The worst blisters I've had running barefoot! 26.2 miles, Bayshore Marathon, in cold rain, 2003 May 24.

Barefoot Blisters

NOT the worst blisters I've had in shoes! 18 mile 'fun run', 1998 May 10. The blood on the tissue is from the palm's of another shod runner who tripped (over her shoe?) running down the gravel trail.

NOT the worst blisters I’ve had in shoes! 18 mile ‘fun run’, 1998 May 10. The blood on the tissue is from the palm’s of another shod runner who tripped (over her shoe?) running down the gravel trail.

I’m often asked about blisters and running barefoot. What people seem to forget is that the only part of our feet designed to make contact with anything while we are running, walking, or even standing, are our bare soles. It’s the tender skin on top of the feet that is several times more prone to abrasion and puncture that is most susceptible to blistering while running in shoes. More importantly, while barefoot, it’s really intolerably uncomfortable to slide your feet along the ground, so, guess what? We don’t slide our feet along the ground, we pick them up. Our sensitive bare soles not only are tough enough for natural use (and running barefoot IS NATURAL!), they also have the good senses, literally, to moderate our tendency to abuse them.

The worst blisters I've had running barefoot! 26.2 miles, Bayshore Marathon, in cold rain, 2003 May 24.

The worst blisters I’ve had running barefoot! 26.2 miles, Bayshore Marathon, in cold rain, 2003 May 24.

Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t see the blisters on my bare feet in this picture? Well, that’s because it’s just that one tiny dark spot on the little toe. And that’s only happened a couple of times while I’ve been running barefoot, at least occasionally for 50+ years, and having completed more than 400 foot races in my bare feet.

However, I’ve also been running in shoes, at least occasionally for nearly 40 of those years (until I got tired of blistered feet), and my feet were often blistered, in fact, anytime I ran more than 10-15 miles in shoes, the blisters would be broken open, raw, and bleeding. That’s actually one of the reasons I often ran barefoot: because shoes would aggravate the open wounds while I ran, or walked (the blisters were never on my soles, conditioned by walking and running barefoot frequently).

The picture of bloody shoes above is from one of the few instances where I did run in shoes since the first marathon I completed in 1997 (sorry, no photos of my feet from that painful experience, but perhaps that’s for the best – it wasn’t pretty). The type of running technique that causes that kind of issue (pun not intended, but recognized) would be immediately and profoundly uncomfortable. Before I could run more than a few steps with any kind of abrasive movement, I would have modified my technique to not cause that discomfort.

So, if you’re thinking of never running barefoot, because you imagine it would be too painful to do, the way that you run, perhaps the way you’re running is the problem.

Related posts:

Article Global Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Eli Pets

42 comments on “Barefoot Blisters

  1. I have tried running barefoot on my treadmill to ease into this new venture. How can I prevent the hot spots that will lead to blisters? The deck of my treadmill has a waffle weave type of surface. Or is this friction because of the moving belt? I am working on the bent knees and its really comfortable. Mind you the first time I tried this I ran for 17 mins and this may be too much until my feet toughen up a bit.


    • Congrats on venturing into the adventures of barefoot running. A couple of thoughts, 1) The first part of learning barefoot running is the learning ( ). 2) you are correct, running for 17 minutes is probably a bit much (a mile or two) to start with, especially before learning gentle (also non-abrasive) technique. Take your time, remember that you are learning a new activity, it isn’t the same as running in shoes, except without shoes. It’s about learning a brand new activity, that not only requires learning (re-learning), but also much more than a conditioning of the soles.. in fact you don’t even need to worry about conditioning the soles, that will happen as you run, more importantly the inside of your feet, and other muscles and bones also need conditioning, but these take much longer than the skin to toughen up. Which is another reason you don’t need to try to toughen the skin, since this will create an imbalance that may encourage you to continue running more than your technique or muscles, bones, ligaments, etc. are ready for.

      Relax, keep in mind how long it takes an infant to start walking and running after they are born. While it may not take you this long, partly because you have the advantage of the experience of the rest of us. But still, it takes some time to learn and the conditioning won’t be as much as you might think, since you’ll be running (and walking) much more gently and less abrasively.

  2. Hi! I’ve been transitioning for 9 months and Am now up to 6kms barefoot and feeling good. I run 90% on concrete bike track and 10% on gravel (only to access the bike track near Home). All’s been well however I’ve started developing some blisters. I think it could. Enjoy cos I’ve started running up and down hills which is hard to avoid frictional forces on the down slopes. Blisters are on. Both feet at on the lateral edges where I would touch the ground first. Also a few of. The tips. Could it just be a normal development of tougher skin or is it likely my form gone off? Any advice is appreciated.

    • One should not depend on tough skin to avoid blistering (except on hot pavement – even then, good technique, especially faster stepping, helps a lot). In any case, some toughening of the skin will happen when we go barefoot. So no need to focus on that, or just wait around for it to happen.

      Instead focus on things you can control, like improving technique (a never-ending adventure).

      Friction (which is the primary cause of blisters) happens when the foot lands on the ground while traveling at a different speed or direction than the ground underneath. When the foot lands at the same speed and direction there is negligible friction. Try to get your feet to land on the ground at the same speed and direction as the ground is traveling underneath. This will take a lot of practice and skill, especially on down-hills. You’ll need to bring the foot back really, really quickly!

      Start practicing on gentle hills, before working up gradually to steeper more challenging hills, as your confidence and technique improve.

  3. Understand the downhill part since gravity is helping you move in that direction. Keeping your speed in check seems to be an issue that will cause friction going downhill. However, going uphill seems to me to be another matter. You are overcoming gravity and you will need to pull your body weight up. Understand that you need to have proper footplant. Assuming you get that initial non-sliding footplant, the next step is to pull the body upward. That would seem to me to put friction on the bottom of the foot. Thoughts?

    • It’s like traction control on an automobile, if you feel your feet slipping, then you push a little bit less until they aren’t slipping. Then you get maximum energy transfer without abrasion or blistering. Keep in mind that even running uphill, you have some momentum in that direction, so it isn’t all about powering yourself up, unless you keep changing direction.

      The easiest way I have found to run uphill is to push my hips toward the hill, then the springs in my legs take over from there. Contrariwise, bending the torso forward above the waist (like most people do when going up a hill) seems to waste a lot of energy.

  4. Understood Ken Bob, thanks for breaking it down. Will work on it. I do find myself leaning into the hill. Will work on keeping my torso on the skiing “fall line”.

  5. Hi,

    I’ve been running barefoot(style)/minimalist for more then one year and a half now. The last months I’ve been running twice or 3 three times a week for about 9 to 12 km each run. Most of the times I run about 5 km completely barefoot, and for the rest of the distance I put on my Luna Sandals or Xeros.
    I must admit that after all this time and transitioning, I still encounter irritation/blisters or sensitive spots after each run… They are located at the ball of my (mostly) right foot. Under the big too (where the toe starts) is also a sensitive spot. The irritation/blisters heal in 3-4 days of course.
    After some research, I fear it’s a form-problem; most likely ‘toe off’…???
    As my mother tongue is not English.. could someone explain me in simple English what “toe off” means? So I can verify my form… and how should one remedy this problem? Running slower? Less miles?
    I think it means one keeps his feet (toes) a fraction too long on the ground, resulting in a situation where the next stride starts by lifting the heel first and the toes are still in contact with the ground? (“Toe-ing off”)? Please advise so I can progress further.

    Kind regards,

    • It sounds like you do have the general idea of what toe-off is. Basically, it means that your toes are the last part of your foot to leave the ground, which is natural. However, if toe-off is easily over-done. When the body moves forward over the foot, be sure the knees are bent, and calves relaxed. Then as the foot is trailing behind the body, make an effort to lift the whole foot, not just the heels. This will ensure that the toes don’t get too much pressure on them during “toe-off” (the time between when the toes are alone in contact with the ground.

      Also be sure to move the feet quickly, the landing foot, and the trailing foot must be traveling at the same speed (and direction) under our body as the ground is moving under our body, both on landing, and push-off (and of course for the entire time spent on the ground – but landing and take-off is most critical, as mis-match in speed between the foot and ground will create friction.

      Practice a few steps, occasionally on some rough road or gravel, you’ll find it extremely painful to skid, scurf, scrape, or otherwise move your feet across the rough terrain at any other speed and direction than the terrain is passing under you.

      Be sure to review:

      Hope that helps. In either case feel free to continue the conversation.

  6. Hello Gerd,

    I had a similar problem. I have been running barefoot on and off, for years. I decided to build up my ability to run on roadways. Like yourself, I progressed to three mile runs, on a highway. Eventually, I began to get a soft raw spot, just behind the big toes, on the balls of the feet. It was troubling, because I did not know how much more progress I could make, with these soft, raw spots appearing, on the ball of each foot. Eventually, I started experimenting with my running form, to see whether I could run, without abrading the skin off, in these areas.

    What I discovered is that I had to let my knees bend more. This causes the hips to lower a bit. Then, I had to concentrate on picking my trailing foot up off the ground, more quickly. Meanwhile, I concentrated on relaxing my upper body as much as possibly, The transformation was astonishing. Now, my body feels like elastic bands. Previously, my knees were overly stiff. As a result, when my foot struck the ground, my stiff knees caused my feet to “drive” into the ground. And, this is what was producing the abrasion, in certain areas, on the balls of my feet. Now, I am picking my feet up more quickly, while not driving my feet into the ground, with so much force. Also, I land almost entirely flat footed, with my body sailing over the ground. At this point, I am fairly confident that the wear, and tear, on the balls of my feet, had to do with “stiff knees” that caused my feet to overly drive into the ground. Anyway, I hope that my experience can be of help to you.

  7. Hi all,

    I think I will need to learn this aspect of running the hard way… :-S
    I thought I got it, but after a month of runs using sandals instead of running pure barefoot, I went through the same problem again last week. After about 16 Km in Xero’s, my leather lace snapped so I had to finish the final 5 Km running barefoot on the almost frozen, wet and sandy pavement along the Belgian coastline. Result: quite some iritated (read: blood blistered)spots behind the big toe and on the balls of my feet. It heals in some days, but seems I’m just not doing it completely right…

    As the temperature lowers I prefer running most miles in sandals wearing those toe-socks to prevent my feet from ‘freezing’, but biomechanically it should be possibly to also run correctly wearing sandals, wouldn’t it?

    Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but after watching some Youtube posts of Ken Bob, and reading Ben’s comment, I think that I need to focus to correct the following aspect(s):
    I think that I need to land more ‘entirely’ flat footed then I’m doing now… I think I’m landing TOO MUCH forefooted and let my heels kiss the ground too late. I think I have to bend my knees more and run more or less more ‘seated’ with bend knees and land more flatfooted in order to spread the pressure more over the entire soles instead of almost merely on the front parts of the foot (area under big toe and the balls). Landing more flatfooted (and letting the heel kiss the ground sooner) seems to make it more obvious to spread the pressure, and lift toes a bit easier to prevent the irritating toe-off blisters.

    Does that sound like a good analysis?

    Kind regards,
    Gerd V

  8. You are not incorrect. People often focus too much on trying to land fore-foot-only or fore-foot-first. While a fore-foot-first landing is an indicator of a more gentle landing, it is the result of bent knees, and moving the body more forward (the whole torso, not just the top of the body), which creates a geometry where the fore-foot will naturally touch the ground first, but only a millimeter or two before the heel.

    Trying hard doesn’t make running easier. Running easy does. Relax, let your natural springs do the work.

  9. Hello
    I can understand the blisters forming when using toe-off / heelstriking etc
    Today I ran 7.5 km on bitumen – the lumpy black kind not worn smooth stuff. I ran at 6am because we are in the middle of a heat wave and it is too hot to run much after that. I came home with two cracking blisters, one on each side, both on the same toe ..the one next in from the little toe !
    I’m fairly sure I am “lifting” my toes on landing as my feet are fairly consistently worn… could this oddity be from trying to grip on with the toes after I have touched down? Or is it more likely to be from pawing back?( but then I thought it would be across all toes)
    A bit lost at the moment, can anyone help?
    Thank you in advance!!!!

    • Kali,

      Are you trying to “grip” with the toes? Or “paw back?” If so, either or both could be the problem. No need to “paw back” unless you’ve landed with your foot too far in front of your body. Also if your knees are bent on landing, as your body moves forward in front of your foot (from momentum, not by pawing back) then the springs in your legs will naturally push you forward. These springs do not work if you are actually TRYING to push yourself forward.

      Also no need to grip the surface if your feet are landing on that surface at the same speed the surface is traveling below your body. It is only when accelerating (speeding up, slowing down, or cornering) that much traction is needed, and on rough roads, that’s almost never an issue.

      Relax, relax, relax, and review:

  10. Hi

    A quick horror story on blister experience.

    I raced 5K at Parkrun barefoot and got a great time – couldn’t really tell I was doing damage until I finished (it was cold – numb feet). Surface was a kind of tarmac with sharp grit squashed into the top. Up and down hill, 5 times round the park, so lots of corners, lots of friction. Oh my god, the blisters were unbelievable. Every toe, a massive glowing ember. Both heels, one enormous bulbous sack, and blisters right across the balls of both feet. There must have been a pint of puss separating the skin from each foot. And agony to step on.

    Hmm. Well I know what went wrong. I was a fairly new barefooter, and I hadn’t quite mastered the knack of lifting my feet without scuffing the ground, hadn’t quite avoided heel striking down hill, and was obviously pushing off with toes.

    Since this hideous experience, I’ve very much improved my technique following a lot of Ken Bob’s tips in the book, and much enjoying barefoot running (except some other nasty experiences with broken glass).

    I started barefooting, because I was out injured with a hip problem. So I decided to re-teach myself running from first principles and hopefully come back better. The hip injury left me with a limp for 3 months during which time I ran barefoot short distances, and I’ve been back running properly for 2 months since then, but I’ve already beaten my previous 5K and 10K PBs, which I put down to the technique that barefoot running brings.

    I’m no longer aching after longer runs, because there’s less impact, and the “falling forward” technique is quite a revelation. It even seems to work falling forward up hill! (which defies physics surely, but i do believe it works).

    One last thing on the blisters. It takes a long time to get over bad blisters. After the hard dead skin started falling off, I got a few more blisters on the soft skin under the old blisters. The lessons I’ve learned from this is that a) technique is very important, but b) even with good technique, there are a few surfaces which are just too horrid to run on barefoot. Gravel encrusted tarmac must be one of the worst.

    Anyhow, thanks Ken Bob – you’re an inspiration – I’ve learned a lot from your writings.


    • Thanks for the story Danny,

      I don’t believe that “falling forward” defies physics, even uphill. It’s simply miss-named. It should be called something like, “Hey, there’s springs in my legs”, which release as we let our body move in front of our feet. That release pushes us up and forward – unless we make an effort to push ourselves, which negates the spring effect.

      Have fun,
      -Barefooot Ken Bob

  11. Hi – I started running “barefoot style” (although in Xero Shoes ‘Sensori Ventures) earlier this summer (I’m in Western Australia) after reading “Born to Run” about 3 times and picking the tidbits about running style out of that. I then borrowed a copy of your book from the library (then ordered my own copy), and have since spent a few weeks walking my usual run route practicing your “staggering drunk” with bent knees. (My calf muscles have taken a while to build back up to running with the style tweaks.)
    This week has been a “cool change” (only 85-90F rather than 90-100F+), so a couple of days ago I decided to try running actually barefoot.
    I’m afraid it wssn’t a raving success – the pavement was still hot enough that I blistered and lost the top (well, bottom, actually – “surface-most” anyway) layer of skin off one toe pad. (A lot of the grass is so dry and prickly that it’s pretty hard to run on that, too.)
    I can’t imagine the climate here is that much different to Southern California… so how did you toughen up your feet without losing the skin off them in the process? (Should I stick with the huaraches until I can run without blistering, then go barefoot over the winter and see how my feet go next summer?)
    Thanks for all your advice and info! I hadn’t run for several years before coming across barefoot running, because my knees weren’t coping, and since I’d already bought the expensive shoes (and special cushioned socks) from the shop with the high-tech “fit print” system, I didn’t think I could.

  12. The big problem, of course, was that you were trying to learn run barefoot (style) with shoes. There’s no way to know if you’re actually running barefoot style unless you’re actually barefoot. The bare feet are blessed with hundreds of nerve endings giving us instant feedback so that we can fine tune our technique precisely for our individual body. Yes, you can learn the basics from my book, this website, or others, but no one outside of your body can do the fine tuning, and even we ourselves can’t fine tune our technique without being able to feel exactly how our bare soles are interacting with the ground beneath them.

    Secondly, of course, running with your soles protected has done little to prepare you for barefoot running, besides not letting you fine tune your technique, they allow the soles to stay or become soft and weak. That’s really what shoes are for, isn’t it? Well, that and fashion.

    Both these problems can be solved with patience, time, paying attention, and most importantly, being reasonable.

    Take the time to relearn how to run.
    Have patience to build up soles gradually.
    Pay attention, don’t run barefoot further than your soles can without blistering… if you’re blistering, you’ve done MORE than you should have to begin with.
    Pay attention, the pains in your soles, even on prickly grass, are trying to get you to figure out a more gentle way to run. Prickly grass (or sharp gravel) may never be “comfortable” to run on, but it can be less uncomfortable as you fine tune your technique.

    If you must run further than what your bare soles are ready, that’s when you can put the foot protectors on – still try to be aware of what your bare feet taught you while you weren’t wearing the shoes. (they are “Shoes”, as they do cover part of the foot, that’s what shoes are).

    There’s more about the heat in the FAQ:

  13. Hi Ken Bob,

    I think the BIG problem is that the surfaces here are currently too hot to run barefoot! (…which is why I’ve been running with the “foot protectors”.

    Tuesday was the first day since I started trying to run “barefoot-style” that I thought had a chance of being cool enough not to burn my feet. (I don’t have the option of running early in the morning before things heat up, due to family committments.) …and I really didn’t go very far!

    I did read the FAQ’s before I asked this question – sounds like your advice is basically not to run until it’s cool enough for me not to get blisters with my feet as they are now…

  14. That’s sort of the opposite of my advice. You must run barefoot in order for your feet and technique to adapt to the hot surfaces. You may not believe you ran “far” barefoot the first time out, but the fact that you got blisters indicates it was not short enough – certainly not for the first time barefoot on hot pavement.

    Think more like an infant, how many steps does an infant take the first time they attempt to walk – maybe 3 or 5 or less. And that’s more than enough to excite them about the possibilities of traveling everywhere under their own power in the future.

    Lift the feet very quickly, start lifting BEFORE the foot lands – don’t worry, it will land (gravity will see to that), but if you wait until it lands to begin lifting the foot, then you’ve already spent too much time on the hot pavement.

    Think, “Lift, lift, lift the foot” while you’re running. Then after a few steps, look for some shade, and put your shoes back on.

    Then go out a couple or few days later, and do it again. Do NOT start with the intention of going further than your last outing. In fact, it may be better to set a goal of HALF what you did successfully the previous outing. Then, if all goes well, you can go a few more steps.

    Remember, “far” is relative to how much you have specifically run barefoot on hot pavement in the recent past.

    Gradually, very gradually, getting your soles used to the heat without damaging them, improving your technique, and building up distance, again, very, very gradually.

    Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
    -Barefoot Ken Bob

  15. Thanks, Ken Bob,
    It’s cooled down a lot now, so I’ve done two real barefoot runs this week.

    I definitely overdid it on Monday – did run-walk-run intervals over about 2.6km, by which time my feet were feeling quite sore. I had thought it was just a tender spot in the edge of the ball of my foot by my big toe, but on stopping to check it out, I had actually gone through the skin there. (Three little match-head sized spots of skin had come away in tiny V-shaped flaps on the inside edge of the ball of my left foot.) I put the foot protectors on, and walked the rest of the way – very gently!

    After lashings of Vitamin E cream and three days rest, they were recovered enough to run again today (Friday), so I went out paying very careful attention to how they felt, and on trying to make sure I’m not “pawing” the ground. They started feeling tender after about 1.8km, and looked to be wearing on the same spot, so I put my huaraches on and switched to walking again.

    What I’m trying to figure out is whether this is due to bad form (eg. “pawing” the ground… although I’m definitely trying not to), or just the balls of my feet getting used to running barefoot. I’m developing callouses on each side of the balls of my feet, and one of those is where the skin came away on Monday.

    The main parts of the balls of my feet (where I would have expected to see a problem if I was “pawing” the ground) are fine.

    Can you provide any insights as to what I might be doing wrong, or whether it sounds like my feet just need time to toughen up? (I very rarely wear shoes at home – whether inside or in the garden – so they’re not the wimpy weaklings they could be otherwise.)


  16. Liz,

    It’s really difficult to say what the specific cause is for any given blister on any individual. But, it really doesn’t matter much. The important thing is that blisters are an indication that you’re trying to do too much, either before learning to do it gently enough, or before the skin has a chance to adapt, or both.

    The solution tends to be the same general advice for beginners.

    Cool thing is, as you practice (with much shorter barefoot outings – more like playing or slow dancing on rough or gravel terrain, than running), the skin becomes tougher, even though it won’t need to be much tougher as you become more gentle.

    Rough terrain is helpful in discouraging abrasive actions, as well as playing too much, too soon. If it isn’t uncomfortable and you’re getting blisters, that’s because the terrain you’re running on, isn’t giving the feedback you need to learn to stop whatever is causing the blisters (nor is it discouraging you from going to far to start with).

    What seems to help many people in your situation, besides backing off on the barefoot running and focusing more on learning technique while barefoot, is to re-read the How page between outings:

    Have fun, (because running barefoot should certainly be more fun, than misery)
    -Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton

  17. Hi all,

    Went out running for about 50 minutes yesterday and no blisters at all. Ken’s points mentioned above really work well. When focussing on these 3 aspects I don’t have the blisters I used to have under the big toe or for foot:
    1) bent knees;
    2) landing more or less ‘mid-foot’ instead of ‘for-foot-first’;
    3) focussing on lifting the entire foot instead of toe-ing (and lifting the heel first);
    The hardest of these 3 seems to be the 3rd: focussing on lifting the entire foot. The coming weeks/months this will be the main training focuss 🙂

    Kind regards,

  18. Hey Gerd

    It’s true. Ken Bob’s advice works. I posted a while back on this thread about my mightmare blisters.

    But last week, I was very proud of myself for completing 8 miles across central London barefoot without the slightest hint of a blister.

    It’s all down to technique. Most specifically, lifting the foot to avoid any kind of abrasion or push-off from the floor. I was elated at the end of 8 miles and could have done it again.

    I’m planning on a barefoot half marathon later this year, probably The Great North Run. And quite confident I could do the distance barefoot no problem. Great advice from Ken Bob.


  19. Hi Ken Bob,

    I think I got the proper technique now! Thanks! I’ve also bought your book and read the parts on the ‘1-2-3’ and lifting the entire foot instead of toe-ing off. Occasionally, when running I’m also looking up the gravel as this really enforces one to really relax and improve technique.

    One more question that popped my mind this morning while going to the mall to buy my groceries… When normally walking (not running), what would be man’s most natural way of walking? It’s just that I noticed that when in casual clothes, after all the barefoot running, I unconciously walk more mid-foot/fore foot, bend my knies more then I used to do, and take shorter steps (strides) in order to have my foot touch the ground more under my center of mass. I even lift my toes a little :-)) When in casual clothes I mostly wear Vivobarefoot’s ‘Gobi’ casual minimalist shoes with flat thin soles. Does that sound familiar to you? It’s like I’m tryng to use unconsciencely some of the running drills in dayly life.

    Kind regards,

    • The only technical distinction between walking and running is flight. The techniques are not necessarily (at least not in my experience) an either/or. It’s more of a continuum of degrees of technique.

      continuum noun 1. a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

      In either case, the goal is to move our bodies forward. The goal is not about moving the feet forward. In fact in order for the feet to “push” the body forward, they must be behind the body. So when walking or running, if one forgets what we have learned while wearing shoes, (or when a bit intoxicated), one simply moves the body in the direction we wish to travel, and (hopefully) the feet will keep up.

  20. I run on concrete a lot and have trouble with heel bruises from stepping on hard to see stones. Even little ones leave my heels sore for days. Is this normal. How can I avoid this ?

  21. The important thing about barefoot running is that it teaches us to run more gently. But, in order to learn that message before running on smoother terrain, one should practice, at least occasionally, on terrain that is more stimulating than smooth concrete.

    You’ll hear a lot of people talking about “forefoot-strike” or “heel-strike”, but it’s less about the forefoot or heel, than about NOT striking!

    That said, landing forefoot FIRST with RELAXED calves and BENDING knees (as you land) reduces impact. Actually, when we define “impact” as nearly instant deceleration, this technique eliminates “impact”. After all, it’s not about how much weight is loaded on our feet, it’s about how suddenly that weight is loaded on our feet, and letting the foot flex on landing (fore-foot first), and bending the knees as we land, spreads the deceleration of our bodies mass over a longer period, making a much gentler landing.

    Think of the difference between pushing an egg gently to get it to roll on a floor, or hitting the egg with a hammer to get it to roll.

    Okay, if that wasn’t wordy enough, the big question then, because many people get the answer wrong when they begin, is “HOW” to land fore-foot first?

    The key is NOT to TRY to land forefoot first, but to get the rest of the body, and legs doing what they should be doing. And I have plenty of info at the following link:

    Hope some of this helps

  22. P.S. all that said, there will still be times when a rock will bruise our heels. But with practice, as you develop skill, those times should become both less frequent, and less severe.

    And folks running in shoes can suffer the same problem, especially if they’re depending on their shoes to cushion impact (rather than running without impact). Except in those cases, it’s usually a longer-term problem.

    Also, after my first trail race barefoot, a few people who ran in shoes were complaining about the rocks on the trails bruising their feet through their shoes. My feet were fine, because I wasn’t depending on shoes to protect my feet. I simply ran more gently – incidentally I finished well in front of those folks who were complaining.

    • Dear Ken Bob,

      I am going to attempt a 12.2k uphill. I’ll start at 257meters and run uphill to 1457 meters on pavement. The road is being closed. I bought your book, and I run in Sole Runner( 1.5m thick soles) since Sept 2013. Plus I hike a lot on rugged terrain with them. I also take them off and go barefoot commando.

      I also ran through our rugged and rocky forest barefoot and it was truly amazing feeling the mud, the rocks and so on, but I only ran a 2-3 km and then I put on my Sole Runners. When I reached the paved road I took off my shoes again and ran for 3km home. The feeling was unbelievable with the air conditioning and the wind blowing through my toes. It was relaxing. My ankles started to feel sore then I relaxed the calves, bent the knees, and the sore ankle pain disappeared immediately. I have noticed this. If I focus on relaxing calves no problems. I have also been more aware of my hips being more flexible and aiding a bit in my performance.

      I am a newbie at running but I have great stamina. I am 48 and I like running and hiking. So, I want to run the 12.2 k barefoot all uphill. The best time is 48 minutes- a 57 year did it in 58 minutes. I am not trying to compete- I only want to do it injury free, blister free.

      Any tips on how I can avoid blisters on my toes? I guess I am going to have to try it and see. I will probably figure it out. I am excited to try it and if I get blisters, then I will learn. I just think going up hill one might use the toes a bit more. But then I should probably be gentle. By the way, I am in the Black Forest in Germany but I come from California Bay Area. I am not a veteran runner.

      • Hey Michael

        By following KenBob’s advice, I now never get blisters. I do a 13K run every week on roads and pavement, never get a blister. The key is putting the foot up and down with no push off, relying on the lean and fast cadence to move forwards. My course is undulating, and on the steeper uphill bits I can still get the sensation of falling forwards with no push off.

        No blisters, hooray. But if I still find I get aching ball of foot pain if I do too much. Haven’t quite found the solution to this one yet. But I’m still a believer.

        Keep it up.


      • Uphills are a special problem as there tends to be more slipping down as we try to run up. Practice while barefoot and you should be able to feel immediately when your foot is starting to slip, then be sure to push less (as Danny said, no need to push at all). But being in bare feet will make it obvious by providing feedback when you are pushing, especially when going up hill.

        The other thing on uphills is to use the entire surface of your sole. Do not try to “dig in” with your fore-foot. Let your ankle flex and keep your weight distributed evenly across your entire sole as much as possible.

        Now for the tricky part…

        While letting your ankles flex, and keeping your weight distributed across your entire sole, be sure to keep your hips moving forward, and do NOT let your shoulders lean out in front of your hips. keeping the torso vertical like this, and knees bent, also will provide better traction. And it is lack of traction (slippage) that causes many blisters (okay, sometimes pounding can cause them too – but don’t do that either).

        The bent knees and vertical torso, and hips moving in front of the feet slightly will ensure that your “springs” (leg muscles working the bent knees, hips and ankles) will accelerate you forward and up the hill. You can practice this whenever you get a chance to go upstairs, even while walking. You should find that you don’t even need to try to “push” yourself up. Once you get moving in the direction the stairs go, momentum and your springs will make it seem very easy – though you’ll still be doing some cardio, because you’ve got to move (not push) the feet quickly.

        Hope that helps

  23. Thanks Ken Bob. I can relate to bruising through shoes. Probably the worst one I had came while wearing VFF’s. I have noticed that you run from the hip more than from the lower leg. I have been practicing this and it naturally produces a nicely bent knee that is easy to flex even more upon landing. Definitely a more fluid and gentler way to go. And the sharp objects are not as bothersome. I am new to going totally bare- been at it since February, and I must admit that it is getting more and more enjoyable. I am at the age (57) where times and competition just don’t matter much to me anymore.

  24. Just wanted to say I went Barefooting today for the first time. I’ve got your book on order and it should be arriving tonight. I’ve been reading through the site the last few days and it’s great. I know I went a little overboard today, ran just about 2 miles on a paved “trail”. I do have some blood blisters (how I ended up on ths page) to show for my over doing it but nothing too bad. I’ll try again next week and make sure I focus on lifting my feet. The pavement was pretty hot in some areas. I was amazed at how natural the first step felt on up to the last. I was only intending to go 1 miles barefoot but it felt great. When I put on my shoes for the way back I noticed my form seemed like crap. I think I’m doing reasonably well in shoes, but I think the barefoot keeps my honest and once the shoes went back on I got instantly lazy because I could get away with it.

  25. I blister badly running in shoes and WITHOUT. Even if I pick up my feet (which I always do unless i am playing tennis), pushing off the concrete makes my skin blister.

    • Don’t do too much too soon – in other words, if you’re getting blisters running a certain distance, or playing tennis a certain amount of time, your technique and feet are not ready for that. Next time do half and see how that goes.

      Don’t push off! Listen to your feet. Practice for a few steps (at the beginning) on rough terrain. This will help you learn not to do anything abrasive (it’s really uncomfortable on rough terrain to move your feet in any way that will cause blisters or abrasions).

  26. Yesterday I was playing soccer on the college ground which doesn’t has much grass . after playing I noticed blisters on bot toes and now bcoz of them I am walking on side of my feets so that blisters don’t get pressed . I was wondering is there any technique for a game like soccer too where you have to change directions quickly which is not possible without getting Good grip from the ground which ultimately produces lots of friction.

    • There are several considerations when trying to answer your question. I will address those that come to my mind.

      Just as our feet can get used to (adapt by building callus) the friction inside your shoes, they can also grow calluses in response to friction between the ground and our soles. Actually, they can adapt to ground/sole friction more readily, since our feet aren’t really genetically adapted to endure frequent abrasive actions on the other parts of the foot (rubbing on tops, sides, etc., inside shoes).

      Of course, if you haven’t been going barefoot your whole life, or playing soccer frequently while barefoot, then it will take some time for your feet to relearn how to adapt.

      Also, if you can use techniques that provide better traction, rather than slipping and sliding, you’re less likely to need thick calluses.

      Just think of anti-lock braking and traction control in a motor vehicle. This is achieved, not by making the tires thicker, or more knobby (which would NOT be helpful on smooth streets). Instead it is done with some degree of intelligence. When the computer in the vehicle detects slippage, it adjusts the level of torque being applied to the wheel that is skidding or spinning.

      Fortunately, a computer (brain) is standard equipment in humans. We also have sensors in the bottoms of our feet to detect skidding or spinning out. Unfortunately, many humans have forgotten how to listen to those sensors, because they have blocked them with shoes. That’s like preventing skidding by cutting the wire that tells the car it is skidding. It doesn’t actually work, it just decreases the car’s “awareness” that it is skidding.

      So, again, the solution is to remove the shoes, and let our brains relearn how to listen and respond to the messages from our soles to reduce skidding and spinning out, by adjusting the torque applied to our feet to accelerate and decelerate. Many may interpret this to mean that they won’t be able to accelerate or decelerate as quickly. That may not be entirely true. Just as the car with anti-lock braking and traction control can decelerate and accelerate much more quickly than it can without these control circuits, so too a human can LEARN to accelerate and decelerate more quickly by not wasting energy with slipping and sliding around.

      However, on soft terrain, there may be some gain in traction from knobby treads. The question you could ask then, “Will the traction I gain from knobby tread (shoes) outweigh the traction gained from intelligent acceleration and deceleration?”

      And another question, “If we artificially boost traction with knobby tread (shoes), will the added torque we can apply to our feet without slipping and sliding put too much stress and strain on the rest of our body?”

  27. Pingback: 15 Health Benefits of Barefoot Running Shoes, According to Science (+8 Tips for Beginners) - V ART OF WELLNESS

Leave a Reply

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