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barefoot running FAQ

October 24, 2010

I told my mom that I went on a barefoot run.

She seemed confused.

“On the beach?” she said.

No, in the city.

“That’s a bad idea, sweetheart.  The streets are so dirty.  And you could cut yourself.”

Part of me wishes I hadn’t told her, because now she’ll worry.

But another part of me thinks that’s what comes with being a mom:  worrying about your kids.

So, I’ll let her handle the worry part and I’ll just handle the running part.

A lot of people worry about running in bare feet.

Here are some of the questions I hear most often:

“What if you step on glass?”

“What if you step in dog poo?”

“What if you step on a dirty needle?”

“Don’t your feet get dirty?”

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

These are legitimate concerns, and I’ve thought about them, too.

Here are my answers. . .

I use my eyes.

So far I’ve been successful at seeing and avoiding broken glass, dog poo, and other hazards.  I don’t run barefoot in grass because I can’t see what’s there.  With all the stories of dirty needles being found in our local parks, that feels too risky to me.

But running in bare feet on a city street or sidewalk?  Easy peasy.  I can see what’s coming, and I can avoid it.

This also means that:

I pay attention to what I’m doing.

No zoning out.

I think this is a good thing.

I tune in to my body, and to what’s just ahead of me.

I practice being present.

My feet get dirty.

They don’t get as dirty as you probably think.

After my run, I wash them.

Then they’re clean.


Anyway, I figure I come into contact with more germs just by riding MUNI and working in an office building.

(I wash my hands, too.)

It feels really good.

You know how good it feels to be barefoot at the beach, or in the grass?  Our feet are loaded with sensory receptors whose job it is to give our brain and body information about the outside world.

We feel a lot through our feet.

It’s just that most of the time our feet are numbed out because they’ve been in socks and shoes — like sensory deprivation chambers.

Running in bare feet feels really fantastic to me.  Feeling the texture of the ground (smooth, rough, slick, knobbly. . .), and feeling the air around my skin is just amazing.

That’s why I haven’t tried out Vibram‘s yet.  I don’t want to cover up my feet.  I want that skin-to-earth contact.

If it stops feeling good, I stop running.

I’m doing this for fun, so if it stops feeling fun or good, then what’s the point?

If the ground feels too hot, or too rough, or if I feel something start to cramp, I stop.

“No pain, no gain” is misguided advice and not helpful here.

Train smarter.  Not harder.

And play.

Sometimes I carry my shoes with me.

The first time I went for 2 miles in the city, I felt scared.

What if it’s too far?  What if there’s too much glass or junk?

What if I get trapped, with NO SHOES, out in the world?


So, I decided to carry my shoes with me.

One shoe in each hand.

I figured I was going to get looks anyways, for being barefoot.  It wouldn’t really make much difference if I was barefoot and carrying my shoes in my hands.

As it turned out, I ran the whole way on bare feet.

I’m glad I had my shoes, though.  Just in case.

I know how to land on my feet.

I teach willPower & grace®, and barefoot training is a key component of the program.  Learning how to land on our feet is what we do.

Which is not to say that I didn’t have my own share of aches and cramps when I started running in bare feet.

Of course I did.  Those muscles were not used to working that much, or in that way.  There’s a learning curve.

But I will say that I’ve been working for the last 2+ years on my feet.  They’re strong, flexible, and I know how to listen to them.  I know how to use them.  I know how to land without a sound, and how to engage my core to keep me light and on my toes.

You have permission to try running in your bare feet.

I want you, dear reader, to know that it is ok to try this.

I encourage you to go slow, and to listen closely to your body.

You might decide that it’s not for you.  That’s totally cool. I don’t have anything against people who prefer to run in shoes!  (Sometimes I prefer to run in shoes, too.)

But if you’ve been curious, and you are hesitating because there are a pile of things you are worried about, hopefully this will ease your mind a bit.

You have permission to try.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Shacky permalink
    October 25, 2010 8:52 am

    Love the FAQ and hope you don’t mind me sharing it on FB

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