The Definitive Guide For Going Barefoot

My Feet

My Feet

If you can live with the fact that some people will think you’re weird for not wearing shoes and still avoid the religious “barefooters” who drink the Kool-Aid, then I think you can greatly benefit from some barefoot living. Going barefoot is becoming increasingly popular in some social circles, and I’ve been hearing a lot about it recently. So, I compiled a listing or resources to give you a comprehensive perspective on the benefits of going barefoot anywhere – whether it’s barefoot running, barefoot walking, or barefoot training in the gym.

The Case For Going Barefoot

It turns out that most people not only have very weak feet and ankles, they also have immobile feet and ankles. This is largely due to over-engineered footwear being the norm across the civilized, modern world.

Think about it – what does putting on a work boot do to your foot in terms of mobility? It limits it to a pre-determined range of motion. Sure, it stabilizes your ankle and protects your toes from falling objects, but it also prevents your ankle from moving through a full (and natural) range of motion, which means over time your ankles and feet will get progressively weaker. Your feet will become less independent and able to protect themselves from injury, and more dependent on the work boots to prevent a sprained ankle or any other foot injury. This starts a vicious cycle of poor movement patterns, which eventually leads to injury or worse.

Najia Shakoor and Joel A. Block of the American College of Rheumatology (1) found that walking barefoot decreases loading on the lower extremity joints. Here is a snippet from their study conclusions:

It has long been appreciated that excessive loading of the lower extremities is associated with the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA); however, no attention has been given to the role that modern shoes may play in potentiating these aberrant loads. In the present study, we formally evaluated the differences in gait and joint loads that occur when patients with knee OA walk barefoot compared with when they walk in shoes. This study demonstrated that such patients undergo a significant reduction in their joint loads at both the knees and the hips while walking barefoot compared with when walking in their normal shoes. Moreover, whereas significant changes in several gait parameters were observed during barefoot walking, including changes in stride, cadence, joint ROM, and toeout angle, these changes in gait could not explain the significant reduction in loads at the joints. This suggests that the design of modern shoes may intrinsically predispose such patients to excessive loading of their lower extremities.

Michael Warburton of Gateway Physiotherapy (2) found that running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb. He also found that running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent = more efficiency. And I’ll agree with him that running shoes play an important protective role on some courses, in extreme weather conditions, and with certain pathologies of the lower limb.

Researchers Kong, Candelaria, and Smith from the University of Texas at El Paso (3) concluded that “runners should choose shoes for reasons other than cushioning technology.”

Phil Maffetone says in his book “In Fitness and in Health” (4, 1997):

For the most part, shoes are tested on machines, not people, because machines give the results the company wants and people don’t. A quick look in the medical journals will point out the abundant problems.

Did you know, for example, that the support systems in almost all shoes can weaken your ankles? And the soft, cushioned shoes of today can harm your feet? How about the height, in other words, the thickness of the sole? The farther above the ground you go in a shoe, the more unstable your foot becomes.

Scientific articles over the past decade or more strongly suggest that such protective features put in by shoe companies, including shock absorption and motion control actually increase the likelihood of injury.

Here’s a visual example of what happens to the body while running when wearing shoes versus barefoot:

Dr. Silverman from the New Jersey Sports Medicine and Performance Center created this video. This is the same runner on the same day, with no instruction given in between videos. On the left, the runner displays correct SHOELESS forefoot strike – good running technique. On the right, incorrect, wearing SHOES with heel strike, braking, and straining – incorrect and joint-damaging running technique.

A work boot is an extreme example that does the most damage to your feet over time (and to the rest of your body). Walking and running shoes and cross-trainers are still guilty of the same crime though, albeit to a lesser extent – they all limit your foot to a pre-determined movement pattern that is not natural. The take-home point is that wearing shoes will eventually lead to imbalances and injury. The other take-home point is that if you must wear shoes, take a minimalist view and adopt the philosophy of “less is better.”

The feet have ligaments and muscles just like the rest of the body, and they need to be exercised through a natural range of motion just like everything else. You wouldn’t put your hand in a cast before you go to work or to the gym, would you? (well, some people use gloves and wraps, which I almost always DO NOT recommend for these same reasons.)

Then why does our culture insist on doing the same thing to our feet? Well, for one – going barefoot doesn’t cost anything. It’s free, and that’s a pretty hard deal to beat for a shoe company. Obviously, the shoe execs want you to buy their shoes, and will tell you anything to get you to do it. So, there is advertising stating that shoes are better and healthier for your feet, and even for your performance – blah, blah, blah.

Like most messages in the health and fitness industry, this is only a half-truth. Sure, wearing shoes will help protect your feet from getting cut on glass or sharp rocks, etc. BUT, wearing an over-engineered shoe or boot will weaken your feet over time. So, it’s a catch 22! Protect your feet from the rough surfaces, but atrophy the muscles and ligaments of your feet.

And it makes sense too, how many shod runners do you know that don’t have an injury history longer than their laces? Sometimes, it seems like almost everyone who runs regularly has knee problems. Walk to any high school track and field meet and you’ll likely see half the team wearing knee wraps or taping from a sports medicine specialist. The sad truth is that these kids are usually better off than most adults.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been there, done that, too. I wore running shoes every season of Fall Cross Country Running, Winter Track, and Spring Track and Field in high school – and I had the injuries to prove it (3 years in physical therapy to rehabilitate myself from over-training via long distance running – anecdotal evidence, I know).

Now, that’s just the movement half of the story. Some other problems that shoes contribute to include: athlete’s foot, deformed toes, hammer toes, and ingrown toenails.

Now we know the drawbacks of wearing shoes, what about the benefits of going shoeless…

We already know that wearing shoes leads to injury such as plantar fasciitis, shortened calf muscles, knee osteoarthritis, tight ilial tibial bands, and lower back pain, among many other things. We also already know that running barefoot takes about 4% less energy than running with shoes. So, here are some of the other benefits of barefooting.

  • Running or walking barefoot will help to naturally improve your gait and carriage, which will improve your performance. More effeciency = more speed.
  • Going barefoot will help to develop strength in the muscles and ligaments in your feet, legs, and hips that are inhibited and disintegrated when wearing shoes.
  • You won’t get athletes foot or other odd foot odors if you aren’t getting sweaty from unventilated shoes.
  • There’s nothing like walking on sand or grass in your bare feet. Seriously, the more you can enjoy nature, the better for your well-being.
  • It’s free. I don’t even want to know how much I’ve spent on high class running shoes in the past… going barefoot will save you a lot of money!

Some more info about the barefoot vs. shoe debate…

The UK’s first Barefoot Trail

http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1170253/The-painful-truth-trainers-Are-expensive-running-shoes-waste-money.html

http://www.popularmechanics.com/outdoors/sports/4314401.html

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25171370-5005961,00.html

So, where do we draw the line? Is there a healthy balance?

Obviously, we can’t just go barefoot all the time and everywhere. Society, propriety, and etiquette dictate when and where shoes are most appropriate, but you don’t need to wear them all the time. If you’re like me, then you’re looking for the most “bang for your buck” benefits without getting sucked into a subculture of hippies and other barefoot nerds.

That’s easy.

Just start to go barefoot whenever you can – around the house, around your yard, and at the park or the beach. These are easy transitions to barefoot living, and probably a better idea anyway. If you’re accustomed to wearing footwear, then you will want to “break your feet in” to barefoot walking. The muscles and ligaments will need to strengthen before you can jump into full-time barefoot walking without injury – not to mention your soles too. You may find that after an hour or two of being barefoot, the tiny muscles in your feet start to get sore. That’s because they are now moving in a range of motion that they are not used to.

Progress intuitively, and only go barefoot when you’re comfortable. You may find that some surfaces hurt a little and have you waving your arms with every step, but eventually, your feet will be so tough (read tolerant, not insensitive), that you’ll be able to run over some pretty rough surfaces while barefoot like MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre:

Barefoot Running

Bare Minimum Footwear Alternatives

Of course, there are times when we simply do need to wear shoes. So, when going barefoot is not an option, there are some good minimalist alternatives.

In general, look for footwear that allows the most freedom of movement. If the shoe can bend, flex, and twist easily, it’s a winner. Some shoes are better than others, but I have found that Nike Free’s are a somewhat viable option (minus the tall heel), and some Puma shoes are also decent. My wife and I both wear Puma’s (rawwwr!)

I’ve heard nothing but good reports about Vivo Barefoot shoes. There are many different styles from dress, to casuals, to athletic:

Vibram Five Fingers have received a lot of positive reports:
barefeet

Traditional Huarache’s by Barefoot Ted (the barefoot guru of the internet – you’ll definitely want to check out his site if barefoot walking or running interests you.):
barefoot ted's feet

Barefoot Ted has been testing these huarache sandals for years. Now, he makes them and sells them too. All he needs from you is payment and a paper tracing of your feet. If you can get past the “ancient empire” look, they will serve you well. He even has a free how-to guide, teaching you how to make your own huarache’s at home – or buy one of his kit’s to do-it-yourself.

More Barefoot Living Resources

www.BareFooters.org

www.RunningBarefoot.org

www.BarefootRunner.org

Yahoo! Barefoot Running Group

Great Series About the Case for Minimalist Footwear

The Bottom Line

Go barefoot whenever you can and only where you are comfortable. Shop for shoes that will allow the most freedom of movement around your feet and ankle joints. The less and lighter, the better for your health.

If anyone asks why you’re not wearing shoes, just look them directly in the eye, point up towards the sky, and say “the aliens took them.”

The Society for Barefoot Living would like you to know that…

  • It is healthy for your feet to go barefoot.
  • It is not against the law to go barefoot into any kind of establishment including restaurants.
  • It is also not against any health department regulation.
  • It is not against the law to drive barefoot.
Related Posts:

John VS Ronin the dog in a Barefoot Sprinting Race

Mt. Washington Barefoot Hiking Trip Report

Mick Dodge: The Barefoot Sensei

Barefoot Running in the Snow

Have you decided go barefoot as a result of the recent barefoot trends?

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To your health and success,

Fitness Professional and Barefooter

References:

1) Najia Shakoor and Joel A. Block. ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM. Vol. 54, No. 9, September 2006, pp 2923–2927. DOI 10.1002/art.22123. © 2006, American College of Rheumatology. (read the rest of this study on Matt’s site here)

2) Michael Warburton. Barefoot Running. Gateway Physiotherapy, Capalaba, Queensland, Australia 4157. Sportscience 5(3), sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm, 2001 (read the rest of this study here)

3) Kong PW, Candelaria NG, Smith D. Running in New and Worn Shoes – A Comparison of Three Types of Cushioning Footwear. University of Texas at El Paso, United States. (read the abstract here)

4) Maffetone, Phil. In Fitness and in Health. David Barmore Productions; 3rd Rev edition. June 1997.

Not ready to go completely barefoot yet, but still want most of the benefits? Check out my review of the Xero Shoes. You’ll never wear flip flops or normal sandals again.

Xero Shoes Barefoot Running Sandals

42 comments to The Definitive Guide For Going Barefoot

  • Jonathan

    Hey John,

    What are the implications for people wearing flip-flops? I see kids wearing them all the time now, and they seem like they’re combining the worst of being barefoot and in work boots- they restrict your motion in a weird way and cause you to walk funny, but have no real traction or protection from glass. I’d be interested in your thoughts on them.

    Jonathan

  • John

    Hey Jonathan,

    It’s good to know some locals are actually reading my blog!

    I wear flip-flops in the summer when I must have footwear on. Easy on, easy off – and they let the feet “breathe.” If I need more traction or protection, I’ll usually wear shoes, and sometimes boots. From a health standpoint, I definitely wouldn’t recommend flip-flops for anything other than light walking, and even then you’re better off barefoot if your circumstances allow it.

    Flip-flops do alter your normal range of motion because while walking/running your foot tends to flex (gripping the flip flop with your arch), in order to keep the sandal from falling off your foot. This is exclusive to sandals and not natural human movement, but as long as you’re conscious of it, you can occasionally do some simple exercises to compensate for the constant flexion. Ankle circles with emphasis on the toes pulled back toward your shin is an example.

    Do keep in mind that flip-flops, boots, and over-engineered tennis shoes are not the problem – it’s the overuse of them. The key is awareness to what you’re wearing most of the time. Flip-flops and boots alike will only be problematic if used regularly. These types of movement problems and injuries take time to develop, with repeated poor movement patterns.

  • mike

    John,

    Great blog. quick comment. i have started barefoot running and feel great improvement, with none of my old running injuries (like IT band, plantar fascitis) recurring.

    however, i’m wondering whether barefoot or vibram fivefingers is viable on the basketball court. ankle stability is essential, and ostensibly basketball shoes protect the ankle. what is your point of view on this subject? i am curious as to whether the padded sole, elevating the foot an inch above the ground, actually increases the risk of turning one’s ankle. would it be possible that playing basketball in vibrams or barefoot, over time, would allow your ankles to be their own support system?

    Mike

    • Brandon

      Hi Mike,

      I used to play a lot of basketball and always had bad ankle injuries. My ankles became so weak that I had to stop playing basketball for a number of years. In an attempt to re-strengthen my ankles, I started running barefoot with excellent results.

      Recently I started playing and coaching basketball again. I thought about purchasing some new basketball shoes but I haven’t come across any that I like. I’ve been playing in a pair of New Balance MT10; they’re pretty great. The rubber gets wicked traction on the court too. Good luck!

      Brandon

  • John

    Mike,

    I’m glad to hear you’re seeing some improvements!

    One of my coaches, Scott Sonnon, says time and time again that you gain stability (at a joint) through mobility. My experiences have validated this.

    Your ankles are designed to be your own support system, we just “dumb them down” with shoes. With proper and progressive training, you should be able to do almost any activity barefoot – even basketball.

    Knowing that basketball is one of the highest ankle injury producing sports, if not the highest, I think progressing towards barefoot playing is a great idea. You’ve got a good base from your barefoot running, so now you can start making the switch gradually to playing barefoot on the court. Be as progressive as possible to ensure that you give your joints as much time as they need to heal in between games. Baby steps are essential to ensure that you are building strength in those extreme ranges without risking injury – during cutting, turning, jumping, etc.

    They may not allow it in the NBA, but for recreational playing – why not?

  • I’ve been doing my indoor cardio completely barefoot for several months now. No more twisting my ankles in sneakers, and I’ve noticed that my calves have become stronger too. I love it, and so glad I’m not as weird as I thought!

  • Hi John,

    thanks for this post. It’s really useful. The Silvermann vids are great. You are right, barefoot and minimal shoes and natural running are hot trends – good ones I would say, like MovwNat and parkour.

    I just started to go barefoot at home and wear minimal shoes outside to rehab my feet. And I try to learn pose tech running/forefoot running. Not easy without a trainer. But the videos in the crossfit journal and on you tube help a bit. Lots of blogs and discussions about it in the www. That is the way I learned about the topic. I found a discussion on RMAX Forums (from 2005) some time ago:
    Improper footwear restricts range of motion.
    http://www.rmaxinternational.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4540&highlight=shoes

    and I found lot of Info about minimal shoes and pose running on crossfit Forum, Pose Forum etc.

    I walk in Levi’s Sneakers – Flat thin sole, no support stuff. Next will be Puma h street and similar racing flats for running (recommended by Pose Coaches) and an interesting shoe from Finland: Feelmax. You get it on ebay cheaper than the original price.
    Check their website out:
    http://www.feelmax.com/

    Cheers
    Andrea

  • John

    Josie,

    Weird is in the eye of the beholder :-)

    Andrea,

    Thanks for the links. Both my wife and I like puma’s mostly because you can curl your toes and go “rawwwr.”

  • Nick

    Hi John,

    I’m a bit curious about any information you may have run into with regard to your over 50 readers. I’ve got a bunion on my foot above the big toe (the toe begins to point outward a bit as the feet get flatter). The bunion hasn’t bothered me for years since I started wearing orthodics in my ‘street’ shoes and golf and hiking shoes. I’ve been following the barefoot discussion via Chris’s blog. I tried VFF, but couldn’t really get my toes in the holders and the other shoes I’ve tried have all been too tight. So, I’ve been golfing and hiking in sandals. I’m beginning to notice occasional pain in my foot again, though I love the barefoot idea…

  • John

    Nick,

    I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know any doctors who would advise you to go barefoot anywhere, so keep my suggestion with that in mind.

    I would try going barefoot minimally for now – maybe just around the house (socks don’t count). Try that for a couple of weeks and see if that changes the way your feet feel. If you don’t run into any problems, then take it outside on a soft surface like grass or sand for a couple of weeks. Then progress to harder surfaces which will really challenge the muscles of the feet and ankles – packed dirt, stone, gravel, etc. It probably took me 6 weeks just for my feet to “toughen up” to walk normally over rough terrain. So, it’s definitely not something you can jump into in a week or two. It takes time, and quite literally, practice.

    I’ve heard anecdotal reports of foot problems healing themselves just from switching to going barefoot, although I haven’t heard of a bunion diminishing as of yet – maybe you’ll be the first!

  • Alan Mokbel

    Great post John!

    When you first started talking about the “conspiracy” of companies to create shoes to destroy you, I said to myself “oh boy, here we go…”

    I hope you agree with me that shoes were created much before these corporations existed and I believe they were created with the purpose of protection. I can imagine a medieval knight riding his horse in full gear into battle without heavy boots for protection.

    But you did clarify that the “evil” here is the over-engineered shoes that are the problem. And I am glad you did. It does more harm than good to over-generalize and focusing on the actual problem (over engineered shoes) is the way to go.

    Anyway, I’m rambling…

    I did enjoy this post and keep the good info coming.

    Al

  • agou

    I am practicing a japanese sword fighting martial art called Kendo, in which we are REQUIRED to go barefoot. Just thought you might be interested.

    • John

      Agou,

      Very interesting. I totally understand why better proprioception would be of paramount importance with such a precision based martial art like Kendo.

  • HippiesWereRight

    It’s sad that it took this lengthy, detailed explanation for something that should be obvious. It’s obvious to those of us who were around during the 1960s and 1970s, when going barefoot everywhere was popular. Start early in the spring with short barefoot walks. Then longer each month, and by summer we were able to walk on the hottest pavement, sharpest rocks, no problems at all. How our shoe obsessed society forgot this and has to re-learn it is strange. I mean young people were shopping barefoot, running errands, working out in gyms (Arnold did his bodybuilding barefoot during the 1970s), anywhere in public places. Young people today apparently have no idea this even happened. They are so squeamish now. Everything is ‘ewww’ ‘gross’ ‘yuk’, with no knowledge of the biology around them, or the concept of risk assessment.

  • Damien

    I own a pair of vivo barefoots I wear to work. They are great….

    But now I just got myself a pair of vibram fivefingers and am aware even of how much movement we even use in our toes when moving.

    I wear the fivefingers in every other situation.

    And I go barefoot whenever I can… at home and around the house, at the park, etc.

  • Trevor

    What is your view of MBTs (Masai Barefoot Technology)? Whilst they do support a little and have a thick sole they aim to destabilise the sole and simulate walking in barefoot (pivot point just in front of the heel as though your feet are sinking a bit). I have a pair for work (the office would not be impressed with my bare feet) and they do seem to work and help with overall posture.

    • John

      Hi Trevor,

      I’m really not a fan of Masai’s at all. I think they’re a gimmick that will in no way simulate barefoot walking, and will probably have postural and joint consequences from continued use.

  • Fantastic and in depth post. I’m bookmarking this one. Thanks.

  • tamudjin

    What if you have flat feet? How would going barefoot be applied in this case?

    I’m pretty sure someone with flat feet should wear orthotics for weightlifting to make sure their knees don’t get messed up, since the foot bellow the knee isn’t balanced the way it should be if there was a normal arch. So for squats, cleans, snatches, overhead presses shoes + orthotics make sense for flat feet.

    What about running?

  • Kyle

    Hey John,

    Been following your youtube videos for a while now and am so glad I stumbled across this post. I just recently injured my left foot from running with sneakers on. It was weird cause I’ve NEVER gotten this injury before. I ended up having xrays done and the doctor said it was okay, no stress fractures, just let it heal. It did. But now I’m afraid to run again. I don’t want the same injury again.

    So, there is a beach near me that i’m planning on visiting on a weekly basis this spring/summer. What are your thoughts on running barefoot in the sand? I have a friend that claims it is bad for your feet. It certainly sounds like a fun challenge but of course I’d abort if the risk of another foot injury was high.

    Thanks!

    • John

      Hi Kyle,

      Running on sand is not bad for your feet, but if you bring one bad running habit into your beach running, then you will get injured again. I think running in the sand is great, but just as with any type of running use incremental progression. Your first run should be a very easy one – short distance, and slow speed. Build up gradually from there – even if it feels too easy for weeks. If you take the tortoise approach to fitness, you’ll find that you make much more total progress over time.

      Don’t do anything that causes pain, and make sure you have the doctors approval before you start.

      There’s a lot of info on this site about going barefoot, preventing injury, and running. Good luck!

  • Chris

    John,

    I’ve started on going barefoot or minimalist. I work in a machine shop so I have to wear safety toes shoes. I bought some that were as flat as possible. I stand on concrete all day and am looking for compensations to help my feet recover from the work day. I’ve been going barefoot when I get home and practice Intu-flow everyday. I was wondering what other specific things you do for your feet.

    Thanks,

    Chris

  • Carol

    Hi,
    Just stumbled across you when I was looking for help with a foot injury. I walked on hard sand barefoot for about 2 miles a few days ago. Another 2 miles in flipflops. I now have pain in my foot and wondered if I should keep exercising or rest up? Any ideas please?
    Thanks

  • There exists a divide between the “antedotes” of barefoot runners and “science” of the biomechmanists who study gait. One of the antedotes is that barefoot running cures knee injuries.

    I am a scientist (BSc mechanical engineering and MSc medicine) who has studied the initiation and control of gait from first principles.
    (www.dissertation.com/book.php?method=ISBN&book=1599423294 or email craig.nevin@gmail .com for the full pdf version).

    My research has lead me to explore the anatomical link between the forefoot and the knee. Also I have had extensive experience analysing barefoot footprints left as immpressions on an electronic pressure plate.

    The thesis establishes the scientific and anatomical connection between forefoot mechanics and knee mechanics. Barefoot running definitely removes the cause of many knee injuries.

  • Keith

    I started going barefoot after talkoing to a friend of mine who was/is doing barefoot running. I have found that my lower back problem as deminished for the most part. I also through my friend was lead to a great barefoot minimalist shoe calls soft star shoes they are custom made to your foor and are great. I either go totally barefoot or wear vibrams or the soft stars. Shoes have cause a lot of problems for my feet so to be free of those problems I will gladly take the look people give.

  • Dan

    Hello.. Maybe you can help-
    I’ve been wearing shoes my whole life because I do not like the way my feet look. I started wearing shoes at friends houses but found it acceptable to keep them on because all my friends wore sneakers in their homes. Once I got to college, I still wore sneakers everywhere I went and especially my Junior year, wore sneakers all the time unless I was hopping into bed literally. Is it possible I could have created some type of anxiety for not going barefoot? I’m just not used to being barefoot anymore especially around people. Let alone, I never wore flip flops in public.

  • Nikki

    Hey…whats wrong with hippies and other barefoot nerds???…I’M a hippy AND a nerd.. I find offense to that!!!.. :/

  • Nikki

    Ohhh btw.. I have only been barefoot a fewtimes since lastyear.Its summer now and a few weeks ago was the first time I went out walking barefoot (: I was just DYING to getting courage!! alittle afraide people would think I was a crazy person lol. I gotta say…It was UNUSUALLY satifying!…hehe…. It felt abit wierd..but in a good way! I still cant believe I did it…((: and it felt WONDERFULL, especailly walking on grass. Then a few days ago on a nice hot sunny day I walked downtown to the healthfood store and back again..a 40 minute walk in total….WOO….got some blisters…..but overall felt pretty damn good!. Anyways only A FEW people looked at me funny….but other then that not lot of people seem to even notice. I have hearing and visual problems it has helped me with my balancing problems, Ive deffinatly noticed going with barefeet thatI’m not tripping or loosing balance all the sudden lol. Anywoo…I used to not like feet!..lol not much of a foot person. But well this is one way I can/am learning to apprecaite them… well MY feet anyways….lol Not to mention I also lost alot of weight too and they are skinnier. ^_^

  • “It turns out that most people not only have very weak feet and ankles, they also have immobile feet and ankles. This is largely due to over-engineered footwear being the norm across the civilized, modern world.” I couldn’t agree more!

  • Very great arguments, but going barefoot also means more exposure to harmful bacteria, not to mention possible splinters on the ground which may hurt your feet.

    • Shayna

      Actually, you get more bacteria by letting your foot stew in your own sweat all day. I haven’t heard of any barefooters getting athlete’s foot or anything yet. As for splinters: your feet develop calluses over a period of time, and you wouldn’t believe how elastic the sole of your foot really is. and when you go barefoot, you step directly down on the ground, not shuffling over it. It seems to me that ‘splinters’ would only go into your foot if you were shuffling really hard on an old boardwalk or something…hope that clears some things up.

  • Nick

    the “five fingers” shoes, amazing. If I’m not at work or actually barefoot, I’m wearing those. I have 2 pair, machine washable and air dry.

  • popscube

    I’d like to go barefoot more, but because of my work (I’m a teacher) I’m trying to find the thinnest sandals possible. But I have a couple of questions. What would you recommend for the winter? I’m thinking of some thick socks, but a lot of sandals have a toe wrap that would get in the way of the sock. Any thoughts? Also, what about backpacking? Am I going to have a hard time adjusting to sandals to hiking boots? I’ve read a lot about how being barefoot strengthens ankles and feet, so I’m hoping going barefoot will help strengthen the feet to get them ready for a rather lengthy trip. Again, any thoughts?

  • Shayna

    I recently started going barefoot about a month ago, which isn’t the best choice in the winter months in Oklahoma, but I’d been wearing some minimalist footwear outside. When I re-started my job at my college campus library a few weeks ago, I walked in with my minimal shoes and promptly took them off as soon as I was inside (it had become a habit to do that by then) and my boss almost died. I tried explaining to him that I was going barefoot for health reasons, but he had none of it. It was either put the shoes back on, or get fired. So I put the shoes back on, cuz they’re minimalist, right? So not a huge deal. Then I started class. My art classes aren’t strict about such things as having shoes, and I’ve actually started converting people to the awesomeness of barefooting; My economics and marketing classes were different, and I was forced to report to the Dean after a couple of class periods. It sucked, because he refused to listen to what I had to say, and told me that we did NOT live in a 3rd world country, and that he was going to talk to the board about placing a shoe policy in the school dress code (there hadn’t been one before, I checked). And then another guy on campus got in trouble for wearing his VFFs. We’re pissed off! Is there anything we can do about this?

  • Carla

    I went for a run/walk this morning. I’m training to do my first 5k. My calves and feet started hurting so bad I had to take my shoes off. My niece has been doing the barefoot thing for some time now and today I learned she’s right. I ran faster and stayed cooler for a lot longer. I’m totally for barefootin’ now.

  • James

    I have gone barefoot around the house for years, but until recently did not think that going barefoot outside was a viable option — obstacles sush as rocks, pebbles, dog waste, etc. always made me think twice. However, once my family and I moved out of a large metropolis and to a smaller, less congested — and, frankly, less shoe-necessary — environment — I had never really thought of going barefoot outside. Once I made the decision to go barefoot outside, I overdid it too quickly at first, sustaining some pretty bad blood blisters on the soles of both feet. Once I let those heal, however, I tried again and took it slowly, building up resistance gradually. Now I drive the short distance from the house to a beautifully landscaped university campus where I walk barefoot on grass, and on hard surfaces, for about 45 minutes a day quite early in the morning. Needless to say, I really enjoy the “zen” feeling, but I also notice that my posture has improved, my legs and feet feel stronger, and I have more endurance. This barefoot walk has become a necessary part of my morning regimen; I would recommend it to anyone of any age who wants to improve their entire self. Shalom.

  • matt

    hey i just started going barefoot today and am curious as to how long it will be until i can walk on relatively rough ground, im at a college program so its relative sketchy going from class to class barefoot but i completely embrace it. i like knowing theres nothin separating me from the world beneath me. is there anything i can do to make my feet toughen up quicker? i took a long walk on some hot pavement thinking it might speed up the process by making a callus.

  • Arnie

    It is nice to know that their are simlar minded people out there. I have been going barefoot any time I can for over a year now, and, even though I still have to explain my shoelessness to others at least three times a week, I am loving it. My feet have increased in size by a half a shoe size and widened as well, my toes are straighter, the bunions on both of my feet have decreased in size, there is actually some space between some of my toes now (before they were all cramped together and overlapping in some cases), and my calve muscles are more defined. I am 54 years old and started going barefoot as much as possible after a podiatrist told me I had inherited bad feet and needed to where special shoes and stop going barefoot. I went to see the podiatrist to find out if he could do anything about my bunions and he told me he couldn’t and advised me to stop running all together and to wear special shoes to prevent my big toe joints from completely failing. I had just started to run barefoot in the months before, after suffering from a number of foot and angle injuries in the year before that. I learned of the beneifts of barefoot running doing research on the internet on how to treat my foot and angle injuries, so I was very skeptical of the podiatrist’s advise. I then did some more internet research on going barefoot and bunions and discovered some people had cured their bunions by doing the exact opposite of what the podiatrist had told me to do, they started to run barefoot. I also recently, about two months ago, changed my diet to a whole plant food based diet and I have already experienced some very positive changes in my body weight and how my body functions. Check out the movie, “Forks over Knifes,” if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of a whole plant food based diet. What I have learned from experiences with doctors throughout my life is that most doctors know very little about what is truely best for the human body. Their advise usually involves only treating symptoms and rarely addresses solving the underlying cause of the symptoms. The moral of my story is that you need to protect yourself by educating yourself.

  • Barefoot Jedi

    I’m quite impressed by the abundance of information that exists here! As a habitual barefooter, I’m always excited to see this topic being discussed and debated. To be honest, I’ve only been barefooting for a couple of months after researching chronic back knee and back pain. For several years, I was prescribed every pain medication under the sun but none of them have provided any relief. I discovered that shoes can actually cause more damage than good. I gave the idea some consideration and decided to toss my shoes back into the closet. Within a few days, I was noticing a significant decrease in pain in my back and knees. I’m not completely pain free but I can often enjoy life without being too conscious of it.

    Although I used to run all the time, the damage to my knees and spine has yanked me out of the race. Still, I enjoy the benefits of walking barefoot anywhere I can go. It’s taken my wife some time to buld up her tolerance towards the idea but I have only experienced one situation where I was asked to put on shoes or leave the premises. There are no state laws or health code regulations that require patrons or customers to wear footwear in public places or restaurants. I go barefoot in the grocery store, shopping centers, and various restaurants. I keep my Fila “Skele-toes” in the car along with a pair of flip flops in the event the rent-a-cops or disgruntled employee tells me to put muy shoes on. If I know I’m going to be required to wear shoes for more than a few minutes, I’ll put on my Skele-toes. I’ll wear flip flops if I absolutely have to wear them to get seated in a restaurant but I kick them off as soon as I’m seated.

    The barefoot movement is growing and it’s going to take a lot of information and education before bare feet are generally accepted in the public eye. It’s been done before! Just think, there was a time in recent history where it was conisdered inappropriate for women to wear pants!

  • Susie

    HI JOHN,
    I am a barefooter!
    CAN YOU PLEASE ADVISE BEST WAY TO USE HOME MOTRORISED TREADMILL WITH ONE SMALL BUNION ON WEAKER LEG…AT PRESENT WALKING 20-30 MINS, AVOIDING INCLINE OF MORE THAN 2 AND SPEED MAX 4KMS. I AM WALIKING BAREFOOT.
    CAN I WAL IN SOCKS TOO? :)

    MANY THANKS, BEST WISHES, SUSIE

  • I stopped wearing traditional running shoes back in 2009 because my feet were hurting so bad from Plantar Fasciitis. Getting rid of the shoes and wearing something called the Strassburg sock at night is the only thing that gave me relief from 20 plus years of plantar fasciitis.

    I have 3 pairs of Luna Sandals to use when I must have shoes. They are my daily driver shoes. I run with them on the trails and on city streets when I need protection from glass and sharp objects.

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