Over the last couple of years, I have heard every reason that follows the phrase, “I can’t run barefoot because…”.  So, here are the Top 10 reasons people give for not giving barefoot running a try and my responses. Enjoy!

1.You’re feet will get dirty. There is an invention called soap.  I hear it works wonders on dirt.

2.It will hurt. Heel striking in conventional running shoes shocks almost every bone in your body.  Heel striking without shoes hurts even more.  The solution is to learn good form and don’t heel strike.

3.Have you been out there! There are needles and glass strewn all over the sidewalk. Go outside and look. Unless you live in a really bad part of town, the likelihood is there are more needles and glass in your imagination than on the streets.

4.OK, so there are no needles and piles of broken glass, but what about rocks and dog-poop! In the event that there are big scary rocks or dog poop on the sidewalk, take comfort that they usually don’t move very fast. I believe that in all things, the Universe got there first and solved the problem.  They are called eyes.  Look where you are going and don’t run on/in/through whatever is nasty in your path.

5.People will think I am strange. Abraham Lincoln (whilst quoting the poet Lydgate) once said:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

Likelihood is, someone out there will think you are strange regardless on what you have on your feet.

6.We weren’t designed to run without shoes. Take your kid [insert your closest relation under the age of 10 here] to the local Indoor Play-centre.  Watch them. I will guarantee that every child running around, is running with fantastic form. No one taught them how to run. If they can run with perfect form and NO shoes, why can’t you?

7.I am not structurally designed to run without shoes. It is poor taste to refer to your self in response to an argument, but I never claim to be tasteful.  I have crazy toes and screwed up ankles. Whilst running in shoes, I was running with the form the shoes wanted me to have and I was broken within months.  When I started running barefoot I allowed my body to run the way it wanted to.  Some people do have severe body structure issues and may need shoes; however the majority of people probably don’t have this excuse.

8.I pronate – I can’t run without supportive shoes. Did you know the term “over-pronation” was first coined in 1978?  1978! I am older than the medical condition that has spawned a plethora of shoes.  Did we see the caveman draw a motion-controlled shoe on the side of their walls? No, they drew themselves chasing the Antelope. People were running with various types of pronation and no support prior to 1978, You can too.

9.Modern Running shoes prevent injury. I don’t think there is a definitive scientific report that states the modern running shoe prevents injury.  I am not saying that running barefoot prevents injury either. Your chance of injury will more likely be due to previous injuries, training faults, poor form and your general physical condition.  Running barefoot quickly teaches good running form and good running form prevents injury.

10.I hear that running barefoot takes time to get right, I don’t want to start back at the beginning. Fair point.  When you start barefoot running you have to start from scratch. Running barefoot teaches you to run well and it teaches you quickly. As in all things, taking time to learn your craft has its benefits.  Use this time to re-evaluate your running priorities.  Do you want to run when you are 80 and finally qualify for Boston? Do you want to race that marathon and look like you are not even trying?  If the answer is yes, then chill for just a little while. Remember that life has more to offer than PBs and the latest gadgets. Life can also offer a lifetime of running well.

So, what are you waiting for? Use the Internet for what it was designed for.  Search for sites that teach good running form and take those shoes off!

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  • Paul Barker says:

    thanks you. This is like a breath of fresh air! i will renew.

  • Kate Kift says:

    Thanks Paul. I appreciate the comments.

  • Colin says:

    What a great summation!! I particularly enjoy the Boston marathon reference… I am now 49 and before this year I never would have considered such distances to be within real scope for me. At a personal high (this summer) of 17.8 miles, now I contemplate.

  • Ben A says:

    Regarding over-pronation, my barefoot running has actually corrected this, and shin splints as well.

  • What a pleasure to learn this article !! Cheers.. Thank you Kate !…

  • That’s good… thing change!
    Love your #8 argument!
    And can precise your #9 : there is NO definitive scientific report that states the modern running shoe prevents injury.
    Baise (therunningclinc.com)

  • Darren says:

    Excellent column. I especially liked this line: “In the event that there are big scary rocks or dog poop on the sidewalk, take comfort that they usually don’t move very fast.”

    Still laughing about that one.

    I am a professional reflexologist in California and avid barefoot hiker and an occasional barefoot runner (25-30 miles a month). I spoke on the health benefits of getting in more barefoot time earlier this year in New Zealand. You can browse my booklet, “Barefoot Energetics,” at this URL:


    I prepared “Barefoot Energetics” for the presentation in NZ.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Hugo says:

    I started running barefoot in March 2011, after a year in “barefoot” shoes (Vibram 5-fingers). When you observe how much your feet expand and move when you are barefoot, you wonder why you crushed them into shoes and ran along as though you had lumps of wood at the ends of your legs.
    As Kate says, suddenly you have to keep your eyes open, but suddenly the injuries just disappear!

  • Stephen says:

    I want to get serious about barefoot running, but there is just one problem (I’m talking to you, other Canadians)…

    What do you do when it is -30 outside? Or to be fair — even -5? And the ground is covered with snow?

    That’s tricky in any book, and I have yet to hear satisfactory solutions to the problem….

    • Kate Kift says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Unfortunately I don’t think there is an ideal solution to our winter conditions. I wish there was because I would write a book and make millions – okay, enough to buy an expensive coffee.

      Running barefoot during a Canadian winter does mean compromises.

      You can either go indoors and run barefoot on a treadmill. This is a big saviour for many barefoot runners. Just be aware that the running technique is different on a treadmill.

      You could find an indoor track that allows you to run barefoot (unfortunately this is rare).

      You could accept the situation and wear minimalist shoes. To be fair, winter running in minimalist shoes (especially on icy paths), can be helpful in perfecting your form. I actually found a winter of minimalist trail running on ice made my form better. You have to really concentrate on your form otherwise you will meet the trail head-first. Remember, “Shoes as Tools” is acceptable 😉

      You can run barefoot in the snow and ice. I managed a -7C run with ice and snow, BUT I did accept that my run would be short. I paid very special attention to how my feet were feeling. If it seemed that my feet were losing sensation, then the shoes went back on. I also refuse to run on a surface that has been laid with rock-salt.

      I am sorry I have no magic answer. We just have to accept that where we live has it’s hindrances. Our goal should be to work around them as much as possible.

  • Brian says:

    Yes, of course It’s natural to run barefoot. But it’s not natural to run (barefoot) on concrete, too much shock on your body. In nature we run on softer surfaces. That’s a problem in the modern world.

    • Kate Kift says:

      Hi Brian,

      It’s actually a misconception that surfaces like concrete are hard to run on. In fact they are some of the easiest surfaces to learn how to run barefoot. It is actually recommended you learn to run barefoot on hard, flat surfaces before transitioning to softer surfaces like grass or sand.

      It’s all to do with proprioception. Your body will instinctively alter your running style to accomodate the surface you are running on.

      If you are running on a harder surface, you will find your cadence will increase, your stride will shorten and as a consequence the level of impact will change – it’s all to do with forces and you can’t change the laws of physics 😉

      It’s recommended that you start running on harder surfaces because your body will gain the full range of proprioception and therefore will instinctive allow your form to alter quicker. If you train on softer surfaces, your landing will be harder as the body tries to gain the feedback it needs. This is why the landing in cushioned shoes is heavier than a barefoot strike – your body is trying to gain the sensations it requires to understand where it is.

      I am fairly sure that the surfaces in neolithic times weren’t soft spongy grass for as far as the eye can see. I am sure that there was harder and harsher surfaces than concrete; neolithic man just allowed his body to naturally alter his gait in response to the terrain he was running.

  • willyhurl says:

    Well written an informative. I find it interesting that most barefoot runners are compelled to explain why they do it an why everyone else should too. I wear shoes, I appreciate the barefoot runners perspective, but I’m not going to try and debate them into wearing shoes. You will also note that practically all the reponses to this type of blog topic will come in the form of agreement from barefoot runners.

    Happy running!

  • ctrunner21 says:

    Barefoot running takes some time to get used to. I enjoy wearing my vibrams to the gym when I lift or when I go out for shorter run but if I am going for a long run I do prefer sneakers. At first my legs fatigued more quickly and my feet hurt while running for a while but once you get the correct running form down, running without shoes is very comfortable. I have also noticed that the muscles in my legs have become more toned and I don’t fatigue as quickly.

  • Kate Kift says:

    Hi Willy,

    Yeah, we do always seem to explain ourselves don’t we? I guess, this article was more of a case of “Don’t let the mis-conceptions you have stop you”, instead of “everyone must run barefoot”. I can see how it could be viewed though.

    I actually am not a Barefoot Purist. I frankly don’t care what you wear on your feet. I am more of a believer of “Good Form” vs. Running Barefoot. I do maintain that running Barefoot is probably one of the best ways of gaining and maintaining good form, but it isn’t essential.

    You’re right that most responses to this article and this blog will be other Barefoot runners, but I think that’s natural for ALL Blogs. Like minds draw like minds and pretty much in most blogs the comments you receive are more validations than criticism.

    I like to see my role here as education. Showing how to run barefoot if you chose to. How to do it so you don’t hurt yourself and providing resources that allow you choice.

  • Gerald says:

    Okay – I did a Marathon about 8 years ago (in shoes) and the training and event nearly wrecked me. It also soured me on running. Now I find myself turning to a more Primal / Paleo type of lifestyle which encourages vibrams and barefoot stuff. Your advice for an overweight almost 40 year old dude who now *hates* (due to previous bad juju) running but wants to work on proper form? Start with walking and hiking? I’m not sure if the heel-strike thing you’re talking about works the same if you’re walking.

    Loved the post!


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