Barefoot Again . . . Occasionally

Last Saturday I ran my first 9 mile loop of the lake in two months.  With temps in the 90’s it was tough, but I feel I’m pretty much back to where I want to be for the summer.  A little slower, perhaps, but that’s not a bad thing when June temps this year are already as high as our usual July temps.  I purposely keep my summer mileage low, mainly because of the heat and humidity, but also to give my body a rest before I start training for my next fall marathon.

All of this means:  it’s time to start thinking about some barefoot running again.

I’ve been working up to running barefoot for the past two weeks by walking–a lot.  Every morning I take my two dogs for a 2-4 mile walk, and rather than wear an old pair of running shoes, like I usually do, I’ve been wearing an ugly old pair of Columbia flip flops.  I’m thinking that’s as close as I can get to walking barefoot without actually taking off my shoes.  On Monday I wore a pair of my most minimal running/trail shoes–barefoot–and got a blister, so I took my shoes off the last half mile and walked home barefoot.  It was fun, and I didn’t care what anyone thought.  On Tuesday I ran 4 miles at the lake, including a half mile stretch barefoot where the running path is extra smooth. The barefoot stretch was the best part of my run.

I could feel the barefoot half mile I ran the next day in my shins, calves, and where my feet bend.  Nothing serious or painful, I could just tell that I had done something different.  I plan on only running barefoot every other day, and not more than half a mile for the first week or two, and see how I feel.

For me, I think barefoot running is going to be nothing more than an occasional thing, though I would like to transition to even more minimal shoes than the Nike Free.  I’ve been rereading a book I read several months ago, Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth by Michael Sandler, and he gives a lot of information about the best ways to make the transition to complete barefoot running.  His best advice: start very, very, very slowly.  Second best advice:  run more on your toes and forefoot.  Third best advice:  have fun running.

While I do believe the human body was made to run, and without all the bells and whistles the major shoe manufacturers tell us we need, most of us haven’t run barefoot since we were kids, which means we need to build up all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our feet and toes to accommodate a change.  Even if you wear minimalist shoes, which may be essentially nothing more than a rubber sole away from barefoot, better to take it slow and ease into it to give your feet time to get used to running in a different way.


Just like when I was a kid, now that it’s summer I pretty much only wear shoes when I have to go somewhere.  I don’t remember anyone telling me it wasn’t okay to run barefoot back then, so why should things change just because I’m an adult?  We had glass in the streets back then, too, and rocks, sticks, burrs, rusty nails and hot asphalt, and we did just fine.  Sure, we didn’t run 26 miles in our bare feet, but I bet a lot of us put in at least a few miles everyday running around outside.

Best of all, we didn’t even think about it, we were just having fun, and that’s the best way to run if you ask me.


  1. Numberz Runner

    Sorry to hear about the earlier-than-expected high temps, but glad to hear you’re keeping at it.

    I have to admit that I’m intrigued by barefoot running. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences and tips. And keep having fun with it.

    PS – And glad to see you have an ID tag on your shoes, too.

    • Run Nature

      The temps are brutal this year, but I’m actually kind of getting used to them. We’ll see how far I take the barefoot running. Even for only half a mile at the end of a run, it’s a lot of fun. Thanks for visiting.

  2. skippingstones

    You’re reminding me what it was like to go barefoot all summer long. I lived in an apartment complex from first grade up until I was 16, and we would spend all summer long at the pool. We never wore shoes, and our feet just got toughened up to withstand the heat coming off of the concrete and the asphalt. There were some truly hot days when your feet got burned, but mostly we just stopped noticing.

    But I stubbed my toe at least once every year. Oh well, it was worth it!

    • Run Nature

      Oh, yeah, I used to ride my bike barefoot and would stub my big toes when I was pedaling. Once I stubbed my little toe climbing a tree and lost the toenail in the bathtub. Once I got over the shock I thought that was pretty cool. We used to get melted tar on the soles of our feet when we played badminton in the street. I remember even trying to wear my metal buckle-on roller skates with bare feet. It didn’t work so well, but it was fun trying.

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