Falling In Love With Barefoot Running

barefoort_running_mainPicture by Mike Baird

Written by John Allsopp


Yeah, you’ve probably seen the “Shit barefoot runners say” (it’s all true), been bored by someone about “born to run” and seen the silly hobbit like toe shoes made by Vibrams (and now copied by others). And you know what, I don’t give a shit. Barefoot running is awesome.

I’m a pretty fit guy, and for most of my life (with a brief hiatus in my early to mid-20s) I’ve run, swum, played organised sport, basically been active. But, I’ve always mostly hated running.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

I lived at Bondi beach for over a decade and ran on soft sand for many years. And I loved that. But you know, I never even associated that with running. It was like I was doing something entirely different.  And for a long time, I think that was because of the surroundings – down by the ocean, not pounding the pavement.

But for the rest of my life, I’ve hated running. Road running. Running at footy training, and so on.

But then a few years back I moved to the bush, where quite literally now outside my backyard is a national park. And with young kids, finding the time to ride my MTB enough to classify as, and have the benefits of, real exercise got harder and harder. So, one day I did something I thought I’d never do again. I went for a run. Along a bush track by the sea. And I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really love it. Every few runs I’d roll my ankle, just enough to really piss me off. And I’d rest a few days and start again.

Then for some reason, while travelling in the US, I bought a pair of five fingers (they were less than half the price here in Australia, so I thought I’d just give them a go). The next time I ran in the bush, I wore them instead of the traditional runners.

And they changed my life.

vibram_five_fingersPicture by Poi Photography

Running went from a bit of a chore, and a bit like taking my medicine, to, well an almost meditative experience. It’s not that I get runner’s highs (ever dammit), or it isn’t hard work at times, but it just feels different. More mindful.

Barefoot Running Tips FOR BEGINNERS

First up, while I have not once rolled my ankle since starting to run in the 5 fingers, I have dislocated, and otherwise banged up my little and other toes. That little toe is pretty vulnerable out there, so there are times I strap the outer two toes together. I even tried the Vibram soled trail gloves by Merrell (which I love to wear around as I walk quite a bit each day), but the one time I wore them I fell and almost cracked my skull open, which I mostly attribute to the lack of balance you get compared with the ability to really splay your toes and maintain your balance when running in the 5 fingers.

And, because I had spent so many years running on sand, the midfoot/forefoot strike of barefoot running came naturally to me, and the muscles of my feet were used to support that style of running. I’ve had friends who are very good runners switch over from regular to barefoot style running, and almost instantly end up with all kinds of foot injuries. The advice that you break your feet in overtime to barefoot running, on the whole, seems very warranted.


So, if you want to take up barefoot running and if you are anywhere near a beach, I’d suggest you get down there, get your shoes off, and run on the soft sand. And if not, there are plenty of sites, even apps, that suggest regimens for transitioning to barefoot running.

I’d also suggest you get off the road, and where possible get onto more varied terrain – get some hills in there, some stairs, different types of surface – exercise your proprioception, and your brain, not just your legs and lungs.

And then maybe throw some extras in there – find an overhanging tree and do some pull ups, a ledge and some tricep dips, a rock the right size and some weights work, a grassy patch and some sit ups. And if you can find an antelope to run to exhaustion over a couple of days, then carry 20kms back home for dinner, all the more paleo! The deer in the national park still have the edge on me sadly.

John Allsopp has been developing for and on the web for nearly 20 years. He’s the co-founder of the Web Directions Conferences and lives in the National Park just south of Sydney, where he tries to find time to run, not always with great success.

Useful barefoot running links:
Barefoot Running Australia
How to prepare for barefooting
Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes

barefoot running

Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share easy, delicious recipes with a healthy twist. I’ve been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management. I believe in a balanced diet with an occasional cookie and cheesy pasta. More about me here. Sign-up for my newsletter and subscriber freebies.

PS. Some posts contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

Comment or Rate This Recipe

Made the recipe? Please leave a rating as it helps other readers to discover this dish. You don’t need to leave a comment if rating a recipe, unless it’s 3 stars or below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Nice article John. I picked up a pair of Vibrams when I was over in Sacramento earlier this year. I love them! I suffered from inflammation of the ITB from running in Nike’s and don’t have that issue with Vibrans. Although I have reduced the duration of running and now opt for either sprints, walking or short runs (3 kms max). Whilst I am an advocate I hadn’t looked into the details, motions or mechanics so thanks for this pictures 🙂

    The prices are coming right down aswell so I hope to increase my wardrobe of extra feet 😉

  2. Thanks Jay,

    I’ve got up to “long” runs of over 20ks in them, as well as frequently up to 10. One thing is that these are all almost on bush tracks, firetrails, beach and the like – a tiny (~200m) bit of blacktop, and maybe a k or so of sandstone. I’m not sure how I’d got on the road in them (and have no interest in finding out :-))

    The pics are all from Irena, she’s rounded out my words very nicely indeed

  3. Thanks for the tips John! While I too was always active growing up, I’ve always dreading running. Though I could always wake myself up for a run on the beach during vacation.

    I think I might need to try the five fingers or find a way to vary my routine. Any tips for one living in the city and looking to run on something other than a road?

  4. Good to see the hobbit shoes put to use actually running.

    People wear them to bars and conferences and out and about in Seattle. I’m all for barefoot running and all that stuff but dear god, please have some dignity. Those shoes are like uggs… practical when used in the right way, but dinner on a friday night is not one of them.

  5. I had a similar experience. I used to hate running with a passion, but found that I always loved running on the beach and could run forever when I did. One day, when I was contemplating how much HARDER running seemed when I stepped out the door onto the pavement, and how much EASIER it was on the beach, and wishing I could somehow be stepping out my door onto a beach, I had a lightbulb moment. “The only difference is the shoes!” I thought to myself. I immediately ran out my front door in bare feet, and experienced exactly the same feeling of lightness and energy as when running on the beach (but not quite the same ambience).

    From then on I experimented with different footwear. I tried everything from rubber thongs/flip flops to bedsocks and found the best thing was flat leather sandals which left my toes free. After that, running in traditional sports shoes felt like running through quicksand by comparison. I don’t run any more, but if I did, I’d probably get some of these fancy toe-sock-shoe thingies.

  6. Personally, I think that barefoot running (or rather the shoes like the 5 fingers) are just a fad that will most likely die off pretty quick.

    I am all for the science of bare foot running and on sand, it makes sense, but where I live in the UK, I have never seen anyone wearing them when out running – even in the more popular running spots.

    I suspect that most people bought the 5-finger shoes, tried them for a short period of time, not making sure they build up the use of them and then stuffed them in the cupboard, never to be seen again. I suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, so can’t wear anything that does not support my feet properly (Converse… I miss you!!!) so these shoes and this type of running would kill my feet.

  7. Nice those pumps look great hey! Any podiatrists here who care to comment? Thanks for the nice article, bare feet walking itself is a great grounding experience!

See all comments »

You Might Also Like

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap