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.
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.