The Biggest Mistake Newly Barefoot Runners Make (And How To Fix It)

Running BarefootWelcome back to another Monday Mini. This post kicks off “Barefoot Week” here at Midpack Runner.

Since barefoot running surged back into popularity, it has become one of the most contentious subjects in running.

Proponents argue that barefooting is natural and can reduce injuries associated with shod running. However, researchers have consistently seen a rise in injuries associated with the practice.

I’m proud to say that I bare my souls.

In my time barefooting and working with aspiring barefoot runners, I’ve been able to narrow the spike in injuries among newly barefoot runners to one cause: running like you still have shoes.

What can you do about it?

The first thing you need to do as you begin the transition to barefooting is to back off your mileage.

Without shoes, your body is going to use a lot of muscles that shoes don’t require.

“You’re using your muscles in a new way, and it takes time to build back up.”

While you can keep up your mileage shod, for the first few months, your barefoot mileage should be low.

Perhaps embarrassingly so.

That’s okay. You’re using your muscles in a new way. It takes time to build back up.

Meanwhile, you need to fix your gait through a combination of cadence training and careful attention. Having a fore-foot or mid-foot strike will prevent injuries as you transition.

There’s more to come this week, including a big announcement this Friday. In the meantime – Do you run barefoot? Have you thought about giving it a try? What could I do to get you out of your shoes and onto the road? Leave me a comment!

  5 Responses to The Biggest Mistake Newly Barefoot Runners Make (And How To Fix It)
  1. Nice Tim! It is good to “bare your souls,” even if if saying so does make you sound possessed.

    How hard is to go from Vibrams to completely bare? I am great with Vibrams, but I have yet to show the pavement my bare feet; I am a little bashful I guess.

    • Tim Woodbury

      If you’ve been running in Vibrams, the transition shouldn’t be too hard for you. The biggest issue for you is going to be acclimating your soles to the road surface. I’d recommend starting with a week of short, shoeless repeats – 1 minute running followed by 2 minutes walking. Do that 4-5 times at the end of a longer run and see how it feels. If you’re feeling good, try ramping up to 2:1 repeats, then 5:1 (run:walk). Do each for a full week, and you should be able to transition without causing any foot trauma.

  2. I am sure that this will not shock any of you who have been running for a long time…my high school cross country coach had us running barefoot back in the late ’70′s. After a nice, long road run, we took of our shoes and ran barefoot on the grass football field. We did 100 yard acceleration sprints. Since most of us grew up running barefoot as kids, this was nothing new to us.

    I kept up the tradition for another 20 years and then stopped. Cannot tell you why I stopped. I picked up barefoot running 2 years ago. I tried the Vibram’s and blew through them in less than a month. My calf muscles sure got sore!

    My routine for the past 7 months has been to run barefoot to the local high school. It’s paved for the first mile. When I get to the school, I run 30 second sprints as fast I can and then rest for 90 seconds. I repeat until I have run 8 sprints. The total workout takes less than 30 minutes. I feel better doing this than I did after running for 2-3 hours.

    The biggest problems that I have suffered from running barefoot in the grass are bee stings! Yikes! It hurts.

    I have encountered goat head thorns too. Twice I have blistered the bottoms of my feet so bad that I could hardly walk. Good thing that I carry a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves with just in case something bad happens.

  3. Martin Glenn

    I transitioned to barefoot running over the last year. I’m just now to the point of being able to keep a normal pace during a run. I typical run that took me an hour and 15 minutes 3 months ago, now takes me 45 minutes. That seems like a lot, but you have to go SLOW during the transition. I also use the Luna Sandals for trail running. The tranisition is long and slow…and there were times I thought about giving up…but it was worth it. My DRs had told me to quit running because of knee and back injuries…now I run pain free and love it.

  4. Shawn Dunn

    I just read the book “Born to Run”. I was amazed with what I learned in that book. For the past few weeks I have completely changed the way I run. I now use the mid foot method. I try to think about my posture cadence and foot strike while I am running(what I read in the book). I bought the brooks pure flo 2 shoes.The guy at the running store I got them from said this is a good way to get into the running style. He said to use them twice a week for shorter runs. But after just 2 weeks I use them every other day and have run 8 and 10 miles with them. My body feels great and I becoming a much better runner than I ever was, or thought I could be. Do you think I should progress to an even less shoe?

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