The Reality of Barefoot Running Shoes

by Sarah FitnessComments: 93

It’s been almost three months since I purchased my first pair of barefoot running shoes.  I wrote about my 2 year search for a the perfect pair that weren’t over the top expensive and weird looking in my post from June titled Are Barefoot Running Shoes Hype?

I promised to update you all about how I liked my new shoes in the upcoming weeks, and since this is the last official summer weekend of 2012, I thought it appropriate to give you the scoop right about now.

The bottom line?  I love my barefoot runners!  These shoes really do give you a connection with the ground that is sorely missing from typical athletic shoes.

I took them with me on our summer trip to Alaska and Canada and found them nothing short of awesome for all sorts of activities:  long distance walking, hiking, rock climbing, and even zip lining from the treetops as you really do feel balanced and secure wearing them.

I wore my barefoot shoes as much as possible for the two weeks before I left for vacation to get used to them as recommended by the manufacturer.

I did not experience much if any soreness or problems adjusting.  While wearing barefoot shoes for athletic activities definitely felt strange at first, it certainly wasn’t uncomfortable and during those early days of adjustment, I always stopped right away if I felt like I was going to overdo it and injure myself.

We go barefoot year round at my house as do many people in Florida, so it really did surprise me how long it took me to adjust to these shoes despite being used to barefoot living for most of my life.

Observation: walking around your house all day long barefoot is quite a different thing from doing something athletic wearing barefoot shoes!

The Downside to Barefoot Shoes

Now, for the nitty gritty.

Despite the fact that I really enjoy my barefoot shoes and find them very comfortable and even pleasurable for all sorts of athletic activities, I have just one beef to share with you:

I still can’t run in them!

I have tried and tried to get used to running in my barefoots, but I can only get to about the 1/4 mile mark before my calves and Achilles feel like they have had quite enough.  I always stop and don’t push it at that point because I have no desire to injure myself as that would accomplish nothing in the long run.   Any athlete knows that an Achilles injury is nothing to mess around with as it takes you out of commission for an extended period of time!

I shared my frustrations with Paula Jager, the Fitness Editor for this blog, at our local food pickup this past week.

What she said shocked me.

Paula shared that it took her a full year to get to the point where she could run any appreciable distance in her barefoot shoes!

Ah ha!

So that’s the secret!

I just haven’t given the whole thing enough time.

I guess this makes sense.  Having been active my whole life and participated in a wide variety of sports and outdoor activities, my leg muscles have good muscle tone and getting them to stretch to the point where the muscle tone is equivalent in barefoot mode is going to take quite a bit of effort and time.

I think if I wasn’t a very active person, I ironically would have had an easier time adjusting to running in barefoot shoes as my calves and Achilles would not have good tone in the unnatural shortened position which occurs over time when you wear typical athletic shoes.

So those of you who are just starting out with running and haven’t really done much in the past, I think you will have an easier time with barefoot shoes than I have.   Don’t be discouraged by what I’ve experienced!

Based on Paula’s advice, I am back to wearing my barefoots for running again after nearly giving up on the idea some weeks ago.  I am alternating my barefoots with my conventional runners and am giving it until next summer to fully convert over.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (93)

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    December 29th, 2013 8:34 pm Reply
  • Zerocamber

    I saw on the vivobarefoot site that most people tend to run incorrectly even after switching to barefoot. Not sure i’m a fan of some of those knee over toe squats, but could give it a try. I think ultimately the thing that i found most interesting about training in general is how important range of motion is and correcting it. Hip alignment as well as chest and shoulders. I’m no expert but i started using the Assess and Correct tools i found online and it really does make you think about how unbalanced your body gets from day to routine and even from improper training. hope this helps I just wish the program was cheaper

    August 23rd, 2013 9:44 pm Reply
  • jaelle

    I can’t run at all, unless I’m barefooted, ie no shoes at all.
    My Merrell barefoots are the only shoes I’ve found in the last 10 years I can happily keep on all day.

    August 21st, 2013 9:57 pm Reply
  • Divya


    The shoes in the picture – what brand is it??

    May 8th, 2013 1:36 pm Reply
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  • John Francis

    I had given up on running a few years ago, but since happened across the barefoot trend. I haunted a few websites that regularly offer discounts on NB, Merrells and Vibrams until I had enough shoes to get through most days wearing nothing else. After reading Cristopher McDougal’s book “Born to Run”, I got inspired to run again. Perhaps the fact that I wear barefoot shoes all day meant that there was no issue brought on by the shoes themselves. However, assuming one eases into a somewhat consistent routine of wearing them, I would venture a guess that you may need to study barefoot running a bit before you really go for it. Watch YouTube videos on barefoot methods, Pose method, etc. Like anything physical that you try, it takes some time to feel your way through it until it becomes natural. My calves hurt quite a bit after the first few times I ran, but I settled into a style and stride that worked. My mind was constantly comparing what I had seen and read with what my feet and legs were doing as I moved along. I would definitely suggest: 1-Study, 2-Acclimate to the shoes other than just putting them on for a run, 3-Start slowly and stick to non-paved running areas, trails and grass.

    September 9th, 2012 2:45 am Reply
  • Carmen

    I 2nd that Mark.

    September 5th, 2012 10:19 am Reply
  • Mark Felton via Facebook

    Barefoot running shoes sounds like an oxymoron

    September 5th, 2012 6:39 am Reply
  • Renee

    It’s great to see another discover barefoot running. As a Registered Massage Therapist in Vancouver BC Canada I have a large population of runners that I work with. Have you considered adding some manual therapy of some form to your training regimen ? Myofascial Release, Intermuscular Stimulation (IMS) or Myofascial Stretch Therapy (MST) would all greatly help you gain the length in your lower leg & hips needed to run barefoot. Adaptation does take time however, Most people are unable to switch from a traditional shoe into a minimal shoes cold turkey. Slowly give your ligaments, tendons, joints & muscles the time to get stronger, after all that is the whole point of barefoot running. You are allowing your body to work the way nature intended and shock absorb the forces generated while running. Stick with it, it gets better! Doug’s post had some great strengthening exercises : ) If you are having a really difficult time transitioning find a running clinic or someone who does gait analysis, most runners could use a few adjustments to their technique.

    September 2nd, 2012 10:31 am Reply
  • Sarah

    @Missy Sorry to have stepped on your “toes” I actually read the article and some of the comments directly below which do not mention the 5 finger running shoes. And yes they’re called that. :-)

    September 2nd, 2012 10:16 am Reply
    • missy

      Nice try… Cause what normal folks (non plants) would do before asking that question was read the thread – all of five minutes – half the threads speak of the five finger sneakers – those before your posts and after – surely you get each email?

      September 2nd, 2012 10:25 am Reply
      • Sarah

        You actually don’t get the comments from before your posts….!

        September 2nd, 2012 10:35 am Reply
        • Missy

          Phoebe posted after your first post she mentioned five fingers. You could of asked her. Or again, just read the thread.
          You can fool and convince others – but I am just disappointed at how this thread is run, and that bloggers would cajole readers in this manner – I will not be posting here anymore (maybe – I too could be a plant)

          September 2nd, 2012 10:45 am Reply
  • Sarah

    I actually thought these barefoot running shoes were a passing trend. Now I’m tempted to try them out. Has anyone tried those 5 finger running shoes? They look weird, but I wonder if they’re any good?

    September 2nd, 2012 9:25 am Reply
  • Doug Baumber

    I was a distance runner pre modern shoes. I ran 10 mile every night at 5 minute mile pace in a pair of shoes that were a thin flat rubber sole on light cloth. The trick was always running on your forefoot so natural shock absorption occurred. The new shoes came out and they re trained us to heel plant. Within a week I had serious knee problems- modern running shoes increases shock through teh knees and back according to research. What u need for barefoot type shoes is a well developed tibialis anterior excreta to maintain the foot arch . don’t just walk about- walk on ur tippy toes and practice bouncing up and down on ur forefoot. ie if in line at the bank make use of the time. and at the gym resting between sets. pick up weights and walk about on tippy toes

    September 2nd, 2012 4:16 am Reply
  • Doug Baumber

    I was a distance runner pre modern shoes. I ran 10 mile every night at 5 minute mile pace in a pair of shoes that were a thin flat rubber sole on light cloth. The trick was always running on your forefoot so natural shock absorption occurred. The new shoes came out and they re trained us to heel plant. Within a week I had serious knee problems- modern running shoes increases shock through teh knees and back according to research. What u need for barefoot type shoes is a well developed tibialis anterior excreta to maintain the foot arch . don’t just walk about- walk on ur tippy toes and practice bouncing up and down on ur forefoot. ie if in line at the bank make use of the time. and at the gym resting between sets. pick up weights and walk about on tippy toes

    September 2nd, 2012 4:16 am Reply
  • Phoebe

    I bought my first Vibram five fingers almost a year ago. I wanted to start barefoot running, and the two books I read said to actually run barefoot as the soles of your feet will keep you from going too far too fast as the VFFs do. I have had to take it very, very slow, to the point of just focusing on barefoot walking. It is taking a long time for my left arch to adjust. Just today, I went on a barefoot hike for an hour. I am getting used to walking on gravel, and this is after a year of on and off barefooting. I’m hoping that next year, I will actually be able to run barefoot without any arch pain. It’s easy to run barefoot on sidewalks. Yes, you do get blisters at first, but that’s just your foot letting you know you are doing too much at once. Focus on barefoot walking first, then transition into barefoot running. It’s agonizingly slow, but so freeing when you can actually do it without any shoes at all!

    September 2nd, 2012 1:27 am Reply
  • Ray

    Running with a heel strike is awful and anyone running for any period of time should learn to correct this. Even if they don’t buy barefoot runners, they can simply go to a park or local school football or soccer field. Run medium sprints barefooted and heel strikes will not be a problem – a person will naturally not do it, at least not more than once.

    Then it’s just a matter of time as noted in the post for the legs to catch up strength wise.

    September 2nd, 2012 12:00 am Reply
  • Becca

    I have been wearing my barefoot shoes for about 6 months, in my Mmaxout and Krav maga classes. I absolutely love them too! I would not recommend for activities that require lots of spin-like movement (such as karate). I am able to get the feeling of connecting with the ground that I desire, while keeping my feet fairly clean and safe. Oh, and I prefer not wearing socks with them (I use a shoe deodorizer spray periodically).

    September 1st, 2012 10:07 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    Hi Sarah, I know that this is completely off topic but I want to thank you for challenging and encouraging so many of us to do more research on a variety of topics. You also allow room for each family to do what they need to. You encourage for families to do what they are able to afford. You give us a place to start. Even if it is grocery store chicken it is still closer to real food than chicken nuggets!

    September 1st, 2012 8:45 pm Reply
    • missy

      This last comment, the “off topic” one seems like a plant. like sarah wrote it herself (or had someone do it). Most blogs have plants that make posts every once in a while, that speak so highly of the blog host. It is a biznes after all…
      Film and literary people do this all the time :( :(
      And no, I’m not just hatin I’m just sayin…

      September 1st, 2012 9:39 pm Reply
      • jill

        Funny, I didn’t think that at all about that post. It seemed quite normal to me, complete with a sentence error. Plus, I did agree with what the poster said. I do find myself delving further into a topic. Sometimes I’m so busy, I think, darn it, now I have to check this out. I won’t feel happy until I do. It’s usually worth it.
        And no, I’m not a plant either.

        September 1st, 2012 10:55 pm Reply
        • missy

          The idea is, to get you to agree with the plant/post. It’s intent was to offset the recent comments regarding her lack of thourough investigating of the subjects she posts. Bloggers do it all the time. They have complete control over who’s who and what’s what. Some bloggers have whole conversations with themselves with 4 or five made up people (and one or two to disagree).
          It’s a living, worse things have happened. I actually think it is hysterical. 😀

          September 1st, 2012 11:01 pm Reply
          • jill

            Well, even if your right, I didn’t see anyone dissenting, or accusing her of not putting in more references. It is a blog after all. All I see from this post is her relating her experience, and the commenters sharing their experiences. Some have more knowledge than others on this particular topic, and it’s nice to hear everyones experiences from all levels. For example, I’d never heard of the contrail thing mentioned by a commenter, and so I went off looking for info on that. I figure if I learn something, even if it had nothing to do with the original topic I’m a bit further ahead. I like learning and researching new things. Plant or not, it doesn’t affect me one way or another.

            September 2nd, 2012 12:47 am
          • missy

            Hey jill – perhaps you are a plant. ??? Did you see the latest “sarah comment” – innocently asking if anyone has tried the five finger shoe – the whole darn thread has plenty of people speaking about it. Strange…. BTW Why don’t they call it the FIVE TOE instead (it’s not a glove)?

            September 2nd, 2012 9:53 am
  • Tami Berman

    It took me almost 18 months to fully adjust. I also switched back and forth between minimalist and regular at first and then decided it was confusing my running form so just stuck with the minimlist shoes. At first I only ran on soft surfaces and the track for short workouts and relied on cross training to get a full workout in, like swimming or biking. It’s been two years now and my running is so much better. I can always run on pavement now and have gone up to 8 miles. I always have to stretch my calves and achilles really well afterwards and my feet were very stiff and achy for a long time in the beginning. I run in Terra Plana’s vivo barefoot evo’s. I think what also really helped was wearing birkenstock sandals in between my running. I also got Birkenstock Footprints shoes for colder weather and dressier looks.

    September 1st, 2012 6:49 pm Reply
  • Esther Mandelheim Elliott via Facebook

    Soft Star Shoes, anyone?

    September 1st, 2012 5:26 pm Reply
  • Luke Brennan

    I’ve been wearing Vibrams for a couple of years now and love them!
    I train Tabata and Crossfit style programs (outdoors only) and the Vibrams provide that ‘just enough’ protection from any nasties hiding in the grass and sand, to that fantastic ‘foot to earth’ connection and balance that, i think, is so important when doing plyometric and compound exercises.
    Foot, ankle, heel, achilles, lower and upper leg and even core all benefit with such grounding engagement – that results in improved balance, strength and agility for everyday movement.
    As far as running in concerned, i tend to do sprint sessions (mostly up hills) only and the Vibrams prove again to be the perfect partner – the foot strike is the upper mid part of the foot and causes no stressful impact at all.

    September 1st, 2012 4:05 pm Reply
  • Karen

    I Love my FiveFingers . Told by podiatrist 2yrs ago the only help for my difficult healing broken ankle was to use advil and orthotics and stop wearing my Birks, I knew there was a better way than to be drugged and patronized/disrespected as simply a “complaining old woman”. Read Born to Run, and bought the Virbrams, and used them, walking and jogging eventually, and problem solved. My ankle regained its strength and flexibility. I am 65, and these shoes help me feel youthful, strong, balanced and I will never go back to regular shoes.

    September 1st, 2012 3:18 pm Reply
  • Katherine K.

    All of you who run barefoot—-Have you ever thought about all the chemtrail spray that falls down and the absorption of it into the soles of your feet? I know some families that do not let their children walk barefoot because of this? Just asking!
    There is a video titled, “What in the world are they spraying?” This is on youtube in case anyone is interested.
    I always ran barefoot when I was younger, but now wear running shoes.

    September 1st, 2012 2:55 pm Reply
    • Carmen

      Katherine, this is a good point, however… we can become a fanatic and allow our mind to cause us to become a hermit. I have known some that have literally researched themselves to death. I believe there’s truth to… what we think about, we bring about. This fear of environmental toxins gives us even more reason to detox our body regularly, like we change the oil in our vehicle. And, making the wonderful fermented foods and drinks that Sarah teaches. My 6 y/o godchild walks barefoot with me after dinner – she does not stop asking until we go. The simple pleasures like when we were children… this is truly what they love. If only we could take them for a ride in the back of a truck 😉

      September 2nd, 2012 10:55 am Reply
  • Laura N.

    Does anybody know of a brand of minimal shoe that is NOT treated with antimicrobial stuff? I don’t like the idea of those toxins entering the body from the feet, one of the best absorption sites. I have a pair of Merrell shoes that I love, but I do worry about the chemicals.

    September 1st, 2012 2:07 pm Reply
  • Linda Stromsvold Eliya via Facebook

    I love my Vibrams. It definitely has taken me time to build up my strength but I am finally able to run 3 miles. I switched cold turkey. I tried to swap in my old running sneakers once and I couldn’t stand them.

    September 1st, 2012 1:54 pm Reply
  • Tricia

    I just bought some vibram 5 fingers after buying 2 pairs of the Merrell pace gloves and wearing them for a few months. The merrells are the all-purpose shoe and the vibrams I got are specifically for running. My feet/toes are really messed up. My toes point to the angle instead of straightforward, and I’ve always had to wear arch support. So, after a few weeks, I am still getting used to the 5 fingers. I love my pace gloves but I don’t think they are necessarily preferred running shoes. However, I was doing a running class at the YMCA last week and wore my 5 fingers for the first time to it. I thought- well here goes nothing. Once I got going, I realized how they actually were designed to push you forward with minimal effort. I was outpacing everyone else in the class! I wasn’t even pushing that hard. I did get tired though, because I live in South Texas and its still humidly hot here and my heart was pounding with all the hills. So I got tired from that but running in those felt awesome! Even though my feet are so messed up. Anyway, just adding my experiences to the mix.

    September 1st, 2012 1:30 pm Reply
  • jill

    Whoops, sorry, forgot the link for that particular website.

    September 1st, 2012 12:58 pm Reply
  • Sarah Tudor via Facebook

    Live my shoes!! Except I would have loved some that looked like yours mine are the toe kind…. I hope you enjoyed your time in Alaska, my home!!!

    September 1st, 2012 12:54 pm Reply
  • Laura

    I would love to try these shoes out, but I have 2 problems that I was wondering if anyone has had experience with. I have orthotics for pronating arches. With out them (and trust me I love going bear foot) my feet and knees and back ache. I used to be a life guard and was barefoot a lot. My feet were always sore when I wasn’t wearing my shoes and orthotics.

    Also when I was a kid I had stitches on the knuckle of my big toe. The join capsule or sac was also injured and never healed properly. It looks like i have a bunion on my foot, but it is just because of the joint injury. This also aches when I don’t wear supportive shoes. Would barefoot shoes be helpful for someone like me? I have really wide feet and I find I wear out even the widest of shoes.


    September 1st, 2012 12:42 pm Reply
    • jill

      Laura- sorry, I don’t have much experience. What you might try it going to a shoe store, or online place like Zappos where shipping both ways is free. Buying a pair of shoes with lift out inserts. See if your inserts would work. All the shoes I mentioned in my previous response all have removable inserts. So far I haven’t needed to change them as my pronations seem okay. I do plan to go to a local shoestore where they will check your gait. You might want to try something similar to the brooks green silence. Those are not quite 100% minimalist. There are a few other brands that are good, but I’m totally drawing a blank on that. You might want to read up on minimalist and barefoot shoes, and see the differences. There seems to be a total explosion of these shoes coming out now, and it can be confusing. Here’s one that I googled, not sure if it can help, but reading about the height, uses, weight might help. I picked one out of the right column and it seemed to have a lot of info. Although the internet has a ton of info.

      September 1st, 2012 12:57 pm Reply
  • Glad

    I love mine too. I can do about two miles in them, and when I switch back to my regular runner, I get really sore.

    September 1st, 2012 12:41 pm Reply
  • Stephanie Renee Peña via Facebook

    You scared me…I thought you were gonna bash bare foot running! Glad you like it – I love it although I don’t run, I hike the Rockie Mountains.

    September 1st, 2012 12:37 pm Reply
  • jill

    For the girl with the “tons” of kids. I thought people stared at us a lot, we were “that” family on the corner. We homeschooled, and well, didn’t follow the norm. Once people got to know us, that helped a lot. Like, they realized I was not judging them for their choices and they came around. Eventually letting their kids out of jail to play with ours. My kids were eventually popular around the neighborhood, and my house somehow became the “refuge” or the place to go. I disliked it and loved it, love/hate thing.
    In your case, I’m surprised the police have not made any suggestions on how to deal with false accusations like this. This should be noted in their files on how many calls there are.
    I’d call up the desk/police and tell them your case, the scenario, and ask them for suggestions on what you can possibly do to avoid tieing up police man hours, and reaching some solutions. Might not help, but worth a try. I like the other suggestions also.
    Hope you can reach a resolution with this, like life isn’t difficult enough.
    I’d love if you were my neighbor!

    September 1st, 2012 12:26 pm Reply
  • jill

    I love the barefoot shoes, and the pace dasher is on my list of wants. I’m not even a runner. My calves are looking much more toned, and my shoes have helped in my recovery from an illness that left me weak. Of course, bone broth and other things get credit too.
    I do wear other shoes, like the J-41’s dash mesh and Jambu. Not all say they are minimalist, but I could definitely tell the difference. Patagonia have some that are minimalist, but don’t look like it. I guess it’s the differential heights. There are many mid range shoes. My Brooks green silence were the best for break in. And at 6 oz. I love the weight.
    Oh, just wanted to mention, I’m no athlete, am 55, with a 3 1/2 yr old in my home, and lots of other grandkids that don’t realize that the word grandma means you can’t or shouldn’t be running and playing like your 30. Despite setbacks, I try hard, and will try to surf again next summer.

    September 1st, 2012 12:21 pm Reply
  • Catherine

    The super achy calves lasted about 3 weeks for me when I started running barefoot and with minimalist shoes (Merrell Pace Gloves). I would run about 30 minutes at a time every other day, just going at a pace that felt good (not even sure of what that early milage is). You are building up muscles that you haven’t really been using before, so you have to take it slow. I can see a hardcore runner taking a year to get back up to their hardcore time, but for normal recreational runners, I think a few months is more like it, as long as you don’t push your body and injure yourself. Also try running in place barefoot focusing on your form. :)

    September 1st, 2012 12:08 pm Reply
  • Kira

    I find this really interesting. I’m actually reluctantly switching to running with shoes. After 3 years of attempting to run barefoot and injuring myself EVERYTIME I’ve come to the realization that if I want to run, I’m going to need a good pair of shoes. I do everything else barefoot and do all my sports activities in VFF’s and I have for years, but I cannot run. So discouraging. I’m so glad that you love it, and I hope that someday I can figure out why I can’t get it right, but until them I’m nursing my achilles back to health so I can continue training for this 10k in 4 weeks.

    September 1st, 2012 12:04 pm Reply
  • Laura Mac Neil via Facebook

    I’m considering them, but I have an old injury on the ball of my foot that needs the support of regular running shoes

    September 1st, 2012 11:37 am Reply
  • Adam Brushaber via Facebook

    Thanks for sharing. I too have needed a lengthy adjustment period.

    September 1st, 2012 11:32 am Reply
  • Sandi Bray via Facebook

    Excellent advice!! I loved them but really injured my calves while running. I quickly gave up running with them but didn’t realize it could take a year. Thanks!!

    September 1st, 2012 11:29 am Reply
  • Kathryn Simmons McDonald via Facebook

    I love my vibram five fingers! I got the ks2 trek that are perfect for hiking and running.

    September 1st, 2012 11:27 am Reply
  • Kelsey Jauregui via Facebook

    Have them! Love them! Hubby used to have back problems while wearing shoes but these make him feel sooo much better <3

    September 1st, 2012 11:26 am Reply
  • Oliver

    Sarah – part of the problem with trying to adjust is that you probably wear other type shoes throughout the day (and night – high heels). This back and forth could never really allow a foot to conform to one appropriate shape, and could do long term harm, damage to your foot.
    I would find one shoe that was really comfortable and effecttive and stick with that. Our feet were obviously naturally designed to be exposed to the elements and the tundra – perfectly designed, some might say, for gripping and balance. That has changed over millenium in various parts of the world – some went to straight hard shoes like clogs in the netherlands or mocasains in other parts, and there are still many regions that live completly barefoot.
    It’s not hype to say these sneakers will provide optimum performance, it’s just not practical – in that again, during the day you wear other types of shoes. Ballet dancers have these types of problems (stress fractures etc.) going from extremes.

    September 1st, 2012 11:10 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      No this is definitely not the problem. I don’t wear any shoes at all for the majority of the day and wear high heels rarely .. only for date night or other dress up occasion which is at most once a week.

      September 1st, 2012 12:27 pm Reply
      • Oliver

        Another issue that can speak to potential hype, is that no two pairs of feet are alike. Genetically, our bone structures have varied so much since we all left africa some 65,000 years ago. Some africans traveled south or east, some went up through europe and acros asia.
        Each path encountered different needs and structurally, each group adapted.
        Eskimos adapted to their regions by growing thicker hairs etc. Skin pigment had changed as a result as well – so too with feet dynamics. Then you have those who satyed in africa and they stayed the closest to mans original genetic makeup.
        An african who comes to the states today will have a different bone structure in his foot than say and asian person or someone whose lineage came by way of europe say (of course asian women had their feet bound for many ages and today many still suffer the ill effects of that, including an altered gait).
        It’s no coincidence that many african runners run barefoot. The difference in foot structure can be ever so slight, a longer bone here, a shorter one there, a different size joint connect, and so on and so forth, but the result in terms of damage can be greater.
        Everyone in america has a different lineage, and the varied responses on this blog of how they feel wearing this or that shoe is in part reflective of that.

        September 1st, 2012 1:07 pm Reply
  • Sofia


    Check out this site. My husband does the barefoot running and has read several books on the matter. Including the book by Danny Abshire. First article, front and center pertains to what you are talking about.


    September 1st, 2012 11:06 am Reply
  • Amy

    My husband and I both love our Vibram five fingers. I can’t run in anything else now! They keep me light on my toes, or balls of my feet and I just love them! My husband also has a pare of the Barefoot Merrills that he wears to work, they look nice, with brown leather — his feet hurt terribly in structured shoes. I also love my Keen slip-ons which have minimum support as well. But there is a difference in the manufacturer — I have bought cheap ballet flats at Target, etc, and those hurt my feet after being in them for a while.

    September 1st, 2012 10:56 am Reply
  • Carmen

    Sarah, first of all…. new to your site – love your work!!
    I’ve run with shoes, barefoot shoes and barefoot – barefoot was the best. I love my Vibrams when I’m not barefoot. They were also the ONLY thing that helped me recover from foot surgery. Merrell has great shoes too, but I simply do not like my toes squished. I have run a full marathon in tennis shoes, with a coach, and ruined my knees for about 2 years. I ran a half marathon by teaching myself Chi Running, rather nice. I was then up to 6 miles barefoot running for another half marathon, when I got a stress fracture. Not from running, but from gardening/shoveling with improper shoes. (That and missing 2 ribs and neck muscles caused lower extremity misalignment to the point of foot surgery). Since then I have not run regularly, but do walk barefoot each night after dinner. In running barefoot, I tried to go back to shoes one rainy day, just to have my knees hurt – this was my proof. Not only is barefoot anything grounding, it is excellent for inflammation, connects us to our genius and more. It is, as my osteopath says… what we were created for (as he walk in socks in his office). Here’s a great 3+ minute video by a doctor on barefoot walking.
    thank you for all you do

    September 1st, 2012 10:54 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Fantastic. Thank you. Will watch this.

      September 1st, 2012 11:12 am Reply
    • Oliver

      Carmen – I wasn’t sure if you meant “connects us to our genius” or genes. Both are important – this reconnecting to what is the best way structurally for our bodies. The blog topic spoke to the idea of hype – a sort of reverse hype is when I’m told that mattresses make a difference – I’m skeptical because I know that there are people all around the world with crappy mattresses (just like poor footwear) or who sleep on cots or bamboo mats or the floor even — they have zero neck and back pain issues.
      I have never seen another species with osteoporosis nor have we seen any with back or foot problems, unless they were wounded in battle or a car accident or on the race track (and none of them sleep on mattresses).
      I know of the Korowai tribe in Papua New Guinea who all live and sleep in the tallest of tree houses — on flat mats. Obviously they don’t have elevators and climbing every day for the young and old is natural and uneventful in terms of back issues ( and no footwear). I know personally, first hand, as in moi, that Sciatica comes from poor posture (siting on a couch with your feet up, for one), and lack of proper exercise, and it can be corrected without expensive chiropractic treatments, Epidural Injections, and $1000 mattresses.
      I’ve also gone camping all my life and I’ve never had a problem sleeping, aside from the occasional tree root in my spine. Did we forget that man and woman has been sleeping (and making love) and walking on terra firma for 7 million years? Any signs of spinal deformities dug up by archaeologists? Now, we have mattresses, sofas, recliners — and back issues.
      I often write about how man, modern man, “forgot” how to “live”. Maybe it’s not a matter of ‘forgetting’ how we used to live, survive, and thrive, as much as it is a dynamic of marketing that leads one to believe that if they get a certain mattress their tossing and turning and backaches will cease. For one thing, if I’m in the hole for a thousand dollars, there’ll be plenty of tossing and turning. :)
      When I do camp, I do it barefoot, and there is some serious mountain climbing involved – i just find it easier. As a city slicker it takes about five minutes to get used to the pebbles and then I’m off and running.

      September 1st, 2012 11:25 am Reply
      • Carmen

        Oliver – yes, I did mean genius, and yes, both are important 😉 Thank you. I agree with all you have to say. When I asked my osteopath doc friend what he recommended to sleep on, his first response was DIRT, then… whatever makes us comfortable. Nikola Tesla used the earths power for much – fascinates me!. Prior to asking about the bed, I had begun sleeping on the floor, about 2 weeks now. I love it. Like camping, I sleep on the ground in a tent or outside on a cot to be connected. Like you, I walk the grounds barefoot. For those with sensitive feet, it’s like learning to play the guitar. it’s also mind over matter. Interesting on the treehouse too. I have been in talks to build one at my future home away from home near Shasta. Getting back to nature helps neutralize the electroSMOG and noise pollution that many have come to accept and expect. There is no-one-size-fits-all or cause to anything, but as you know in order to survive and thrive, nature, and all it offers is THEE best medicine.

        September 1st, 2012 12:13 pm Reply
        • Oliver

          Is an amazing video about the Korowai tribe – in all their barefootness and living high in the tress – it is a short seven min video that is very engaging with beautiful footage. If you can’t cut and paste from this post or just click the link, then you can simply google Korowai tribe and there will a number of great videos documenting their existence ( without shoes and mattresses).

          September 1st, 2012 12:48 pm Reply
          • Carmen

            thank you Oliver – videos further inspires the Native American ‘prowess’ in me. The last line/comment in video says it all..
            “Their remarkable lives remind us, we are nothing without nature.”

            September 1st, 2012 2:14 pm
          • ellen

            AWESOME VIDEO!! I don’t know if I’ll throw out my mattress and sleep on the floor, but I’ll certainly smile (snicker), when I see those sleep number ads for 1,300 dollar matresses. Or the “MY PILLOW” ads

            September 1st, 2012 2:27 pm
  • Anisa

    Have you read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall? I did a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I went to his website when I first heard about the book and he has a few videos on there and one of them is a simple method to make sure that you are not using a hard heel strike in your running style. It has really helped me. I have been wearing barefoot shoes for a year now and would never go back.

    September 1st, 2012 10:49 am Reply
  • Samantha

    We love our Soft Star Shoes. What I did is ditch all my other shoes or just not wear them. My daughter and I only wear soft stars now and have for well over a year. When I decided to get active again I bought their running shoe and the transition was so much easier. So, I would suggest (not a professional opinion) making your daily shoe a barefoot shoe as well. I can definitely tell a difference in my joints. My feet don’t hurt now. When I wear “normal” shoes I trip over everything. My husband laughs at me! It is pretty funny. :) Anyway, we’ve decided to only have our daughter in minimalist shoes for now too. She’s 5 so I’ll keep her in them until her feet mature. Sorry for the long post! I think this is such a cool topic and one people don’t even really think about. I have loved reading your blog. I’m new to traditional eating so I appreciate all your insight! Thanks!

    September 1st, 2012 10:47 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I’ll never be able to do that as I still love to rock a pair of heels on occasion :)

      September 1st, 2012 11:12 am Reply
      • Samantha

        😀 Haa! I still wear them on occasion as well. I’ve gotten so used to being barefoot though, that they just don’t feel good. I have one pair of cutesy Soft Stars that I use for when I dress up. I wear these, but I have them in silver with a pink flower.

        September 1st, 2012 12:20 pm Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

          I feel nothing short of AWESOME in heels :) I love them and will never stop wearing them. My Mom is in her 80’s and still wears them :) We gotta be girls once in awhile right?

          September 1st, 2012 12:32 pm Reply
  • Lauren

    These are the reason I broke my foot. Never again.

    September 1st, 2012 10:42 am Reply
  • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

    I don’t really have brand to recommend. I’m sure they are all pretty good. I have Merrells and I got them because they were a good price and snazzy looking more than anything!! Evidently, Merrells are a decent brand though. Vibrams are good but they have the toe thing going on which didn’t appeal to me. Try a few different ones on and see which feel best to you.

    September 1st, 2012 10:41 am Reply
  • Celeia

    What brand of these shoes would you recommend? I am starting from scratch to get back into shape. This sounds like a good pair of shoes to start with.

    September 1st, 2012 10:38 am Reply
  • Laura Adams

    I have yet to check these shoes out myself but I’m so surprised that these shoes even last that long considering running even short distances! How is it possible that the material holds up after a year or even 2 years? I typically have to buy new shoes about every 6 months if I am that active in them. I’m intrigued to try them out!

    September 1st, 2012 10:34 am Reply
    • Jessica

      I was wondering the same thing!

      September 1st, 2012 11:14 am Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

        My shoes are only 3 months old.

        September 1st, 2012 12:31 pm Reply
    • Greg Gehrich

      The hype of constant rebuying of worn running shoes is on par with the wash-rinse-repeat mantra to sell more product. It’s ironic that as shoes wear, the heel cushion diminished and the body begins to compensate naturally by shifting the foot strike forward, away from the heel.

      September 11th, 2012 10:51 am Reply
  • Michael

    Have you tried running REALLY barefoot?
    Then go back to the shoes.
    It can take a few weeks running really barefoot to learn the proper form and foot strike. For many people, the so-called barefoot shoes still allow them to run poorly. There is still enough protection to allow a heel strike and other poor movements.

    September 1st, 2012 10:28 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Mmmm. Hadn’t thought of that. Definitely worth consideration. Not sure I want to deal with blistered feet on top of it all though :)

      September 1st, 2012 10:36 am Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

        I have to say, though, my foot strike is really good. I really do think the lengthy adjustment is just because my muscle tone is really good from years of athletics in conventional trainers.

        September 1st, 2012 12:28 pm Reply
        • Amy Cazin

          I crossfit and run in minimalist shoes, as well, as the vibrams 5 fingers and i have to say that they are not meant for pavement. crosstrainig with some shorter sprints on pavement, yes, but nothing over a few miles if that. They are meant for off terrain and trail type runs. I have run on both trail and pavement. Ran up to 12 miles with them off road with no problems and anything over 3 on pavement is not feeling great for me. I have run several marathons and played sports throughout my life and that is just my experience with them.

          September 5th, 2012 12:26 am Reply
        • Mountain

          I second Michael =) It’s instantaneous feedback. There is a saying, if you want to learn to sing, you wouldn’t cover your ears, right? Again, take it slow. As soon as you feel a “hot spot”, stop before blisters form. Good barefoot runners actually have objectively nice soles. At a clinic, Barefoot Ted showed us his. They looked perfectly normal, and felt soft, supple, but strong, like quality leather.

          September 5th, 2012 4:46 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Have you ever heard of Invisible Shoes? I bought a pair of these and actually wear them as my sandals. They are awesome because it really feels like you are barefoot. The gentleman that sells them runs in them. I haven’t gotten the gumption to run a full run in them yet. I have done a little and I can definitely tell the difference. I like the protection the 5 fingers offer on my feet since I run through neighborhoods where there is lots of construction.

      I was encouraged by your post today. I have running in my 5 finger for almost 8 months now. I was going to try to run in a 1/2 marathon at the end of October but I felt like my training was really taking a long time. It finally occurred to me just this week that maybe I just haven’t adjusted to my shoes. My calve muscles start yelling at me right after I start my run. I have to stop and walk for a bit and then I can start back up. But I do love running in them. i had a friend who almost talked me into going back to my regular shoes. I tried it for one run and I knees hurt. I actually turned around to go home and change my shoes. :)

      September 1st, 2012 1:37 pm Reply
  • Christa

    Hi Sarah, as I have followed many of your informative post and enjoy each one.. thank you! I woke up frustrated this am and wondered if you could help.. as a mom of 13 i feel very frustrated… we have 3 neighbors (one particular that leads them all) that call the police on our children almost everytime they are outside riding bikes.. our children ‘stop’ when a car comes, we put soccer cones out for them to ride in, and i am always out there with a megaphone to tell the kids when a car is approaching.. we live on a dead end street however, many cars run thru it for a short cut to another street. we found out they have 3 gotten together trying to get a fourth and will press ‘child endagerment’ charges agaisnt us, because they do not want the kids riding their bikes.. our nieghbor who has 2 kids that join in, was ‘warned’ to not let her kids play with ours so her kids ‘wouldn’t be involved’.. on top of that, when they were jumping rope one of the ring leaders came out and told them ‘youre gunna die” and went back in the house.. i know youre not a lawyer or an official city person… but do you have any counsel? wisdom? help??? I feel we are being harrassed… we have 6 police reports of the officers coming over to ‘check out the call of ‘lots of kids in street’ and the police reeporting ‘mom outside’.. we were thinking of fileing ‘harassment’ charges.. but just really want to be left alone.. but must think about being proactive…. your thoughts? .. i know i am not alone…

    September 1st, 2012 10:19 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      HI Christa, perhaps you could try inviting them over for a cup of tea or dinner (or a backyard bbq maybe you are having one day) and then casually bring it up to talk about? I wouldn’t go over and ring the doorbell and have a talk that way as they will likely get defensive. But if you talk to them Mom to Mom and express your feelings about it then you might find out their side of the story and why they keep doing what they are doing.

      September 1st, 2012 10:35 am Reply
      • Drea

        I’m with Sarah-try some food! :-) We JUST read I Samuel 25 in the Bible this morning. Abigail used some food to win over those upset with her husband. Worth a try for sure!!!!

        September 1st, 2012 2:50 pm Reply
    • Patrice

      Lawyer up. That’s ridiculous! Especially if they are harassing your children.

      September 1st, 2012 10:37 am Reply
      • Linda

        What an odd situation . . . Assuming your kids aren’t screaming and carrying on like a pack of banshees, could it be that your neighbors simply resent the fact that you’ve got 13 of them? There was a time when children were universally regarded as blessings — the more, the merrier. But nowadays there are many people who hate children and aren’t at all shy about revealing their hatred. In particular, people with more than one or two carefully coddled designer kids are viewed as freaks and “breeders.”

        September 1st, 2012 11:05 am Reply
        • Jason

          I’m afraid Linda might be right. I see this a lot with my brother’s large families. People have been brainwashed into believing the world has too many children, (among other things). Recent population studies show that most countries aren’t even producing enough children to replace the current generation. It’s part of what is causing the economic problems of Greece and Spain. Not enough people coming into the workforce with an aging population. I think “talking it over” with your neighbors isn’t going to do much good if they’re on “that” bandwagon.

          September 1st, 2012 12:43 pm Reply
          • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

            Being friendly can break down a lot of barriers. I know it sounds ridiculous, but try taking over a tray of cupcakes your kids made with you. People cannot resist cupcakes, let me tell you :)

            You can always do the lawyer thing. Best to try something else first and getting to know them really can work well. You mentioned that “you just want to be left alone”. This could be part of the problem – they see you as an outsider taking over the neighborhood and the street. If you get to know them and spend a little time, they won’t feel like this anymore. They will look out for your kids and even defend your right to be outside enjoying the outdoors. Shutting yourself away makes it worse.

            September 1st, 2012 1:04 pm
          • Sue

            Are you serious???? There are not enough people? I’m flabbergasted. Overpopulation is a major, MAJOR problem for our planet. The population has more than doubled since the day I was born. We live on a planet with limited resources. You want grass-fed beef? Well, how do you expect to get it, when
            farmland is being paved over for subdivisions? I believe having too many children is irresponsible and selfish. Just as driving a Hummer is. As a childless person by choice, I would venture that the problem is the fact that you are blocking off a public street for your own use. I would get sick of it too, if someone continually blocked off a part of the street for what amounts to almost a whole classroom of kids. You had the kids….YOU make the sacrifice. Maybe riding bikes on the street is not a good option. It is not your right and it is an annoyance to your neighbors. Play in the backyard, or go to a public park. Personally, I am sick of people who think that anything goes because they have children! I mean for Heaven’s sake, you even hijacked a conversation about barefoot running for your own “needs”. Why didn’t you send her a private message?

            September 3rd, 2012 10:32 am
          • jill

            I agree with Jason on that. I believe our nation and many will be falling apart due to the low amounts of children being born. It’s a sad situation, but by the time people realize this, it will most likely be too late.
            Plus, if you believe having too many children is irresponsible and selfish, how many are too many? Are we going to vote to say how many are too many? Shall we be like some communist countries that will now dictate how many we should have?

            September 3rd, 2012 12:21 pm
  • Gina

    I’m glad you like them. I also have barefoot running shoes, and I absolutely love them. Other shoes feel heavy and clunky now. Give it time….you’ll get there!

    September 1st, 2012 10:18 am Reply
  • Aimee

    I wore my vibram barefoot shoes for almost two years (for normal everyday activities, walks. and bike rides), and then when I finally got to the point where I was ready to run again (after my baby was born and older) I had very little adjustment left to make. It still took me a little longer to get back up to my longer runs, and even now I still have to pay attention to my foot strike. It’s hard to break the habit of heal striking after all those years of using ‘modern running shoes’.

    September 1st, 2012 10:16 am Reply
    • TLB

      ‘Heal striking’ do you run different in these kinds of shoes? I go barefoot all the time but I don’t run so i’m trying to imagine how to run barefoot! lol

      September 1st, 2012 3:33 pm Reply
      • Aimee

        Yes, you do run differently with barefoot shoes! Regular running shoes promote heal striking (the heal of your foot hitting the ground first). In barefoot shoes you run more with the fore foot- but just a little. You also bend your knees more (and keep them bent more) with barefoot running. There’s not much over extension of the knee.

        September 4th, 2012 9:33 am Reply

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