Monday 4 July 2011

Who shouldn't run barefoot?

I was recently asked if there was anyone for whom barefoot running is not suitable and it got me thinking. First of all, it's always advisable to get checked out by your GP if you're thinking of trying barefoot running, particularly if you have an existing medical issue.

Aside from that though, is there anybody who just really shouldn't run barefoot?

My contact and experience with barefoot runners is that the majority are a very relaxed bunch of people. They take life as it comes, focusing on enjoyment and giving and not really worrying about what other people think of them. Conversely, those struggling with barefoot running and finding themselves with injuries tend to be quite driven people who want to achieve quick results.

My intial response then to the question of suitability was that people who are unable to adapt their mentality to being a bit more chilled out are perhaps not best suited to barefoot running. It requires so much patience and perseverance. There is an absolute necessity to stop and rest if any niggles arise and a continous and honest acknowledgement of the state of your body and the willingness to rest is essential.

Having thought about this further, if I am honest, I should admit that I am one of those driven runners who really don't want to have to stop because their body tells them to. As a consequence to this mental attitude, I have had more niggly problems associated with barefoot running than David, for example, who is happy to run but equally happy to sit and watch tv! His transition to barefoot running was seamless - he literally took it in his stride and has had no problems whatsoever. Yes, he started from an advantageous place with his background in martial arts and dance giving him a natural, flowing way of moving, but it must be recognised that his laid back approach to it all has been a real bonus.

So, did I rule myself out of the barefoot running game due to my "stressy" nature? Absolutely not! In fact, it's because I don't like to give up on something that I have maintained my barefoot running and........I was going to say "conquered" it but I think it's actually the other way around. Barefoot running for me has been, and continues to be, both a physical and mental exploration, so that as I continually tweak my movement patterns to create better flow and efficiency, I'm also more aware of having relaxed my attitude towards it all and letting my body lead the way a bit more rather than allowing my obstinate mind to constantly override it.

So, is the answer then that barefoot running is for everyone and that it can teach you how to become a more complete runner? I think it probably is. I do maintain that a person needs to be willing to participate on a more spiritual level and some people can tap into this capacity more easily than others. But we can all find that part of ourselves eventually if we take the time to look for it.

So, my conclusion is that no one should be ruled out. The ones who are stressed out and find the transition the hardest are probably the ones that need it the most!

Happy barefoot running - EVERYONE!


  1. Diabetics should be very careful as they can get neural damage, particularly to their feet, which means they can't feel any trauma that might be going on. They often suffer with foot ulcers and can lose toes, but they tend to be the poorly controlled diabetics.

    Simon Reach

  2. Yes, anyone with any kind of peripheral neuropathy should be careful. It's useful for sufferers to be barefoot in a safely prepared environment as it will improve the circulation which is a good thing. David's client with diabetes is fine being barefoot but as you say, his diabetes is under control. It's worth noting that there is research to suggest that type two diabetes can be reversed, or at least controlled, without drugs if the appropriate diet and regular exercise are followed.

    My point was to address the mental issues and as stated, anyone with existing medical issues must follow the advice of their practioner.

  3. People undergoing bariatric surgery have been 'cured' of their diabetes in-fact. Having said that, T2DM suffers, in my experience, can be some of the most difficult to control, but, they are also the least likely to go running, never mind barefoot running...

  4. Thanks for the good post Anna. Ironically, I suspect that many of those people who find it hard to slow down are actually like that because they don't go barefoot enough :)

  5. Absolutely Aranya. I originally tried barefoot running for its biomechanical benefits and these are what the media focus on. I have really enjoyed the other effects as well though - connecting with nature, being more aware of what's going on around me, having a more rounded approach to life. I still enjoy pushing myself - it's not all about mellowing out and slowing down. It's about the balance!

  6. I would say barefoot running is a very 'zen' way of running. I find that it promotes mindfulness since you have to be constantly aware of the terrain, foot placement, and how your feet and body are feeling. If you drift out of the present moment and start thinking about that presentation you've got to give tomorrow, that's when you start to hurt your feet. Those sharp stones soon bring you back to the now!

  7. I came from the sport of Bicycle Road Racing & had extremely atrophied feet & after over 750,000 miles in the sadddle the bipedal posture of a perminatly bent over cyclist when trying to run! I tried running in shoes only to come home in apin all the time. 6 mo of that sent me researching how Ultra Runners log so many miles painlessly. That was when I began to meet Barefoot runners who were running marathons & beyond pain free. I became a convert 4 yrs ago this month. It's been a long road in regard to building enough foot, leg & hip health to run the kinds of mileage that could simulate what I was used to on the bike. I now run up to 54 miles on a Saturday & commute 14 miles a day M-F back & forth to work. My weeks are 85-125 mpw yr round. I will share that I did develop a nueroma in my right foot last winter & discovered I was low in B12. I also researched & found a formula to not just raise my B12 levels but regenerated the nerve sheath damage to that foot. I recommended this same formula to my father in law who was a diabetic & unable to walk due to extreme nueropathy of both feet & am haapy to share that he is both no longer diabetic & his feet have returned to healthy & pain free. You can friend me on Facebook by searching for: Erskien Lenier if you know someone that needs nueropathy support. I can help them. In a final note: This article is spot on! I'm living proof that Barefoot running teaches patience & perseverence! Anyone can do it & love it. You just have to surrender to becoming a "Student to your Steps!"