The Darker Side of Barefoot Shoes : Exclusive Renegade Health Article and Interview

Friday Feb 24 | BY |
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barefoot running shoes
This are not barefoot running shoes, but they are the ugliest shoes I’ve ever purchased.

When barefoot shoes first came out, I was all about them…

But then something happened to me.

Things started to feel a little different when I was running. And then my feet, legs and knees started to hurt.

In today’s interview (and following commentary), Dr. Sherri Greene and I will tag team the pluses and minuses of barefoot shoes and if you should wear them or not.

Here’s Part 2 of my interview with holistic foot doctor, Dr. Sherri Greene…

dr sherri greene holisitic foot doctor

Click the play button to start the call:

Download

Here are my thoughts…

Are barefoot shoes any good?

My answer is similar to Dr. Greene’s…

Yes and no.

My personal experience with them is much different than most.

I started running barefoot (without shoes) on the Bethel High School track about 6 years ago.

I would do one lap barefoot for every 3 laps in shoes.

I trained like this for a few years during the height of my running fitness (I’m getting back to it now!)

The purpose was to train my feet to run naturally — to get my arches strong and learn how to run mid-foot as taught by RH friend Danny Dreyer in his book Chi-Running.

It worked.

And I managed to run multiple miles barefoot in 12-15 months.

But it took time, since I did it slowly.

Here come the Vibrams.

I knew about Vibrams back then, when they were being sold as shoes made for boat decks. They also were about $40.00 a pair.

Some runners caught wind of them and started to wear them at events. They were weird looking, caught everyone’s attention and the barefoot reasoning was convincing enough that the shoes took off.

I was excited to get my first pair. (Now at $90.00)

The running was good, but I had some concerns.

Since I was a trail runner, my biggest concern was that the Vibrams didn’t protect my toes from roots and rocks that I might kick if I fatigued and didn’t pick up my feet high enough.

It was a concern that I never had to worry about — since it never happened — but I thought maybe something with denser rubber would be appropriate for trails (I believe now they have a model for this now.)

My other concern was that most runners I knew who were making the switch, we doing no preparation training.

So basically — because this is how runners are — they would go from regular shoe to barefoot shoe in a day and never go back. They missed the years of build up that I had done to get my feet strong enough to be barefoot — or at least I thought.

Over time, I was able to bring myself up to about 6 miles in my Vibrams, but just around the end of that time, I’d get overuse pain in the back of my knee / calf.

My body just wasn’t able to go any further with them, so I switched out to a more supportive shoe and haven’t had that pain since. (Plus, Annmarie really didn’t want me to wear the Vibrams anymore since they smelled awful — I had to keep them outside.)

Then the stress fractures…

I was reading an article online about Keith Olbermann, a one-time ESPN analyst and MSNBC anchor.

He was talking about a new transition to a different cable TV channel, but what caught my attention was a quick paragraph that mentioned in his free time he had been running until his barefoot shoes caused a stress fracture.

It was the first I had heard of this, but I realized that it was likely this was happening all the time. Runners running barefoot after no time building up is a recipe for… well… stress fractures.

I did some research and found people talking about these fractures in forums and articles as well.

Even recently, like I said in the interview with Dr. Greene, we were out with some friends the other day and one asked me my thoughts on barefoot shoes.

I told her that I love them in theory, but in practice they can cause some issues — including stress fractures.

She went on to tell me that she, in fact, got a stress fracture from wearing them and was confused — since they were supposed to be more natural.

I explained that if we’ve been in shoes for 20-30-40-50 years, our feet, foot bones and muscles have become incredibly dumb and clumsy. So when you pop on barefoot shoes and expect your feet to respond favorably, you’re taking a serious risk that they may not — whether you know it consciously or not.

Besides stress fractures, some other issues that can arise while using these types of shoes are collapsed arches, plantar fasciitis, calf tendon inflammation, knee issues, hip pain and lower back injury. (But, just to be clear, this can happen to those who run in regular shoes too!)

My second attempt with barefoot shoes…

I bought a new pair about a half year ago in L.A.

I don’t even know the brand, but I thought maybe these — they didn’t have the individual toe sleeves like the Vibrams — would be different.

I started warming up and running in them, but in only a few days my right knee because inflamed and every step it radiated pain across my knee cap.

I stopped using them for running, bought some other shoes and the pain went away overnight.

I still kept these new barefoot shoes around and I use them as my everyday walking shoes — I just don’t run in them any more.

I think there’s value in continuing to train my feet in a minimalistic way by wearing them to kick around in.

So, what’s the verdict on barefoot shoes, are they good or not?

Like I said in the beginning, they are good and bad. It depends on the person and how they’re used. (You can listen to Dr. Greene’s similar response in the audio. She does say that those with collapsed arches maybe shouldn’t try them at all.)

For me, I’d likely only use barefoot shoes now for everyday use — not for running. Through my experiences, I feel that this type of shoe is great in theory, but when the rubber hits the pavement — so do my clumsy, weak, 30 something year old feet. Chances are your feet are just as lazy, untrained and fragile as mine. So at the very least, working into them slowly is the best approach, or even better yet, use them as a tool to get better running form, which is one of the most important positive effects of barefoot training.

By training barefoot, I learned how to run mid-foot — not heel to toe like most do.

This has been an amazing transition and because of it, I can run longer with less fatigue and no pain.

I think the biggest asset of training without shoes for a while is that your body naturally learns how it is supposed to run. When you run like this, you decrease your changes of injury significantly.

(If you’re unsure of what I mean by mid-foot running, be sure to pick up a copy of Danny Dreyer’s book, Chi-Running.)

So even now, when I run in my present non-barefoot shoes, I still run like a barefoot runner — so this practice has helped me refine my form so I can remain a healthy runner for longer.

But of course, I’m sure I’ll try another pair of barefoot shoes in the future and hope that they will work differently than the others, or that my feet will be stronger and more able to tolerate this type of shoe at that time. But until then, I’ll keep to my padded, big people running shoes — since I am 185 pounds and a little cushion goes a long way with my frame.

Quick Barefoot Running Tips:

  • Start super slow — like one lap barefoot for every 3 laps in shoes.
  • Be more patient than you usually are. If you’re running a mile or two in just a month, then you’re going too fast.
  • Go to a running store that looks at your gait, if you look around you’ll find one. They’ll be able to tell you if barefoot is a good idea or not.
  • Use barefoot running as a training tool, not necessarily as the only way you run.

Your question of the day: Have you tried barefoot shoes? Was the experience good or bad?

For information about Dr. Sherri Greene, please visit her website here: http://www.drsherrigreene.com

Live Awesome!
Kev

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

57 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. I love Vibram five fingers, I just had to say it! I have noticed more speed and smoothness in my long runs.

  2. Tara Burner says:

    I haven’t used Vibrams but do have a pair of Keen Trail shoes that I can barely tell are on…they’re like the best minimalist shoe I’ve used…

  3. Dr. SAM says:

    I like the New Balance Minimalists. they are light, give a barefoot feel, but have protection around your foot.

    No matter what shoes you wear, if you violate the principles of exercise, you will get injured. Yes, you need to build up slowly. It’s called the Law of Progressive Adaptation.

    Also, most runners I work with in rehab have weak glutes, tight hip flexors and poor breathing patterns. These dysfunctions will become apparent when one tries to run in a barefoot shoe. Fix your dysfunctions with a good corrective exercise program. Then, progress intelligently. All too often, people expect technology to fix their poor posture or training habits.

    Just some thoughts,
    Dr. SAM

  4. IH says:

    Wonderful topic Kevin! My husband swears by them. Actually there are 2 things he swears by: Hippocrates Health Institute style green juices and Vibram five fingers. In fact: he thinks that his knee problem got fixed by running in them. I personally think that the longterm healing of this issue was contributed by also including the Hippocrates diet. I mean; you can’t go more anti inflammatory than following a green diet right? True, they smell but we throw them in the laundry and they seem to be OK.

    I have mixed feelings about them.I bought mine about a year ago.After wearing them for 3 months my toes were still hurting. I would say they felt and still feel like I bought them too small but I didn’t because I bought a size bigger than my ordinary shoe size. I did what was suggested: Don’t run in them right away but first get used to them so I wore them in the house and garden and on times I would go for a walk. After a month or so I decided to go for my first run on them and it felt great. They were so light and sprinting felt like having more speed than usual. The second time running in them I felt an ache in my left arch. I stopped running in them and totally forgot about this until a couple of weeks later when I ran in them again. I felt a small pain but still decided to finish my run with a sprint (Big MIstake!) My foot got swollen and I have had pain for weeks. We went on a vacation shortly after and I decided to just keep wearing my good old running shoes and after we got home I was fine. I have high arches and I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. If anyone on this forum has suggestions, please write them so I can learn from it. I’m still in doubt whether running in vibrams is what I need to do.

  5. Christy says:

    I bought my Vibram Five-Fingers for CrossFit. I’m not much of a distance runner anyway. Since I wore heels for so many years, these have helped me TREMENDOUSLY to relieve the Morton’s Neuromas I had developed, by spreading my poor squished toes.

    For weightlifting, etc, they are fabulous. For sprinting, I feel like I’m flying. I have better traction & control. But I can’t speak to long runs!

    And yes, they do stink! I just toss mine in with my towels to wash–no problem!

  6. Janice Brown says:

    I bought a pair of Vibrams about 2 years ago. I alternated wearing
    them with my Brooks and running on pavement. They were okay
    for a few runs and then my ankles and knees started hurting.
    The last time I wore them, my big toe caught on pavement
    and rolled under. It pulled a tendon in the top of my foot and
    ripped my shoe. I just figured clumsy people need more foot
    protection and never put them on again.

  7. Barry says:

    I bet a “big” factor is that primitive man was probably NOT as hulked-up/heavy as we are;so,less foot-pound per square inch on the foot

  8. Frank says:

    I wear the Vibrams for casual moments around the house and for my home workouts – as long as I don’t jump.

    I stopped running in ’85 to save my knees and low back. I do HIIT on a celerciser or bodyweight exercises like squats / mountain climbers, etc.

  9. Siobhan says:

    Kevin,

    What shoes are you running in now? I have been using Nike Air for a few years, but most of the other running shoes I have owned have had heels that are too high…

  10. Andy says:

    Gotta chime in on this one. You follow this theme constantly in your post… “until his barefoot shoes caused a stress fracture.”. That’s like falling off a bike and saying your helmet caused your concussion. No. It was your bad running form that caused your stress fracture. Years and years of running in padded shoes causes poor running form. That’s a given. It’s very hard to unlearn those bad habits and understandable when we feel pain because we are simply “doing it wrong”. Don’t blame the shoes! Shoes should be for protection, NOT correction.

  11. I would not have read this whole article if I knew you were talking about “running” shoes!!
    I started with the the notion you were speaking of “thongs”. I wear those OKABASHI thongs and they are very comfortable… as long as you have your correct size.
    Peace out…

  12. Jennifer says:

    Most of us have imbalances in our bodies. One suggestion is to seek the care of a manual osteopath. If you fix the imbalance, the shoes are less relevant. Dr Andrew Weil has written about an old school osteopath in his book “Spontaneous Healing”.
    http://www.drreiss.com/Osteopathy/DrWeil.htm
    Good luck on your journey!

  13. Nik says:

    Is there barefoot shoes in oversize 13 14 15 ? US size. email emil@sonnenkinder.org

  14. Carol says:

    I have tried the Vibram’s but noticed that some of them have a terrible chemical smell and other ones don’t smell that way. The smell seems to be with particular models. I had to return a pair that I never wore after airing out for 2 months in the garage because of the stench. I switched to a different model and smelled each shoe before I bought them. I’m wondering if the chemicals in the smelly ones couldn’t be another cause of injuries since they would be absorbed through the skin on the feet.

  15. ema says:

    If you want to run naturally, you have to run only on the natural terrain, not a cement or in the gym. That is a thought from somebody, who doesn’t run…But I grow up in the country, where kids were running barefoot if not in school .

  16. Craig says:

    I love my Vibrams in everyday use and running. Also since running in my Vibrams I have not had any shin splints, pain in my right knee and no lower back pain. If I didnt have to wear work boots and didn’t have to do with cold winters I would be in them 24-7.

  17. Michelle says:

    I’ve had great results in running with Vibram Five Fingers…my only complaint is pebbles in the shoes…I’m going to give the New Balance Minimus or Merrell Pace glove a try next…but just like different foods agree/disagree with different people, so do shoes! Thanks for the info!

  18. Mary HICKMAN says:

    I have tried earthing sheets and pads,because of Clint Ober’s book and David Wolfe’s recommendations, but have been very disappointed because the book referenced many examples of Rheumatoid Arthritic patients getting better quickly and off their medications. My disease has continued to progress and now impacts all my joints including my throat and jaw. Maybe the shoes would help, but I feel helpless. Thanks for listening.

    • Karen Yeager says:

      Mary – I have RA as well. I love my Vibram shoes. I began wearing them after some major joint issues that left me walking with a cane. The Vibram shoes helped me strengthen my feet and legs to the point that I am usually cane free now. I do not run in them – I just walk in them everywhere. I can’t imagine why people would say that they were able to stop meds though…it doesn’t change my immune system.

  19. Mary says:

    I have been tempted by the Vibram shoes but what put me off is that they are missing a vital element of ‘barefoot’ in that they are still made of rubber. So although your foot may be having to work in a more natural way rather than the artificial support of shoes, you are still not grounding. And I wonder if this is the reason for some of the problems that people experience with them (tho perhaps not stress fractures!)
    The other factor is the surface you are using them on. Our feet evolved with us walking barefoot on natural ground which will usually have some give (except for solid rock of course) and generally be uneven. The incredible flexibility of the foot is designed to cope with this. We have filled our world with very solid very flat surfaces and have then had to design footwear to cope with that. So I can understand that running in these thin shoes on unforgiving surfaces would not be such a good idea

  20. Coach Steve says:

    I am a Certified ChiRunning Instructor, RRCA marathon coach and a Newton Natural Running Coach. I demo new shoes all the time. I like the way the many new shoes are being developed, with a lower heels. Don’t be confused by the Nike Free which IMHO has way too high of a heel. Most shoe companies are releasing shoes with a 4mm heel higher than the forefoot. The traditional running shoe has a 12mm difference between the heel and the forefoot. It is difficult to run mid-foot in higher heeled shoes plus it changes your posture line.

    With that said I like Newton on the road and I have been running in the Sacouny Kinvara for the trails. Next week I am trying on the Brooks Pure Grit on the trails.

    I have been in shoes most my life so I think shoes are better for me than barefoot or super minimalist shoes on long runs, but on shorter runs I have been wearing the Sacouny Hattorti’s and the Zero heel Newton MV2.

    Shoes are a very personal choice but whatever your choice is, when you make a drastic change, from a traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes, take your time. Go on very short runs to start. Maybe only run in them twice a week and then twice a week with your old shoes. As you build foot strength you can lengthen your runs in your minimalist shoes.

    Lastly, keep your running fun by smiling, take time to notice the nature around you and listen to your body, it is always telling you something.

    Train Focused, Steve Mackel, Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs

  21. I have been using barefoot shoes going on two years now. I love them!

    I don’t run in them but do hike in them A LOT! The longest hike in them was 14 miles. In fact, my first outing was 12 miles which was a mistake because we got lost. Oops! I did have stone bruises on my heels but those went away quickly.

    I found I was able to hike longer and better with barefoot shoes because all of my hiking shoes kill my feet after 3-6 miles. My knee pain with hiking shoes went away when I wear barefoot shoes!

    I used to have to wear tall hiking boots to protect my ankles…not anymore now that I switched to barefoot shoes. My ankles are so much stronger now and will never wear tall hiking boots again! Yay, less weight when hiking!

    I live in Portland Oregon and can’t really wear them in the winter. My feet freeze and turn white because of all the moisture from the rain.

    Can’t wait until Vibram comes out with a gortex version!

    My walking gait changes when I wear my barefoot shoes. It feels like yoga for my feet. I feel more connected with my environment. I am more agile on hikes. My posture is better with barefoot shoes. I can walk and hike longer in my barefoot shoes.

    I LOVE them and am excited for drying weather to get back into them this spring!

  22. Kevin Lamb says:

    Kev- I love my Vibrams for kettlebell workouts and sprints-not long distance. The question is- were we as humans designed to run long distances ie. 1/2 marathons & marathons anyway?

  23. Scott says:

    “Conventional” (non-barefoot) running shoes are best for me. They give me support where needed and protect my feet from the elements. I bought a pair of Asics 2160s last month and they feel like they were made just for me.

    I’d like to highlight two points that Kevin suggested. First, don’t make any sudden major changes to your exercise routine; changes should be gradual. Second, learn Chi-Running and/or how to run with a mid-foot strike. These two things will lessen your risk of injury and allow you to run better.

  24. Joel Werdell says:

    Hot Post Kev.

    Some of my stats: 6ft, 208lbs and active athlete.
    Running Shoes: Merrell trail gloves (http://goo.gl/5TbTJ)

    Recent milestone: Half-Marathon in barefoot shoes.

    Total ramp-up time with barefoot shoes – 8 months: About 2 days a week running on artificial turf (ultimate frisbee)

    Lessons Learned: Like everyone has said, start slow and work on both correct posture and appropriate strength/flexibility. I go to a chiro/PT apt about every 4 weeks to check in on where how my body is doing (HealthSource: Kirkland, WA) to make sure I am not doing damage. My calves will be in a lot of pain if I haven’t ran in a while and then do even a 4 mile run. In these cases I make sure to stretch calves extra.

    Stretch constantly!: After every workout I spend about 10 minutes on stretching and then at least another 20 minutes throughout the day stretching everything else.

    Final Thoughts: Love the shoes, have started doing more just barefoot. My knees and ankles feel much better than when I was using cleats for ultimate. Happy exploring the correct way to run, but beware that until you get it dialed in, you can do more damage than good.

  25. Kim says:

    Lou Ann, you should try the Vivobarefoot hikers. I started with the Neo Trail Ladies and about a month ago got their Off Road Hi which are waterproof. We’ve had such a mild winter in NJ this year so not sure how great they would be in really cold, snowy weather, but they’ve been great so far. I LOVE how well they grip, especially when I’m climbing over wet rocks. Haven’t run in mine yet, as I am feeling a little pain in my achilles tendon, but can’t imagine going back to regular running/hiking shoes.

  26. Tera says:

    I’m young (16) and I LOVE my Vibrams. I’ve had them for about a year. The first 1-5 times I wore them, my toes hurt, and I got blisters. Right after, though, feet felt perfect and I can run long distances in them. I think this is because I spent a lot of time when I was younger, barefoot, so the transition wasn’t monumental. I think the younger the wearer is, the better accustomed and better fit the shoes are to the person, and transitions are much easier.

  27. LynnCS says:

    Love, love, love those yellow shoes you are wearing in the picture. Not ugly at all. More info, please!! please!!

  28. Ted says:

    I bought a pair of New Balance Vibram Shoes in September, and began running 2 miles for 3 or 4 times, and then just transitioned into my regular 5 mile course, which features 7 mid-sized hills and a long one, which is about 1/4 of a mile. The only injury I experienced, was a bit of “chaffing” on my left Achilles Tendon, and after using some duct tape to “soften the rear top edge of that shoe, and still chaffing a bit, I now wear socks and have no problems.

    I absolutely love these shoes, and only run in them now, as my old Adidas and Nikes feel like Combat Boots! My times came down significantly as well, and at 60, my 5 mile time came in at 41:19. God willing, I’m planning on getting under 40 minutes this season. I would probably feel OK using them for trail running too, since Indians only wore deerskin moccasins….

  29. lizzy says:

    Kevin, this was kind of confusing.
    For someone who has no clue what these shoes are. Barefoot shoes?
    so I googled them and found the site, now the thing is I think it is a total mistake to call these barefoot shoes as they are obviously made of plastic, and like some mentioned a horrible, chemical smelly one.
    So i think you can hardly say running with these would give you the same effect of true barefoot, grounded running.
    This type of shoe with grounded technology, now that may be something worth wearing.

  30. Neil says:

    I use Vibrams for something no one else does – performing internationally on Swiss balls, ha ha.I have some Guinness records – off to Italy next jumping across 10 balls.

    So, as far as this is concerned I love vibrams but only started to use them the last year – and they are much better than conventional shoes.But I would never run in them – I would only hike or walk……

    I wouldn’t recommend excessive running period, unless you want to degenerate. We are now entering a new era of fitness called ‘training’, not ‘straining’. Running / jogging is too often, for most people, on the straining/ pain side. Exercise can be effective but it also can be ineffective.

  31. Mango says:

    I had not heard about barefoot shoes until I read this and am still trying to get my head around the concept from an exercise point of view.

    There is however a lot to be said for wearing the real barefoot shoes ie No Shoes at all.

    Standing or walking barefoot on the earth has health benefits. Research suggests that grounding oneself to the earth causes negative charged atoms to flow into the body neutralizing positive atoms (pathogens etc). This is very beneficial to the immune system.

    Good health.

  32. I have vibrams got them after back surgery-LOVE them I do believe common sense and building up to them is a good approach!

  33. Kathy says:

    Kevin – I love my Vibrim Bikila. I had been running in Newtons for 2 years and absolutely loved them until my running partner had heart trouble and he now does more walking than running, which Newtons are for running or jogging,not walking. So my local shoe store put me in the Vibrim. I bought them on a Thursday evening, ran a 5K in them that Saturday. Sunday my calves were a bit tight, used the tennis ball to stretch them out, then ran a 10K the following weekend (4th of July), then ran a half marathon Labor Day weekend. I have run 5 half marathons in them since June with no problems. I will never go back to regular running shoes – ever! My times are pretty consistent, 11- to 12-minute mile for the long distance and before it was about a 13-minute mile. 🙂 I am probably the exception rather than the rule when they told me to build up to the longer distance slowly. BTW – I’m 58

  34. Cindy Yacob says:

    I own 2 pairs of Vibrams after seeing you Kevin wearing them at a health expo. I loved them and wore them everywhere for about a year or so, but never for running.

    In my case they messed my feet up badly (I have flat feet anyway), developing foot pain and eventually plantar fasciitis. Had to get orthotic arches specially made just to get rid of the pain. Feet better now and have 2 pairs of 9.5 available…..

  35. Lois Kubota says:

    I think Vibrams should be good for outdoor yoga. I can walk in mine just fine, but not for more than three miles. But I will try using them for outdoor yoga, I just have to dust them off.

  36. faith says:

    Oh My Gosh! I just spent hours reading the Amazon reviews of Chi-Running. Check out the 1 star review from “Lincoln.” The debate has been going on for over a year but the information is extrememly interesting from everyone who has chimed in. What are your opinions of what the reviewer has to say about Chi-running compared to the Pose method?
    The common agreement was still barefoot is best 🙂 Doing it correctly is key..so with all of this conflicting information out there (what else is new?) who is right? The DYI, The Olympic Athlete, The Professional Coach????
    I sense a follow up blog post…..
    Thanks for turning us on once again!

  37. Ruff magruff says:

    I climbed the tallest mountian in costa rica barefoot. And everyone kept asking me “isnt that hard?” . I found myself repeatedly saying, ” it’s actually very easy and I have way more grip than with shoes.” and I would see them test the grip of their nice hiking boots and slip. As my bare feet easily navigated through the cricks and snags in the rock.

    Going down the mountain was a lot of impact on my feet and knees though! I put on shoes near the top. And on the way down It ended up hurting really bad and aching. Even though I was doing a lot of skipping and low impact descent. That was with shoes, I can’t imagine 13000 feet descent in 4 hours without cushion. Maye bsrefoot on my toes would have been beteter. But a lot of my pain was related to an inflammatory bowel condition and the related weakness in my joints ligaments and muscles. So maybe if that wasn’t going on I’d be fine With or without shoes. But hiking and climbing without shoes is heaven. This was my first year barefoot (after 20 years with shoes), and honestly Ill never enjoy shoes again. It feels so alien.

    The other thing I told people was ” yeah it might hurt a little, but the little bit of pain is worth it toe able to feel! ” believe it or not, it’s really a profound change in consciousness to go actually barefoot and feel every step. Even vibrams don’t do it. Leather moccassins are the closest one can get without removing the feeling and electromagnetic connection.

    Lovelove love
    ~ruff

  38. Selina says:

    Getting used to barefoot running you should:

    RUN BAREFOOT.

    Not just use thin shoes without support. I think this is highly important and a missing factor when transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running.

    My running technique has improved tremendously since I trained my feet last summer and ran without any shoes nor support as much as I could. This way the impact when my foot hit the ground was minimal and I got the right flow and technique, if I had not done this and went straight to minimalist shoes I would not have learned the proper technique because with minimalist shoes one doesn’t run carefully enough compared to barefoot running.

  39. FoxyReign says:

    Barefoot running has never failed me. Do you have conditions that may have triggered these pains?

  40. Bill Murphy says:

    I have not tried barefoot shoes as I see no point in them to be totally honest. If you want to run in barefoot, then why not just run barefoot? (can you tell I live in a warm climate) 🙂

    I am not a huge runner due to having knee issues for most of my life but I discovered last year that by running barefoot on soft surfaces like grass sporting fields or the beach in the Chi Running style made it a lot easier to run further than on trails or concrete in running shoes. I had given up all hope of running, but now I am enthused about it again.

    So I would recommend regular running shoes for hard surfaces or just plain old bare feet on soft cushioned surfaces if you can. No need for overpriced barefoot shoes.

  41. Nina says:

    What are these shoes made of.. ??… Have you heard of the new Earthing research… The bottom of our feet have receptors and are meant to connect with the ground/earth. A lot of our problems are due to us being ungrounded, especially pain. So if you are running in rubber shoes and are not grounded then there is nothing barefoot about it.. you are probably encasing yourself in more rubber than normal shoes and so are the most ungrounded you can get… Anyway just a thought.. if you don’t know of all the latest research on grounding/earthing then do yourself a favor and check it out… it’s amazing stuff and free.. you just have to take your shoes off!!!

  42. Carol Lani Johnson says:

    I have gone barefoot indoors (and outside at home) all my 61 yrs. So I resonated with the Vibrams idea. I am wearing them for walking and like them for the most part…somehow they make me want to walk with more energy. My usual route is down a rural old road and I noticed that if I venture into the clay mud that has built up in spots on this farm road I start skidding big time. Same thing if I am cleaning my textured tile floor (in fact I had a skid that stretched my legs apart so fast and so much I was sore for days). So beware of slippage! For those who suggest natural terrain, that would add even more stress for those who have grown up walking on unnatural surfaces in unnatural shoes, right? Despite how much work it is to put on my Vibrams every time, I will keep walking in them because I feel free and light.

  43. David says:

    I have had vibrams for the last two years or so and I am a big fan. I could not run with regular shoes and gave them a try to see if they would work. I had some growing pains, but took it slowly. I think what made them work for me is that I use them more for my workouts rather than just running, which built my legs and feet up in a way that I really enjoy running in them and wouldnt go back. I noticed that my workouts were more difficult than they had been because I was using muscles in my legs and feet that I hadnt used before. Definitely not for everyone, and definitely not something to go gangbusters at first.

  44. joanna says:

    I purchased my first pair of Vibrams 6 months ago in preparation for a trip to Africa. I had no idea whether they would be appropriate or not. I am not a runner but knew I would be doing alot of walking, mostly on dirt roads with a variety of size of rocks and gravel. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I was extremely comfortable on the rocks etc. There was absolutely no pain regardless of the terrain. Actually, the rocks etc feel like a good reflexology foot massage. I can walk for hours and feel great. So much so that one day I overdid it!!! and my feet needed to rest the next day. I love the way my feet can move naturally and still be protected. My feet are so sensitive that I have never been happy being barefoot so this new freedom has been wonderful. Now I am going to buy a second pair and am investigating the style of shoe referred to as minimizer for a little more support and stability to add to variety which seems to be what my feet like.

  45. Tommy says:

    Get rid of the shoes. I run the beach in FL barefoot twice a week. It’s going on 5years now. My routine is to keep in the 10 to 14 mile range each time, but I’ve run as far as 18 miles. I’ve never experienced any injury or degeneration. Maybe thats lucky, but when I ran hard surface with shoes it was brutal. The last time I had shoes on I did a full marathon, and I won’t make a repeat of that. I think running barefoot is the healthiest thing you can do. I’m going to be 58 in May, so you don’t have to be a spring chicken. Maybe its because I’ve been a Vegan for 20 years. Stay healthy and swift.

  46. Frederic says:

    Great topic and article Kevin! My friend and trainer Shelli Stein from joyinmotion.com told me the same thing. Bottom line is that those barefoot shoes are NOT for everybody. I know for one thing they are not for me for most of the time, although I do love to use them in the house!

  47. Mary Himmer says:

    My first pair were great, but each of the 3 pair I have purchased only lasted about 3 months, and i only use them for walking and around the house. I stopped using them though as I felt odd with the last pair. They are advertised as being anti-microbial or some such thing. I could feel a difference in the way my feet felt with the last pair, something chemical and it wasn’t good. I am disappointed.

  48. Marisa says:

    Love the vibram’s. I got them for Christmass this year and am up to 20 to 30 miles on the treadmill per week. That’s all I run. But I must admit I use to run on dirt roads with minimalist like shoes already on occasion. I like them, but probably won’t wear them on pavement. They have improved my running, and my speed.

  49. Melissa says:

    Kev, the term “barefoot shoes” is an oxymoron — being barefoot in contact with the earth is “grounding” — wet leather soles are also grounded — when we started wearing synthetic soles we totally ungrounded & it’s one of the biggest stresses on our health — check out Earthing research & products — walking and running on wet ocean sand is super healthy — a possible future blog topic?

  50. Danny says:

    I have been running and walking barefoot and with “barefoot” shoes (I prefer the term minimalist). For me they have been a great thing – I among the 50-70% of runners who got injured training (for a marathon, in my case). Running barefoot has helped alleviate a lot of the pain. I have run up to 30 kms and did a 10 day hike in the Atlas mountains in Morroco, full of 1000+ meters up and down per day. Did most of the uphills completely barefoot, downhill in Huarache sandals, which are almost the minimal footware (also have made waraji sandals from rope, and Huaraches from agave leaves, but have not used them extensively). I have been very careful about transitioning very gradually (no more than 10% more per week, and resting every couple of weeks), but I think that properly done it can help most of us improve their style and reduce injuries. And it is important that as in diet and many other things – remember there is no “one size fits all” and we need to be very aware of our individual response.

  51. wendy green says:

    i can’t get them on my crooked toes…so they sit on the shelf.

  52. Eve says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I think your theory about barefoot shoes is at least half right…

    but the problem with “fads” like this that sound promising because they are supposed to be more “natural” is: we aren’t living natural lives in a natural world!

    Yes, feet that have adapted to decades of shoe-wearing will not have the same structural characteristics as feet that never wore shoes…as you said.

    But there’s also the fact that – a “NATURAL” foot would never be walking on carpeting laid over concrete slabs, as most housing foundations tend to be.

    The amount of cushion / give / hardness of our walking surfaces isn’t just about the top layer of what we walk on, it’s about the entire depth of the floor. Our skeletal system feels and reacts to the reverberation of different surfaces, differently – so does the soft tissue that supports our bones. Sidewalks, hardwood floors, marble flooring, paved streets, carpet – walking on all these surfaces for decades changed the entire walking / running foot structure and dynamic.

    People may say, “ah, yes, but in the wild we’d sometimes be walking on big rocks!” as if that’s the same as a sidewalk or street. But think about the last time you were walking on a big rock – probably on a hike, right? Was it flat, and did you walk in the same way you’d have been walking on a sidewalk?

    My point is, by the time someone starts wearing barefoot shoes and/or running barefoot, their foot (in its structures and the way it reacts to demands put upon it) is already irretrievably unnatural. So – is a “natural” shoe the right thing?

    The stress fractures would seem to say, “no”… and I don’t know if gradual / progressive training can necessarily overcome this. It may be that eventually the strain on the foot shows itself in anyone… or it may just be foot roulette… but I think it’s safe to say, putting a natural shoe on an unnatural foot that walks, stands, and runs on unnatural surfaces is NOT natural! and not necessarily the best available choice.

    Just my 2 cents there….!

  53. Robin says:

    I have not tried barefoot shoes. I have recurrent plantar fasciitis. Have been told by podiatrist, physical therapists I should never walk barefoot again. And it seems to be true–I experience pain after walking barefott, even indoors.

    Always wonder if it’s the cheapo carpet or flooring in my apt.

  54. Yelena says:

    For healing the feet and all the running injuries I suggest to try Yamuna Foot Fitness. I had severe problems with my feet and it helped me tremendously to follow her instructions on restoring the body after years of athletic training and wearing high heels. And I love walking barefoot since there is no more pain:)!

  55. Lovely says:

    I love my vibrams im about to get my third pair. I dont run in my shoes i use them for everyday use. You do need to take it very slow with barefoot shoes so you can retrain yourself on how to walk in them,let alone run in them. If you have stinky vibrams,besides washing them frequently try wearing socks with them. If you dont wear socks with any kind of shoe they will stink. injinji makes awesome toe socks

  56. alex says:

    This is my third season using these shoes and I’m about to get my third pair (sprints). I started slowly but not too much. I walked in them at first then ran on the treadmill and often switched back to my normal running shoes as my muscles healed, this was year one. Year 2 (last year): I ran several 6 km, 10km and a 12km runs in them and sometimes used my normal runners….my calves were sore as heck at first but were perfectly fine towards mid season. This year I plan to run in vibrams only and will go for a 20km run…(hopefully). I weigh between 235 and 260 (depending on the season because I do a lot of weights too and I’m tall) so if running in these were to cause an injury, I believe I would have one by now…

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