Barefoot Running

Barefoot Rick's FAQ -- Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Why do you run barefoot?


A: There are several reasons why I began running barefoot, and even more why I continue. When I began in October 2003, I was fascinated by the idea that one could run without shoes. I have always loved going barefoot, so this seemed very logical to me. I read up on barefoot running and discovered that barefoot runners experienced far less injuries because of the ball/heel foot strike. Shoe companies have always built the heels up too much on their products -- even running shoes. The result is heel striking which can cause knee and leg problems. Since I started running barefoot in October 2003, I have not experienced an injury to my knees or legs. That was not true when I wore shoes. I experienced a stress fracture in my tibial plateau of my left knee and severe clicking in my right knee. Since running barefoot, I have no reoccurrences of problems associated with former injuries.


Here are a few reasons why I continue to run barefoot:


  1. Injury-free due to proper foot strike.
  2. It feels great!
  3. I no longer have to support the running shoe companies.
  4. I always have my running "shoes" with me.
  5. Creates new challenges when running marathons (after 18 shod marathons, I was looking for a new challenge).
  6. I believe it is the way we were created to run.


Q: How can you run on asphalt and concrete without tearing up your feet on rocks and glass?


A: It takes time to work up to running on asphalt and concrete. I recommend that runners start on soft, grassy surfaces such as soccer fields or golf courses. Once a runner can complete a couple of miles on soft surfaces 3 or 4 times a week, I recommend starting to mix in a little bit of harder surface runs. Once a runner starts running asphalt and concrete, pebbles and glass do become a factor. However, a runner will quickly learn how to avoid these types of obstacles and annoyances. Eye/foot coordination will improve the more a person runs on concrete/asphalt. Remember -- take it slowly and build slowly. Confidence is one thing that a runner will gain probably quicker than the needed conditioning of their soles. It is easy to overdo it once the confidence level goes up. Easy does it! Make it a slow, pleasurable experience in the beginning.


Q: If barefoot running is a more natural way to run, why don't more people do it?


A: I believe there are lots of factors. Probably one of the greatest is the social stigma around going barefoot - that it is a way to spread bacteria and disease. This is a fallacy since bacteria and organisms grow in wet environs (such as inside shoes). The bare foot actually does not provide a hospitable place for bacteria to germinate since the skin is constantly exfoliating and is not in a damp environment.


Another reason why there are not more barefoot runners is it's not the norm. Most runners would feel uncomfortable doing something as radical as shedding their shoes. They could not handle the looks and questions that they would get while running barefoot.


Another factor is fear of damaging their feet by stepping on glass, rocks, stubbing toes, etc. I can truthfully state that since I have started running barefoot I have not been disabled to the point that I could not run the next day by a glass shard or a stray rock. Contusions have been minor. They are really not even worth mentioning as they would be classified as splinters or small blisters when I first started barefoot running.


Q: Since you live in the Midwest, how do you run barefoot in the winter?


A: Winter 2003-04 was my first experience with barefoot running in what can be a deep-freeze here in the Heartland. Believe it or not, there were not many days that I could not run barefoot. As long as the temps were above 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the cold weather did not seem to bother me. Sure, the first quarter of a mile or so is a bit chilly. But, like any part of your body that you are exercising in cold weather, the feet warm up rather quickly. Snow and ice were a bit of a problem at times, but I would choose areas such as grass or trails that do not have the slick underlying such as asphalt or concrete. Feet can get cold in deep snow ... I don't recommend running in snow deeper than your ankles. I may change my opinion after a couple more years of winter running. Possibly I may get even more acclimated to snow and ice where deeper snows don't bother me.


See also Barefoot Rick's Winter Barefoot Running Section


Q: What was the first couple of years like barefoot running? Was it difficult to transition from shoes?


A: I would suggest reading a couple of my writings that answer a lot of questions about my first couple of years of running barefoot:


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