Almost Running Barefoot

After reading a small sample of the barefoot running literature, I can't tell whether they barefoot proselytizers realize that the probable performance gains from learning the "barefoot running" technique are significantly more important than actually running barefoot. A little bit of background:

The concept? Simple: run barefoot.

The reasoning behind it? Deceptively simple: humans have been running barefoot for thousands of years, why change that with expensive, unnecessary, injury producing shoes?

The execution? Not so simple: we've trained ourselves to run in shoes since childhood, so running barefoot requires unlearning these tendencies. Switching can be a long and painful process. It's difficult to switch from running 6+ miles in shoes to running less than a mile barefoot: you're body feels like it can run farther, but you'll destroy yourself if you do.

Halfway through the switch (with the caveat that I've never ran fully barefoot), here's my conclusion: running barefoot isn't actually important. Running with the proper form is--and running "barefoot" might be one of the easiest ways to force yourself to learn the "proper" form. The process isn't easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun--after all, that is why you run, isn't it?

I put "barefoot" in quotes because I don't actually believe that you have to run barefoot--running in support-less (thin soled) shoes should suffice. The question I posed earlier was slightly fallacious: humans may have have been running barefoot for thousands of years, but as soon as we could start wearing thin soled shoes, we did.

The real reason for this diatribe?

Justifying my awesome "Barefoot Running" Shoes. Besides the fact that they smell like shit if you don't wear socks in them, they are awesome. The first time I wore them I felt as giddy as a little kid: I wanted to run on grass, on gravel, on concrete, on bricks--everything--just to feel the surface underneath me. It. was. Awesome.

But the first time I substantially increased the distance I was running (to 2-3 milesish), my calves were destroyed for the next week. This lead to a frustrating cycle: not running for a week meant that I would running really hard when I could finally run, which resulted in me being unable to run for a week. Not fun.

So, are my Vivo's worth it? Yes. But only because I'm one of those people who are willing to suffer for a fad that may or may not be true.

Readers--an interactive moment! Have any of you tried barefoot running (in any form)? If so, did you stick with it? Were you injured less? Or were these all just lies? I'm really curious if I'm the only one drinking the barefoot running kool-aid.


  1. I went through the exact same cycle as you. I read the book, was converted, bought vivos, and enthusiastically tackled an incline run. My calves were so shattered that I haven't worn them since. It has been at least 6-months and I'm still traumatized!
    I've since finished a marathon and every mile of training and the race was run in uber-supportive shoes.
    The back-to-basics idea is great but in practice I like my modern technology.


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