Your Month-Long Guide To Running Barefoot Perfectly
So, you want to run barefoot do you? You’ve probably heard about all the people who used to have nagging foot, ankle and leg injuries and now run hundreds of miles a month pain free. While it’s true Barefooting is great for preventing injuries and running healthy, it’s important you understand that it’s a commitment. With poor barefoot technique, your injuries will not go away, they will just be different.
Calf, arch, toe and hip injuries can all be a result of bad barefoot running technique. “Barefoot” shoes being used by a person who is used to heel striking is another common cause of injury.
We love barefooting and we don’t want to see you give it a try and have a bad experience. So in this guide we’re going to lay out EXACTLY what you need to do if you’re thinking of shedding your kicks and giving your natural running shoes a try.
Step 1: Kick Off Your Shoes
Walk barefoot around the office. Go for a walk down the street or beach barefoot. Whatever you do
though, don’t run. Not yet at least. Don’t even get excited on the way home and break into a jog. For
the first week, you’re a barefoot toddler, only walking for you.
This step is important for two reasons:
- It allows the sensitive, from lack of use, nerves in your foot to get acclimated to being stimulated more often. This will prevent you from running one mile and then having to stop because the bottoms of your feet are stinging in pain.
- Your gait will naturally reset itself for barefooting by opening your hips, relaxing your calves and splaying your toes out as you move. These steps are vital to ensuring proper technique when you add running into the mix.
Step 1 is not optional and cannot be done in shoes like Merrels or Vibrams. You really need your feet on
the ground during this transitional phase.
Step 2: Jumping
For this phase, you have been walking barefoot for one to two weeks and you’re starting to get
comfortable with the good old ground feel. Now it’s time to add jumping. Wait, what? I thought
you said this was about barefoot running? It is, but remember - during a three mile run your body
bounces, similar to a jump. All of this injury prevention stuff is about minimizing the impact from all that
What to do:
- Stand with your arms out in front of you
- Head up, back straight and use your rear for counterweight to your arms
- Bend your knees more than you feel you should
- Squat down slightly and start to bounce lightly off the ground
- Push up with the balls of your feet and take both feet off the ground at the same time
- Land like a cat, with the proper order being; Balls of your feet, then toes and heels at the same
time landing. Keeping your calves relaxed.
- After doing that about 20 times, put your arms in running position and pump them while jogging
in place. Make sure your head is up, your hips are forward, your knees are bent and you are
landing on the balls of your feet.
Do this once a day for a week.
Step 3: Running Barefoot!
I bet you can hardly wait? If you’ve done it properly, it’s week 3 or 4. You’re about to go for your first
barefoot run. Now at this point, you can add in the minimalist or “barefoot” shoes if you want, but I
encourage you to kick your shoes off completely for at least the first run.
What to do:
- Find a gravel patch. You might think it is crazy to do this, but a nice rocky gravel patch is the
perfect place to learn barefoot running. It forces you to try to find that perfect stride that
minimizes the impact the painful gravel will have if you land on your heels or on your toes.
- Start with some simple jogs back and forth about 100M in length. Keep your head up, toes up
and back straight.
- Bend your knees. Biggest thing to remember! You will feel the difference in your impact
immediately. You have two huge shock absorbers built in, use them.
- Think light. You are a ninja and nobody can hear you coming.
- Use your lean to adjust your speed. Completely upright you’re going slow, leaning forward from
the legs you are running faster. Remember though that your feet should land under you, not
in front of you. The counterintuitive nature of this throws a lot of people off. It should feel like
your feet are falling from behind you.
- Focus your eyes on the horizon, don’t look down too often it will mess up your form and make
you a bit goofy. Imagine a guy running at you full speed looking straight down? No hunchbacks
- While focused on the horizon, make a note of how much movement up and down you can see
and work hard to make it as little as possible by bending your knees and not pushing yourself
too much vertically. The net effect will feel more like you are stepping to the next spot instead
of jumping to it.
- Focus on a high turnover. Baby steps people. Elite runners typically have turnovers of 190 steps
per minute. You want to focus on at least 180. I recommend you use a foot pod for this though
as metronomes can cause you to hit the pavement too hard and mess up your gait trying to be
a perfect machine.
So now that you’ve run barefoot, how did you like it? From here there are three paths to incorporating
barefooting into your training.
- You can run barefoot full-time. Not for everyone and could result in your slow descent from
society because you never wear shoes.
- You run barefoot once a week. This is what most people will end up doing. It’s great and it will
make your shod running better too.
- You run barefoot in minimalist shoes. This is a great way to mix both, but you probably still
want to kick off the shoes every once in a while and recalibrate your gait just to make sure you
haven’t slipped into old habits.
Last tip, the main benefit of running barefoot is eliminating the heel strike, which is a byproduct of
cushioned running shoes and the main cause of running injuries. Do not heel strike barefoot, it will hurt.
Chances are you don’t need this tip because your brain will do it for you, but you’ve been warned. Good
luck in your training and I hope you found this guide helpful!
For suggested minimalist running shoes, visit the minimalist section of our website: