoot at home and on the beach, I don’t think very rough and hard surfaces are acceptable in the long run, so to speak. Does anyone actually walk or run in the street, on the sidewalk etc. in bare feet?

    1. yup. Gravel works too. Humans didn’t invent hard surfaces. Rocks on the path or trails made from hot hard mud and dirt are pretty hard. I’ve run down creek beds that were all stones and rocks. And yeah, I run on concrete too. Just land softly.

    2. Yes, almost all of my barefoot running is on concrete or asphalt. Before going barefoot I had frequent tendinitis and ankle problems, but those are ancient history now and I quite enjoy my urban runs. Concrete and asphalt are fairly abrasive and can get hot in the summer, but your soles will eventually thicken up to meet the challenge.

  22. Take a few Nia classes! Nia is a fusion fitness practice that is done barefoot. But it is typically done indoors on a sprung dance floor so it is a gentle way to start. More info on Nia at http://www.nianow.com

    Nia can be done by people at all levels of fitness. It is a joyful practice inspired by martial arts, dance arts and healing arts.

    I’m a Nia instructor and I had lots of decades-long foot issues prior to taking up Nia and my feet are very healthy and happy now. The first principle of Nia is The Joy of Movement. It’s worth a try.

    1. I love Nia and have been doing it in my Vibrams. They help me stay aware of my funky ankle.

      I’ve noticed that I’m beginning to sprint a little different in my Vibrams too. I seem to stay up on the balls of my foot instead of hitting hard on my whole foot. It just instinctively feels better that way. Anyone else sprint in their Vibrams?

  23. So when I first started running in huaraches, I liked to go around the gravel and stone path near my house. I ended up with massive foot pain a month in. When I went into the doctor, he told me I had a blunt-force crush injury to the bottom of my foot and asked “What have you been doing, running barefoot on rocks or something?” Um… actually… yeah.

    So yeah, now I’m easing into it by going from sneakers to minimal shoes to Vibrams and sticking to flat, smooth surfaces until I acclimate.

  24. I understand the allure of walking or running barefoot on sand or grass, but I’m having trouble understanding how doing so on city streets and sidewalks is safe. A MRSA infection from a dirty cut could cause one to lose a limb. Wearing no protective covering on feet seems to fail in the risk v benefit analysis. I am surprised you didn’t address this Mark.

    1. Having run barefoot on the filthiest city streets near daily for over a year, my personal experience is that it’s not as risky as some might think, as long as you build up your feet gradually.

    2. As city kids we went barefoot every summer. In the spring feet would be a little tender but long before summer’s end we would be running barefoot down the oiled rock street and cinder alley. We just washed our feet every night before climbing into bed. Never had an infection.

      My brother did puncture his foot on a nail but his tetnus immunization was current so Mom just cleaned it up, wrapped his foot in gauze and sent us out again still barefoot.

  25. Great advice from Mark. Barefooting is hugely beneficial to health in ways that are hard to imagine until you’ve experienced it first-hand.

    I never went barefoot until going primal about a year and half ago. I started by wearing Vibrams, which are an excellent intermediate step between shoes and bare feet. I recall my calves were pretty sore for the first month, but that gradually went away. After a few more months, I was able to run short distances barefoot. Now I can jog for over six miles on sidewalks and asphalt before my tread wears thin.

    A few notes for those who are getting started:

    1) Your feet will be super sensitive at first and you will feel every twig and rock, as some commenters mentioned. This is normal. Imagine if your ears had been plugged your entire life until one day when you pulled the plugs. Everything would seem unbearably noisy at first, but eventually your brain would learn to deal with the new stimulus. It’s just the same with your feet — they have as many nerve endings as your hands so they are incredibly sensitive at first. Over time, they will become less uncomfortable, but you’ll keep the sensitivity, and your feet will learn to respond to debris before your conscious brain even notices the impact.

    2) The threat of injuring yourself on debris is highly overestimated, because you’ll be watching where you’re going and your feet will quickly shift their weight if they feel something underneath. I’ve run barefoot for over a year, mostly on trash-strewn streets and sidewalks, and my only incidents were a small cut early on, a tiny thorn that I pulled out with tweezers, and a sting from a very unfortunate bee. All of these healed overnight. The only real nuisance is people who don’t pick up after their dogs…

    3) You CAN get your arches back. I had pancake-flat feet and my chiropractor assured me that I would never have arches again. Lo and behold, after a year of going barefoot, I developed measurable arches. I know at least two other people who had the same experience. Exhume your feet from their leathery tombs and they will come back to life!

  26. I love being barefoot, I was the kid that hardly ever wore shoes, and I’m still that way. My 5 fingers were the best thing I’ve bought. Now I can hike “barefoot”. I still struggle going down a steep hill, I tend to heel strike heavily and I’m trying to not do that. The first time I hiked truly barefoot, my feet felt awake, wonderful and just a little sore in the muscles. Then I bought the 5 fingers, and that’s all I hike in. Great stuff.

  27. I used to do competitive running as a kid. Thinking about getting back to it. I still run ridiculously faster than most normal people i know, in barefeet and my feet look waaay different from theirs, cos i still go shoeless when i can!

  28. I prepared for barefooting by refusing to entertain the notion of barefooting.

  29. “Swallow your pride. It might not taste so great, but it’s a valuable nutritional supplement”

    Well said!

  30. I just finished reading Born to Run and was inspired to hit the pavement last Monday night – 75% aqua socks, 25% barefoot. I really haven’t enjoyed running in the past, but this time something clicked and I really enjoyed the run. I ran over 4.5 miles (typically stop at 1.5-2 miles) and had plenty of steam in the engine. Unfortunately, I did not heed the advice of the Barefoot community to take it slow. Its been four days now and my calves are extremely sore. Fortunately they will fill better soon enough and I can begin easing my way back into barefoot running.

  31. I have extremely high arches & bunion issues. I’ve worn orthotics in my walking/workout shoes for years. As I’ve transitioned to walking in my Vibrams, my outer ankle has had to work for the first time probably ever. I’m also using my 4th and 5th toes/tendons more than ever. I didn’t realize these are the only toes connected to my heel – the 1st/2nd/3rd toes are connected to the arch/forefoot. I’ve been rolling my foot on a tennis ball after a long walk too which really helps. I’m sticking with it though! My feet finally feel ALIVE again!

    1. I also have high arches that were beginning to fall and I was starting to develop bunions as well. My feet were so weak I couldn’t even spread my toes (too many years in heels?). I’ve been wearing barefoot shoes for 6 months now and it really is making a difference. My feet feel so much better and I can spread my toes! Stick with it and good luck!

  32. This is very cool…great advice. When I really start to think about being barefoot I realize that I have been doing it most of my life. I was barefoot as a kid almost all the time. (minus winters in the Midwest!) As a teen I lifeguarded from May to Sept and didn’t even put shoes on to drive to work. College and the beginning of my working years saw more shoe use, but since I became a stay at home mom most of my day is shoe-less! Short of heading to Costco (they don’t like the whole no shoe thing) I go about all my daily activities barefoot.

    I have yet to try a run or major walk without shoes but now I think it might be very doable for me!! 🙂

  33. Anyone have insight into arthritis in the ankle or foot? You’ll know it if you have it! Ankles/feet are sometimes super tight upon waking, and achy breaky a lot. I strongly advocate lacrosse ball and stretching the feet, but would welcome any other insight.

  34. As a another early step toward the very slow adoption of barefootin’ (who else is old enough to remember that song?), I suggest a pair of Toms. On a recent two week trip to France, I wore them exclusively when not actually barefoot. They were civilized enough for cities, but minimal enough for comfort. I trekked all over Paris, did country hikes, vineyard visits, etc., etc. and my feet were 100% happy.

  35. love the idea of being barefoot! growing up (filipino household) we never wore shoes inside the house, all of our friends and family too. it’s customary that you’d be barefoot in your home. my husband and i have always been barefoot in our home, but recently just enforced it for our guests when our daughter was born a little over a year ago. it’s awkward at first to tell your guest- “we don’t wear shoes in our home” :)but i’ve noticed that once they take their shoes off they are actually more comfortable! i think it also helped our daughter to walk sooner than 1 year AND be way more comfortable with her movements & body. it’s really interesting when she started to stand to see her toes react to her body to help her balance! even now as she climbs up onto things, like our couch to watch her toes grip! yay for being barefoot!

  36. I like taking BIG steps when I walk. I don’t like scanning the ground for every little rock and twig, unable to enjoy the walk.
    I like wearing flat, soft, real leather shoes that are so wide at the toes that they can stretch out within it.
    The Vibram FiveFingers kinda suck in the sense that the 2nd toes MUST be shorter in order for them to give a perfect fit. I’d love to own a pair, since it’s exactly what I like (thickness wise), but since my 2nd toes is way longer than my big toe, I wrote them off long ago.

    I would never go for a hike through the sawtooth mountains barefoot. The rocks are extremely sharp and EVERYWHERE. Grok certainly made shoes for himself, so did the american indians, so why should I go barefoot. Besides, that is one way to get a parasite.

  37. I started barefooting on a treadmill. I started in the winter in maine, no way was I walking barefoot in the snow 🙂 I still haven’t transitioned to bare feet out side. My yard is full of nasty bugs and prikly things. I’ll stick to minimalist shoes outside. Inside I’m always barefoot. I went to the beach a lot when I was young and always went barefoot in the sand. That is the best feeling ever.

  38. Bought me a pair of Merrell trail gloves the other day so going to do some barefooting this weekend 😀

  39. Great information Mark! Thanks for the post.

    I am wondering how difficult a transition it would be for me to go barefoot? For as long as I can remember, the bulk of my time has been spent walking barefoot, with the exception of when footwear is required (work, public events, grocery stores, etc.) I find that I just gravitate towards being barefoot or wearing as minimalistic footwear as humanly possible. I wonder if I would even notice a difference if I switched to a completely barefoot lifestyle (excluding huarachas and vibrams)?

  40. Right on or I should say Grok on Daddy Grok, great advice…perfect. I started on the real soft stuff, grass, now i smoke it ever day.

  41. Im dealing with a dropped metatarsal head which started giving me problems when i started walking barefoot. i can only go barefoot for a day or so then i have to go back to a padded shoe to ease the pain. been doing foot exercises to hopefully help realign everything but it takes time.

  42. Our feet are capable of so much more than we might suspect. Zulu warriors were known to travel barefoot for 30-50 miles a day.

    “[Shaka Zulu] compelled his men to throw away their sandals and to harden their feet. His regiments (“Impis”) would be compelled to dance on thorns and if anyone showed pain they were immediately executed.”

  43. I used to wear shoes all the time… worked in office, long hours, etc. About 18mos ago, I started my own business and mostly work from home. I never wear shoes at home regardless of activity such as mowing, weed trimming, gardening, etc. Now I can walk through gravel and in the woods with little pain. My feet and ankles feel much better than the old days of shoes from sun up to sun down.

  44. Yoish! Lots of good talk to chew on and take for a naked sole footing in fitting the feet to a set of Earth Landers. I have been following this path for many years and there are three guide lines that i use.
    Step one: Pay attention, or rather pay the price for the years that i did not pay attention and marched with denial.
    Step two: Slow down and realize how easily i can be shoed in.
    Step one and two form into a stride of being aware and watching out for shoe salesman.
    mick

  45. I have worked myself up to 3-4 mile runs in vibrams through the desert on lava rock, dirt, and gravel. I just spent my 1 week vacation essentially barefoot. My problem is, I work a job where I am on my feet and moving 10 hours a day (thankfully), but going barefoot or even wearing my vibrams is out of the question. When I go back to work an am forced to wear shoes (I’ve tried a variety, including running shoes), my feet and calves get so sore I can hardly walk the next day! I love going barefoot and most any paid I had has resolved itself, but how to I also adapt to a world that requires shoes?

  46. I’ve been running in fives for the last 18 months. I severly strained/tore? a calf muscle the first week so be careful and take it slow. the new lace up running shoe they make are amazingly comfortable. i’ve recently started running in huarache sandals and like it even more. i got them at invisibleshoe.com and they are seriously minimalist.

  47. At home, I never wear shoes. However, I work at a very conservative law firm so, obviously, i have to wear shoes.

    I have an neuroma on my left foot because I supinate. I guess I’m not going barefoot enough, but when I get my pedicure they tell me to wear shoes because the bottoms of my feet make a lot of work for them!

    At home, though, the shoes come off and they do not go back on!! Even out in the yard with all of the “hazards”. When I was a kid I was barefoot all the time. Our street was tarred with large rocks poking out of it, and I could run on that and not even notice.

  48. Hey, has anyone thought about just wearing socks to run in? I can’t think they would be very restrictive at all and much cheaper than “barefoot” shoes!

    1. Haven’t tried socks but I have worn out a couple pair of “beach/wading shoes”. They last about 3 to 4 months before the soles wear thin or they just come apart. At $7.oo a pair I feel that’s not a bad value.

  49. One thing that helps a ton is eccentric calf lowering (3×10-20 per calf per day until you don’t hurt) as I found the calves are most likely the weak link when going towards this type of running. This removed all soreness and pain from all barefoot running and I haven’t had it since. Run in my Vibram Bikilas, and it is so much fun!

  50. Perfect timing with my stingray sting on the sole of my foot. Be careful in the water too. This would kill a primitive man..totally unable to hunt and gather.

  51. I enjoy being barefoot and hate wearing shoes. However, going out to shop or to work, I must have shoes on. I am currently experiencing plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and was thinking of getting inserts or some more expensive type of shoe (I generally just buy cheap gym shoes and this is what I wear to my part time job, where I am on my feet all the time.) Any suggestions for this?

  52. THis explains so much! I’ve been stomping round in my Vivos and barefoot for a while now but I though I’d finally have a go at doing some light jogging/ sprints.

    The result has been the pain in my arches for about a month now. I read somewhere that this could maybe be a result of a stress fracture in the metatarsal but I don’t know if that’s unlikely or not.

    Will definitely try the lacrosse ball thang.

  53. I can say I was fortunate enough to grow up in the San Diego area and Hawaii for most of my childhood and wore nothing but slippers (flip flops) or bare skin. Of course now I am stationed in Germany and it has been along time since then, but I started wearing Vibrams around the beginning of the year. I rarely wear shoes at home or on my days off. First thing through the door the boots come off. I hate wearing shoes and wear my Vibrams everywhere when we do leave the house. Europeans find them rather amusing.
    I guess I am trying to say that it didn’t take long for me to transition to barefoot due to the locations were I was raised. Just waiting for society to accept being barefoot so I can really enjoy walking around!!

  54. I came across Vivobarefoot shoes by Terra Plana. They have a thin, flexible, puncture-proof(ish) sole and broad toebox allowing the toes to spread and flex.
    I have two pairs and wear them most of the time as I get cold feet going barefoot. My soles are getting tougher and I can feel the ground much more. I think they are a great transitioning shoe and still look “normal” whether you’re at work, out in public or hiking through the forest etc. Also, after seven months heavy wear, the soles still look new; I’ve worn out trainers much faster.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! My problem isn’t going ‘barefoot’ it’s when I have to wear shoes to work (my vibrams are not acceptable attire) that I get sore calves and feet! I will be checking these out!

  55. I’ve been barefooting – or at least shoelessing – for my entire life, as it is custom in Sweden to remove your shoes indoors.

    A month ago I decided to take the money I ususally by a commuters card and instead get a pair of VFFs (it _almost_ covered the cost…). The plan was to walk back and forth to work – which makes for a daily 17km roundtrip. Three full weeks later I’m completely hooked!

    As school and kindergarten starts again in the fall, I’ll probably have to get a bike to ride, as drop-off times won’t allow for the full 90 minute walk – but I fully intend to do so whenever the opportunity arises.

    And this gives rise to a question – does anyone know if there are any “flat-foot” boots out there? Winters in Sweden tend to get kind of harsh, with temps between 0c and -10c (that would be between 30f-15f) for months and from time to time dropping to -20-ish or below (as in the -5f’s), so prancing around in my Sprints would probably not be the best of ideas.

    I did have a look at Sodhoppers, but the process of making and price point makes them way out of my range. So, in essence, what I’m after is a moccasin-like boot that is available off the shelf. Any ideas?

    1. I was thinking about the same thing – as I live in Denmark. Ugg boot, maybe? Their soles are relatively flat and thin, and they’re on sale rigth now.

      1. Might work! Only – I don’t think they make those in men’s sizes…

        1. There are mens ugg boots, but their soles are much thicker, unfortunately.

    2. Vibrams was starting to make leather/fur lined boots, but as far as I know they are only available on their Austrailian site.

  56. Has anyone experienced cramping at night after starting to wear “barefoot like shoes”?.
    I had an old pair of Runamoc which I was using from time to time, then decided to buy a new pair and I have been wearing them all the time for the past 3/4 months.
    I get cramps most nights in the sole of my foot and toes…

  57. For those of us who live where it gets cold in the winter, a pair of aqua shoes (like people wear for pool walking) and some wool socks are perfect for winter. I live in Wisconsin and my $25-on-closeout Teva water shoes have seen me thru 3 winters now. I used to put on the heavy clunky hiking boots every winter to walk the dogs, shovel the drive, etc., and it was nothing short of a revelation to go thru a winter in those neoprene water shoes and a decent pair of wooly socks. Pretty darn economical, too!

  58. Thanks for the post! I need to start strengthening my feet, so I appreciate the information.

  59. Good post, Mark. I really would like to see more people on here more knowledgeable about running barefoot. i think Ken Bob’s book and website is one of the simplest places to go to learn to run. From the comments I’ve read so far it looks like a lot of people are misunderstanding the form and are paying the consequences for it. http://www.therunningbarefoot.com go to the beginning section and read. I find running to be very different from walking. Also VFFs can disguise a lot of flaws in the form so many suggest learning to run barefoot without ANYTHING first and then if you’d like put on some form of minimalist shoes. Ken Bob explains it like you are trying to hear music but you’ve got head phones on. Minimalist shoes will turn down the music dramatically, but you still can’t hear what’s going on around you perfectly (I think that’s it). Jason Robillaird also has an online book that is usually free. I would check out these sources before just going out and running. All of the tips are good for preparing to go barefoot, but I think some more instruction on actually going barefoot will really help the readers out. It is true it is a natural way to run, but unfortunately most of us have lost it and really have to relearn the form.

  60. I’ve been 100% barefoot (or as near as possible) for a couple of months now and loving it. Thanks to a pair of Vibrams and a pair of Vivos (my boss forbade me to wear the former, so I also invested the latter as a compromise). I used to have so many problems with my feet, legs, hips and back, and they’ve all but vanished – the only aches I get now are in my back and Achilles tendons after work, cos frankly I’m on my feet doing a physical job for ridiculously long hours. The initial transition was fairly straightforward too, although I think I’ll be waiting a while before trying one of my walks sans Vibrams 😉

  61. Anyone ever watched “Dual Survival” on Discovery? Cody Lundin never wears shoes and only wears shorts, no matter the terrain or weather. He barefoot in the desert, in swamps, and in the snow. Once he put on a pair of wool socks to get some traction on the ice. Of course, he’s been developing this over years and years. Pretty cool, though.

  62. I go barefoot around the house and garden in the warmer months and my feet really do get stronger and cease aching. The soles also toughen up and you don’t notice the slightly sharper ground objects after a while.

    What do people think about working out barefoot? I lift weights now and then in Vibrams so going the full monty wouldn’t be a worry.

  63. Wow! This post was extremely timely for me, as I have been feeling frustrated after kind of rushing into barefoot walking a couple of weeks ago. I felt inspired, kicked off those shoes, and went for it. It felt great at the time and I just wanted to keep going! Last week the soreness caught up to me, and I’ve been avoiding walks altogether this week due to some nasty pain on the tops of my feet. It sounds like I may need to go out and get that lacrosse ball right away. . .

  64. This is great! EVERYONE! check out TPtherapy.com… They have amazing products for working with fascia and soft tissue… Check them out, they are a great company!

  65. Born to Run is a great book!

    Thanks Mark, I really enjoyed this post. As a physical therapist, I have treated many victims who have taken the accelerated path when indulging in barefoot training. As with anything, it’s all about moderation. For rehab, once I have a person relatively pain-free, I get them on the treadmill with a pretty decent incline (barefoot or in their barefoot shoes, of course). I then have them walk for 2-3 min once per day, increasing a minute or two a week. Being on an incline forces your weight to be centered more on your forefoot and toes, which is more biomechanically sound while moving barefoot. This prepares the foot for walking on flatter ground, when your weight should be distributed through forefoot and mid-foot…..less stomping through the heels (which supportive, cushiony shoes allow us to do, ugh). Anyway, great post and happy barefooting everyone!!

  66. I wish I’d had this post two months ago when I tried to tackle a particularly rocky hike in my Vibrams!

    Did a beach trail on Sunday (also in Vibrams) and wound up with blisters. Clearly I need to ease into this. Thanks, Mark!

  67. comment welcom on…e.g.
    low heel ‘e arthy type shoes’ etc

  68. I’ve been barefoot running for a while now and I think some of the best you give is definitely to swallow your pride. When I got into it, I went out and ran a mile on hot asphalt in 95 degree weather and got such a big blister I could hardly walk for a couple of days. Definitely wasn’t the smartest move of my life. Take it slow.

  69. I´ve been running short distances in Vibrams and, well, it feels great but you use your leg´s muscles in a different manner and the result it´s simple: Pain. No problems anyway with my lumbar discs (I have two hernias)You have to take it slow but run barefoot are great.

  70. Wish I’d had the advice in this article. I bought some light weight running shoes. They felt better and my running times improved. I thought I was easing in. Then I got plantar fasciitis in both feet. It just happened one day. No warning. 18 months later my right foot is now cured; I still have to tape my left foot. I didn’t know what PF was until I had it.

  71. Does anyone have an opinion about Yogatoes? They’re rubber toe separators that you wear inserted between your toes, (like what is sometimes used during pedicures, but out of a sturdier material). I have a pair and after wearing them for a few months, the muscles of my feet seem stronger and more coordinated, the ball of my foot is slightly wider, and my toes kind of stretched out and got longer. To me it seems like a good way to counteract the effects a lifetime of shoe wearing.

    1. Before I ever got into primal or doing and teaching Nia, I did use a version of Yogatoes because I was looking for something to alleviate foot pain from plantar fasciitis and other pain that was probably metatarsalgia or Morton’s neuroma. The yogatoes really helped. I just wore them every night while reading in bed (the kind I had said not to walk with them on) and I would just wear them until it hurt. Gradually the length of tine I could wear them without hurting stretched out and now I could wear them all day and it would not hurt. Meanwhile my toes straightened out and the pain I was having when walking decreased. I think that straightenign my toes (which were not very un-straight) made more room for the nerve in the ball of my foot. That’s my theory anyway. So I’d certainly recommend trying them as an aid to a more natural stance and walk. S you say, to help conteract all that shoe wearing.

  72. I’ve been wearing vibrams daily for the last 3 months and it’s made a great deal of difference.

    It’s been pretty easy to gradually build yourself up with them over time. The first thing I told myself when I bought them is that there is no rush.

    I’m now bringing a few runs a week (no more than 15min), and so far so good. Your feet soon adapt.

  73. Ive been running barefoot 5k’s for about 6 months now.

    I must say it is very discouraging to start out. The longer the transition to going completely barefoot – the better. Most people want to fly out the door and be ready to run barefoot. I never used vibrams, instead I used ZEMS.

    Once you do make it, its worth all the pain. The looks I get and the conversations that people start with me is just great. Everyone wants to know why, and it brings up the perfect opportunity to share with them the benefits of barefooting.

  74. I’ve been transitioning to eating primally for about 2 months, and I’ve been following it hardcore for about 2 weeks. I am turning primal gradually by changing small things in my life here and there.

    I was taking the dog out, and I stood on small gravel. I said to myself “Self, this hurts, just standing here. Your feet are so weak!” And thus I decided to make going barefoot my next goal. I’m excited 🙂

  75. I have been thinking about running barefoot, but have been scared since I run like a Clydesdale Horse. Thanks for the progression into it post.

  76. I’ve always thought it funny that people in US wear shoes inside the house.

    When I go to work I can’t wait to arrive so that I can take my shoes off. And even more when I come home from work I can’t wait to take my shoes AND my socks off (and the rest of the clothes as well). It’s liberating!

    Of course, now it’s summer so I walk in my Vibrams.

  77. Hi Mark, maybe you or someone on this forum can help me with my problem! I started wearing VFFs back in June 2010. Took about a month for my feet to get acclimated, nothing extraordinary. I ran my 12th marathon, first one in VFFs in October 2010 with no problems. In March 2011, I ran my 13th marathon, 2nd in VFFs with no problems. In April, I ran a trail 5K in the VFFs and made a sprint to the finish (effectively winning my first race). Shortly thereafter, I experienced excruciating pain in my right arch – it felt as if it had collapsed. I had a 50k race at the end of that month that I was unable to complete due to my arch pain.

    It’s August 2nd and I still can’t run properly because of the pain in my feet. I went from being a heel striking runner w/ no issues to a forefoot striker w/ immense arch pain.

  78. What about fire ants? I can’t imagine going shoeless in my region because of the stupid fire ants. How do you deal with those?

  79. Do you also run barefoot when there is snow and ice?
    I have never seen this question addressed

  80. I started going barefoot as much as possible about three months ago. It really does work wonders.

    For me, I don’t want to say I started out slow but I also wasn’t stupid about it.

    Your feet and legs will feel it in the beginning. You will be sore. I walked a ton in my Vibrams in the beginning, which was a huge help.

    I then started running on grass in them and gradually went to bare feet.

    The other day I had to walk into some bushes barefoot to go after a Frisbee and it was like I was walking on a cloud.

    It is crazy the things your feet are able to endure when you train them correctly!

    Great article. And if you have not tried going barefoot, do it! My feet had been stuck in bulky basketball shoes my whole life.

    Now that they can finally breathe, they are stronger and more flexible than ever!

  81. i love this concept! i run around barefoot from the time it’s warm enough, to when it’s cold again. in winter, i wear minnetonka moccasins, the kind with a thin flexible leather sole. when i was a kid, my mom warned me that if i continued running around barefoot, my feet would spread out on the hot sidewalk, and when i grew up, my feet would be wide as pancakes. didn’t happen. i encourage the kids in my care to run nakee toesies, too. we are meant to connect with the earth!

  82. Mark- if you’re a barefooter- why the heck are you in booties on your SUP? That would be a great place to practice active foot strengthening!

  83. Awesome advice!, Im going to have to give this a go 😀 I never heard of this untill i read this article!

  84. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was once a leisure account it. Glance advanced to more brought agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?

  85. Between getting worms from all the animal spoor that enters my yard every day, stinging nettle, fire ants, sticks, thorns, bees, wasps, and just plain dirt, why on earth would I want to walk around outside barefoot? It’s not a sensible thing at all and when you go to extremes to do nonsense, that screams fetish. Shoes were invented as protection. Yeah, by Grok. On purpose. He got tired of losing toes, stepping on sharp objects, burning his feet on hot surfaces, and having to wash his feet every single time he entered his cave.
    I know, this is the second decade of the flip-flop and I know how much y’all love to make everyone see your feet and put your feet all over things in public places, so of course, the next step is no shoes at all, but you’re not fooling anyone. Foot fetish all the way.

  86. I spent four years living in the caribbean and spent a huge amount of time barefoot and not just at the beach. It was immensly liberating and I nevr thought twice about it to be honest. I got a point where i could walk on anything but broken glass and when i went back to the UK found my feet had grown two width fittings! I miss those days and am just buying a pair of vibrams to help me recreate that as much as I can, especially during CrossFit.

  87. um, how do you avoid hookworm and other critters attacking you through the soles of your bare feet? any advice on the appearance of vegetation or soil color that might be present in areas to be avoided? we have lost this knowledge and need to regain it. thanks

  88. I love the article and was wondering what you thought about the “earthing” aspect? I have read some about the anti inflammatory and pain relief associated with it and would think earthing this way would help people with those issues a lot. I love being barefoot and unlike a comment above don’t have a foot fetish. I will definately try the ball to massage my foot and calf.

  89. This is a great post! I remember when I was growing up I always went outside barefoot. Heck, I could even walk on the street and concrete and my feet didn’t hurt. But after not doing that for awhile, my feet did hurt while doing that. I haven’t gone barefoot outside (or at all) for a while, I think I might start going barefoot when I can now! Thanks for the post!

  90. I would absolutely love this! I have always been one to go barefoot, or in socks. My mother was always furious about how many socks I ruined. But I can’t really go barefoot in the area I live in, I can’t even go in sandals. I am deathly allergic to fire ants, and I live in East Texas where there are everywhere.

  91. I have been running barefoot with vibrams for about 3 months. Really loving it.

    However in the last month I have had 2 really bad falls and damaged my knees by landing on them. My feet just seem to stop and the rest of me does not.

    Has anyone else had this? Am I doing something wrong? Xxx

    Please help! Xx

  92. I love the idea of barefooting, but I have always had to wear to shoes w/ good arches as I have a bone spur on the top of my foot where it hurts when I walk on hard surfaces (like concrete or tile) barefoot for just 30 minutes. It got really bad in high school when I was a catcher on a baseball team, and I had to be on crutches the whole summer and then wear orthopedic pads in all my shoes. Today I don’t need orthopedics but I do (seem to) need shoes or sandals at all times to avoid the pain on my bone spurt. Is there any hope for me with barefooting?

  93. What can you do in the middle of winter? I live in England – it snows, and gets icy. I get chilblains even wearing thick socks and boots.

  94. I cut the grass barefoot. After spending 5000 bucks on sod around the pool, it is a joy to walk on barefoot. Start an application workout on your iPhone (Mapmyfitness, runkeeper,etc) you’d be amazed at how many miles add up just cuting the grass.

  95. I would love to walk barefoot much more, but my concern is debris that could easilly injure a foot. I see broken glass a lot, as well as cactus thorns (i live in the desert). How can barefooters manage those? Also, how do you handle temperature extremes on cement/asphalt?

    1. Leave that stuff to the nativez . They have a foot pad on the bottoms of their feet that is more than a 1/4 inch of tough hide, for coping with all terrain.

  96. Yoish!
    I don’t get on the computer much any more, spend most of my time footing the land. This is a good article you have put out, good advice. I have a suggestion for you, if you have not already tried it, and that is socks. I have suggested this to many people over the years. I am sixty two now. Socks are a foot wear that allow the tender foots to begin opening the soles to remembering how to land. It is really amazing how long a set of socks can last. It is also easy to take a set of socks and sew a piece of leather on the bottom of the sock and make a sock mock.
    Also learning how to craft moccasins, or find a moccasin maker.
    The flexibility of socks or mocks allows the foot to return to it’s normal landing.
    Another trick i use is holding my soles close to the fire or making a coal bed, in order to harden the soles. I barefoot in one of the wettest spots in the lower forty eight, and so my feet get a great deal of moisture, which makes the soles soft. But you can harden up the soles, like you would a leather drum head. After all our skin is leather.
    mick

  97. What happens if you develop hip pain from walking barefoot due to the excessive pronation?