12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

12 Steps Program Header1 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

Intro­duc­tion

This pro­gram is based upon the expe­ri­ence of bare­foot run­ners and coaches and my per­sonal expe­ri­ence. It has not been endorsed by any med­ical or sports pro­fes­sional. It is not designed to take the place of med­ical advice. As with any run­ning pro­gram, lis­ten to your body and stop and assess if you expe­ri­ence discomfort.

As part of my quest to become a run­ner once again, I decided I needed to learn to run bare­foot. The ben­e­fits to doing so are numer­ous (see Run­ning Bare­foot: Not just for bums and hip­pies). I began to read up on oth­ers’ expe­ri­ences with begin­ning to run bare­foot (see Resources at end of this post).

There are many tips out there on how to run bare­foot, with more being offered up on a daily basis. The grow­ing suc­cess of the book Born to Run is cer­tainly fuel­ing this, as are folks’ pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with run­ning bare­foot. Some of these tips can be con­fus­ing or down­right con­tra­dic­tory to one another, though, which can kill curios­ity and inter­est in giv­ing it a try. Or worse yet, peo­ple end up injur­ing them­selves and giv­ing up. The con­fu­sion can make putting a bare­foot run­ning pro­gram together for your­self rather difficult.

After read­ing many of the tips and per­sonal expe­ri­ences out there and try­ing bare­foot run­ning myself, I real­ized noth­ing – at least what I saw – quite met my needs. I wanted a sim­ple, easy-to-follow pro­gram; a sys­tem of guide­lines based on the tips from the best bare­foot run­ners and per­sonal expe­ri­ences alike. So I decided to put together what I’ve learned into a bare­foot run­ning pro­gram of my own. I am shar­ing this pro­gram with you for two main reasons:

  1. Since I had the need for such a pro­gram I fig­ured oth­ers might as well. I want to help oth­ers enjoy the ben­e­fits of bare­foot run­ning while avoid­ing the pitfalls.
  2. As is the case with any activ­ity, if we share knowl­edge with one another around bare­foot run­ning, we all stand to ben­e­fit. I want to con­tinue to learn tips and tricks from fel­low run­ners so I can get bet­ter and pass them on at the same time.

Now, I’m no expert – not a doc­tor, a run­ning coach, or even an expe­ri­enced marathon run­ner. In fact, I’m a rel­a­tive new­bie when it comes to run­ning (I’ve had a num­ber of set­backs that has stopped me from run­ning my first marathon). What I offer here, though, comes from read­ing hun­dreds of posts, arti­cles, and research reports about run­ning barefoot.

In cre­at­ing a bare­foot run­ning pro­gram for myself, I chose a com­mon model for wean­ing our­selves off of a bad habit: a 12-step pro­gram. As has been out­lined in pre­vi­ous posts of mine and in a num­ber of arti­cles lately by the national media and in Born to Run, run­ning shoes can be quite addic­tive, and harmful.

But I’m not here to bitch, com­plain, or toss blame around (I’ll leave that for other posts!). My goal with this post is to help you begin to enjoy the ben­e­fits that come from at least includ­ing some bare­foot run­ning in your train­ing pro­gram. And who knows, in the process you might even be con­vinced that run­ning bare­foot is right for you like I’ve found. But  that’s a deci­sion you need to make for yourself.

A Note For Expe­ri­enced Runners

Run­ning bare­foot can be par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for expe­ri­enced run­ners. The usual feed­back of fatigue – aer­o­bic over­load – won’t work. Your foot and calf mus­cles will likely fatigue before you’ve even bro­ken a sweat. I’m sure this pro­gram will look incred­i­bly slow to you. How­ever, I’ve seen many run­ners try and run bare­foot too far too soon and suf­fer for it. Take it slowly and you’ll have the best expe­ri­ence over the long haul. For­tu­nately, you don’t have to stop your reg­u­lar run­ning to begin to prac­tice some bare­foot running.

12 Step Pro­gram to Run Barefoot


12 Step Overview Graphic2 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

There is a print­able one-page sum­mary of the 12 Step Pro­gram at the end of this post for your con­ve­nience. It’s what I am using to guide myself.

Guide­lines

  • Be patient and stay com­mit­ted. Your body will thank you.
  • Take a break for a day after every bare­foot run­ning expe­ri­ence. This will enable you to assess how you are doing and give your mus­cles a rest if you expe­ri­ence some soreness.
  • Each step builds on the work done in the pre­vi­ous one. Skip any step and you will risk hurt­ing yourself.
  • The pro­gram is on the long side. This is to help you avoid sore mus­cles or worse, injuries from over-worked calves and foot mus­cles. If you do feel sig­nif­i­cant pain, go back a step until the pain subsides.
  • The pro­gram is designed to help you tran­si­tion to bare­foot run­ning from reg­u­lar run­ning with­out mak­ing you stop. You can add this pro­gram on top of your exist­ing run­ning plan until you reach your desired bare­foot distance.
  • The pro­gram is designed for run­ners at every level, though it should not take the place of a begin­ner run­ning program.
  • These steps are designed to help you tran­si­tion from run­ning in shoes to bare­foot, but will also work to tran­si­tion to min­i­mal shoes, though it is rec­om­mended that you do some bare­foot run­ning to learn the right form.

WomanStretchingonBeachYogaMat thumb 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

I. Pre­pare Your Body

Run­ning bare­foot is per­haps one of the most nat­ural things you can do. How­ever, it’s not some­thing you can start doing imme­di­ately (unless you’re a child or walk around bare­foot at least a few hours a day). You need to pre­pare your body. Run­ning bare­foot will require the use of a num­ber of mus­cles in your feet and legs that have been dor­mant for years – ever since you began wear­ing shoes. You will need to pre­pare by exer­cis­ing these mus­cles.
Please note that the fol­low­ing steps can be added to an exist­ing train­ing pro­gram – you do not need to stop run­ning in shoes all together, though that wouldn’t be a bad idea.

1.  Walk bare­foot in the house.

Take your shoes off (well, that was pretty obvi­ous!). Walk bare­foot in the house while you go about your nor­mal activ­i­ties.
2 hours every­day for 1 week

2.  Walk bare­foot outside.

Walk out­side on a soft sur­face like grass, soft dirt, or firm sand. This will start to get your foot used to dif­fer­ent sur­faces and work new mus­cles. It’s not unusual for your feet to feel quite sen­si­tive at this stage. There are thou­sands of nerve end­ings in your foot, and they’ve been cov­ered up for awhile. But you’d be sur­prised at how quickly your feet will once again become accus­tomed to a vari­ety of sur­faces.
30 min­utes every­day for 1 week

3.  Per­form feet, leg, and breath­ing exercises.

Ok, you don’t have to get quite as lim­ber as the woman in the pho­to­graph above, but you do need to stretch and work out your feet and leg mus­cles to pre­pare them for new use. Con­tinue to walk around bare­foot in the house and out­side. Add some spe­cific exer­cises into your work­outs. Choose exer­cises that tar­get your calves and feet. Squats, heel raises, and jump­ing lightly on the balls of your feet are par­tic­u­larly good for this. Jump­ing rope hits all the right mus­cles, too.

As is the case with any sort of run­ning, it is very impor­tant to run relaxed. If you are tense, you will expe­ri­ence pain and pos­si­ble injury. Prac­tice breath­ing with your abdom­i­nal mus­cles going out when you breathe in, and pulling in when you breathe out. Focus on relax­ation while you breathe.
30 min­utes each day for 1 week

BarefeetRunning thumb 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

II.  Learn the Stride

You are now ready to try bare­foot run­ning. The key is to take it slowly. One of the biggest mis­takes peo­ple make when giv­ing bare­foot run­ning a try is to overdo it. Another fre­quent mis­take is think­ing that it’s all about the lack of shoes (or at least wear­ing min­i­mal shoes). In truth, the lack of shoes are  only a small part of what run­ning bare­foot is all about. When run­ning bare­foot, the biggest change is often in form. With most peo­ple, the whole body will need to move dif­fer­ently. To run suc­cess­fully, you will need to learn this form (see graphic below for more details).

ProperBarefootFormGraphic thumb 12 Step Program to Run BarefootProper form: Land on your fore­foot, below your cen­ter of grav­ity, then quickly bounce your heel down on the ground and up off again. Your foot should kick back high behind you. Lean for­ward slightly and keep both knees bent at all times. Your stride will be shorter and your cadence higher. Keep your body relaxed at all time.

The good news is that your body already knows how to run prop­erly – you just have to let it show the proper form to you. With a lit­tle prac­tice and patience, you’ll get it.

Note: while you can still run in a bare­foot man­ner with some min­i­mal shoes on (like Vivo Bare­foot, Vibram Five Fin­gers, or Feel­Max), you should first run com­pletely bare­foot to learn the proper form. Even 3mm of cov­er­ing under your foot and mere ounces of weight can block some nec­es­sary stim­u­la­tory feedback.

4.  Run 100 feet on grass.

Some peo­ple will tell you to only run bare­foot on a hard sur­face (Chris McDougall, the author of Born to Run, and Bare­foot Ted, for exam­ple). They rec­om­mend this not because they want you to hurt your feet, but because grass still pro­vides you with too much free­dom to run incor­rectly – heel first.

While this is true, I sug­gest that you start run­ning on grass because you need to strengthen your foot mus­cles. The mus­cles in your arch, among oth­ers, have prob­a­bly atro­phied con­sid­er­ably over the years in their “shoe casts.” Bare­foot is not just about proper form, it’s also about using all of your mus­cles. The prob­lem with telling folks to imme­di­ately go to con­crete or some other hard sur­face is that too often, peo­ple suf­fer from sore feet, then they give up. Spend­ing some time run­ning on the grass will help you strengthen these mus­cles first and enjoy some of the imme­di­ate ben­e­fits of run­ning barefoot.

Note: You should run at a much slower pace than you are used to dur­ing this phase.
3 days for 1 week

5.  Run 20 feet on a hard surface.

Your first run on a hard sur­face bare­foot should be very brief – think feet, not miles. Seek out a hard to semi-hard sur­face, like packed dirt or clay, or even asphalt. On grass, you might have got­ten away with land­ing on your heel. Do this just once on a hard sur­face and you’ll quickly learn not to do it! There’s no room for error when you’re on a hard sur­face. As Christo­pher McDougall, author of Born to Run, explains, “Run­ning bare­foot on a hard sur­face will make you run correctly.”

Focus on land­ing under your cen­ter of grav­ity, touch­ing your heel down briefly. Your cadence will be higher and your heels will likely kick up higher behind you as well.
3 days for 1 week

6.  Run 100 feet on a hard surface.

After you’ve included some bare­foot run­ning into your rou­tine, you can up the dis­tance to around 100 feet. I know, you are dying to go fur­ther. But your calves and feet will thank you for con­tin­ued patience.
3 days for 1 week

MountainTrail thumb 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

III.  Increase the Distance

Now that your body has learned the cor­rect stride and can do it nat­u­rally on any sur­face, it’s time to slowly begin to intro­duce longer dis­tances to your bare­foot run­ning plan. If you want to run in min­i­mal footwear, now would be an ok time to try it. Make sure you read about the dif­fer­ent types of run­ning shoes out there first (post). If at any point you expe­ri­ence pain, and it does not sub­side dur­ing your rest day, go back a step for a week.

7.  Run 500 feet.

It’s now time to begin to increase your dis­tance with every run. Start by run­ning about 500 feet. If that goes well, con­tinue to increase your dis­tance each day by 500 feet or so.
3 days for 1 week

8.  Run 1 mile.

You have now reached an impor­tant mile­stone, quite lit­er­ally. Start by run­ning a mile. Remem­ber to take it slowly. Stay loose. Breathe. If 1 mile goes well, you can increase by a tenth to a quar­ter of a mile with every run.
3 days a week for 2 weeks

9.  Run 2 miles.

Start out by run­ning 2 miles, then increase your dis­tance by a quar­ter of a mile with each run.
3 days a week for 2 weeks

BarefootRunnerTrail thumb 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

IV.  Main­tain Yourself

Con­grat­u­la­tions! You are run­ning bare­foot and no doubt reap­ing many ben­e­fits for it. These final three steps focus on help­ing you stay well and injury free while fur­ther build­ing up your strength. If at any point you expe­ri­ence pain, and it does not sub­side dur­ing your rest day, go back a step for a week.

10.  Run 5 miles.

Con­tinue to increase your dis­tance. Make sure that if you fatigue, your stride does not suf­fer. Keep focused on lift­ing your knees, tread­ing gen­tly, and land­ing beneath your cen­ter of grav­ity through­out your run.
3 days a week for 1 month

11.  Run 8+ miles.

Con­tinue to increase your dis­tance. And it’s ok to smile while you run – that’s the way it’s meant to be!
3 days a week for 1 month

12. Teach some­one else to run barefoot.

One of the best ways to learn some­thing well is to teach it. Find some­one who’s curi­ous about and inter­ested in try­ing out bare­foot run­ning. Pass on your learn­ings and cre­ate a plan with them. Com­mit to being their coach and cheer­leader for the next 12 weeks. You will not only find it enjoy­able and reward­ing, you will con­tinue to bet­ter your own stride by watch­ing and giv­ing feed­back to your new bare­foot run­ning buddy.
1 day a week forever!

Here’s a recap of the whole pro­gram on one page (print­able ver­sion below):
12 Step Overview Graphic3 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

» Down­load and print out the 12 Step Pro­gram and Proper Form one-page cheat sheet.

Click here to down­load a cheat sheet to eas­ily remem­ber the proper form and 12 steps. Just click on the image below to open or down­load the PDF file, then cut along the dot­ted line to cre­ate two half-sheets.

12 Step and Proper form Cheat Sheet1 12 Step Program to Run Barefoot

Author’s Note: Spe­cial thanks to Aragorn Quinn for pro­vid­ing excel­lent feed­back and some of the ideas you see here. Aragorn is a marathon run­ner of over 10 years and a recent bare­foot run­ning convert.

Resources

Here are some of the blogs and web­sites that I have found help­ful in putting together my pro­gram. You can see more links in my Ever­note Run­ning Bare­foot folder.

Run­ning Bare­foot – Bare­foot Ken Bob’s site is filled with great infor­ma­tion, though it can be over­whelm­ing. He’s also not open to the idea of wear­ing any shoe, even if min­i­mal, so this can be off-putting for beginners.

Bare­foot Ted’s Adven­tures – Bare­foot Ted, per­haps not as wacky as Chris McDougall por­trays him to be in the book Born to Run, offers bare­foot instruc­tion classes start­ing at $65 per per­son. He talks a lot about bare­foot run­ning on his blog, but does not pro­vide much in the way of instruc­tion or guid­ance. I guess he keeps that for his pay­ing customers.

Runner’s World Forums – I just dis­cov­ered another good step-by-step plan to run­ning bare­foot on the bare­foot run­ners forum of Runner’s World’s web­site. It was cre­ated by Jason who is the author of the blog Bare­foot Chron­i­cles. I highly rec­om­mend you check his blog out, as there are some good videos, too.

Adven­ture In Progress – Damien put together an exten­sive series of posts and ulti­mately pre­sen­ta­tion titled, The Case for Min­i­mal Footwear. In this sixth install­ment you will find some good advice.

LA Times – Roy Wal­lack, author of Run­ning for Life, wrote one of the best arti­cles of recent about bare­foot run­ning and Born to Run. An accom­plished run­ner him­self, he pro­vides advice in his col­umn Tips on bare­foot running.

Wired – The arti­cle To run bare­foot, start by ditch­ing your Nikes by Dylan Tweney pro­vides advice based on per­sonal expe­ri­ence learn­ing to run with Vibram Five Fingers.

Bare­foot Run­ning –  Rob’s Shodless.com blog post How to start run­ning bare­foot has some good tips and tricks.

Bare­foot Run­ner – This site is loaded with infor­ma­tion per­tain­ing to bare­foot run­ning. In addi­tion to good foot exer­cises, the post Should You Toss Your Run­ning Shoes and Just Go Bare­foot? is help­ful for beginners.

What do you think? Leave a com­ment below.

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  • http://www.jonathanmarkmagic.co.uk/ Jonathan

    Great Post! I’m try­ing to ween myself of struc­tured shoes. I’m find­ing that I need to fol­low a reg­u­lar pat­tern of stretches each day to lengthen my calf mus­cles. As they seem to get a ham­mer­ing the first few times you go barefoot.

  • http://www.jonathanmarkmagic.co.uk Jonathan

    Great Post! I’m try­ing to ween myself of struc­tured shoes. I’m find­ing that I need to fol­low a reg­u­lar pat­tern of stretches each day to lengthen my calf mus­cles. As they seem to get a ham­mer­ing the first few times you go barefoot.

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks. I know what you mean about tight calves. I think stretch­ing them as much as pos­si­ble is a great idea. My phys­i­cal ther­a­pist has me doing that any way, for­tu­nately. Have you begun to walk or bare­foot at all?

    • http://www.jonathanmarkmagic.co.uk/ Jonathan

      Yes I have basi­cally given up shoes around the house and use my VFF clas­sics at the week­ends. Haven’t tran­si­tioned out of my struc­tured run­ning shoes yet as I have a marathon in four weeks. As soon as that is over I am going to hold a bin­ning cer­e­mony! Hope you are still mak­ing good progress am fol­low­ing you on Twit­ter I’m @jmmagic

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks. I know what you mean about tight calves. I think stretch­ing them as much as pos­si­ble is a great idea. My phys­i­cal ther­a­pist has me doing that any way, for­tu­nately. Have you begun to walk or bare­foot at all?

    • http://www.jonathanmarkmagic.co.uk Jonathan

      Yes I have basi­cally given up shoes around the house and use my VFF clas­sics at the week­ends. Haven’t tran­si­tioned out of my struc­tured run­ning shoes yet as I have a marathon in four weeks. As soon as that is over I am going to hold a bin­ning cer­e­mony! Hope you are still mak­ing good progress am fol­low­ing you on Twit­ter I’m @jmmagic

  • http://exuberantanimal.com/ Mick Dodge

    Yoish,
    This really looks good, will copy it and take it out for a bare­foot run.
    Glad to see that there is no min­i­mal­ist crap.
    Excel­lent jog.

    Bare­foot Sen­Say,
    mick dodge

    • Clyn­ton

      Thanks so much for stop­ping by and leav­ing a com­ment, Mick. I really appre­ci­ate your feed­back. You would know! By the way, had a won­der­ful after­noon with Bare­foot Ted yes­ter­day. You two have surely met, right? Espe­cially with both of you now resid­ing in Wash­ing­ton. I am enjoy­ing every moment I go bare­foot (except for that one damn lit­tle pointy acorn! :)

      • http://exuberantanimal.com/ Mick Dodge

        Yoish! My plea­sure, this is good work that our are doing, and you have a invite to come here to the EARTH GYM, free stay on the land, and share prac­tice.
        Yes i have met Ted in Seat­tle. He has turned into quite a shoes sales man. I think he spends most of his time behind the sit­ting walls.
        Keep up you pre­sen­ta­tion, this is really good stuff you have put out.

        And John has some really good advice in break­ing out of the per­for­mance goals and just fol­low your feet. No one else can feel for you, and feel­ing leads to aware­ness, and aware­ness leads to Foot Con­scious­ness. Aware­ness with out feel­ing is the enemy of consciousness.

        Thanks for hav­ing this site.

        Foot The X-uberance!
        Mick

  • http://exuberantanimal.com Mick Dodge

    Yoish,
    This really looks good, will copy it and take it out for a bare­foot run.
    Glad to see that there is no min­i­mal­ist crap.
    Excel­lent jog.

    Bare­foot Sen­Say,
    mick dodge

    • Clyn­ton

      Thanks so much for stop­ping by and leav­ing a com­ment, Mick. I really appre­ci­ate your feed­back. You would know! By the way, had a won­der­ful after­noon with Bare­foot Ted yes­ter­day. You two have surely met, right? Espe­cially with both of you now resid­ing in Wash­ing­ton. I am enjoy­ing every moment I go bare­foot (except for that one damn lit­tle pointy acorn! :)

      • http://exuberantanimal.com Mick Dodge

        Yoish! My plea­sure, this is good work that our are doing, and you have a invite to come here to the EARTH GYM, free stay on the land, and share prac­tice.
        Yes i have met Ted in Seat­tle. He has turned into quite a shoes sales man. I think he spends most of his time behind the sit­ting walls.
        Keep up you pre­sen­ta­tion, this is really good stuff you have put out.

        And John has some really good advice in break­ing out of the per­for­mance goals and just fol­low your feet. No one else can feel for you, and feel­ing leads to aware­ness, and aware­ness leads to Foot Con­scious­ness. Aware­ness with out feel­ing is the enemy of consciousness.

        Thanks for hav­ing this site.

        Foot The X-uberance!
        Mick

  • http://www.runblogger.com/ Pete

    Looks like a good approach to going bare­foot! I par­tic­u­larly like the empha­sis on build­ing up slowly — like you, I’ve read many reports of peo­ple hurt­ing them­selves by doing too much, too fast. One thing you could add would be a descrip­tion of some of the more com­mon trou­ble signs to watch for (e.g., top of foot pain, ball of foot pain, etc.).

    Pete

    • Clyn­ton

      Thanks Pete. I’m work­ing on a FAQ and I think adding some of the com­mon pit­falls is a great idea!

  • http://www.runblogger.com/ Pete

    Looks like a good approach to going bare­foot! I par­tic­u­larly like the empha­sis on build­ing up slowly — like you, I’ve read many reports of peo­ple hurt­ing them­selves by doing too much, too fast. One thing you could add would be a descrip­tion of some of the more com­mon trou­ble signs to watch for (e.g., top of foot pain, ball of foot pain, etc.).

    Pete

    • Clyn­ton

      Thanks Pete. I’m work­ing on a FAQ and I think adding some of the com­mon pit­falls is a great idea!

  • http://JohnSifferman.com/ John Sif­fer­man

    I first started going bare­foot this past spring, after many years of cross coun­try and track and field in shoes. I wouldn’t even go bare­foot in my house!

    When I started, I fol­lowed a sim­i­lar pro­gres­sion as you have out­lined above — this is a great resource for beginners!

    My advice to begin­ners echoes your own — progress slowly. It took me about 4 months before I was truly pre­pared for long dis­tance bare­foot runs — and that may have been rush­ing it. I expe­ri­enced the most ben­e­fits when I dis­con­nected myself from per­for­mance goals (ie going 6 miles, when I was only ready for 4, etc.). Instead, I focused on the expe­ri­ence, the joy of run­ning. It wasn’t a 4 month pro­gram to me, it was a new per­spec­tive that was prepar­ing me for a new run­ning method for the rest of my life.

    When I real­ized that there was no need to hurry, no need to push hard like I did when I com­peted — that’s when my run­ning tech­nique improved, my dis­tances went up, and my times went down.

    After about 6 months of inves­ti­gat­ing, I’m offi­cially a con­vert for going bare­foot and can’t imag­ine I will ever go back to shod run­ning, at least in the warmer (non-snowy) months.

    Best,

    John Sif­fer­man

  • http://JohnSifferman.com John Sif­fer­man

    I first started going bare­foot this past spring, after many years of cross coun­try and track and field in shoes. I wouldn’t even go bare­foot in my house!

    When I started, I fol­lowed a sim­i­lar pro­gres­sion as you have out­lined above — this is a great resource for beginners!

    My advice to begin­ners echoes your own — progress slowly. It took me about 4 months before I was truly pre­pared for long dis­tance bare­foot runs — and that may have been rush­ing it. I expe­ri­enced the most ben­e­fits when I dis­con­nected myself from per­for­mance goals (ie going 6 miles, when I was only ready for 4, etc.). Instead, I focused on the expe­ri­ence, the joy of run­ning. It wasn’t a 4 month pro­gram to me, it was a new per­spec­tive that was prepar­ing me for a new run­ning method for the rest of my life.

    When I real­ized that there was no need to hurry, no need to push hard like I did when I com­peted — that’s when my run­ning tech­nique improved, my dis­tances went up, and my times went down.

    After about 6 months of inves­ti­gat­ing, I’m offi­cially a con­vert for going bare­foot and can’t imag­ine I will ever go back to shod run­ning, at least in the warmer (non-snowy) months.

    Best,

    John Sif­fer­man

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks so much for shar­ing your per­sonal expe­ri­ence, John. I think it’s a good idea to lis­ten to your own body and let that guide you instead of spe­cific met­rics, such as mileage. That can be dif­fi­cult for run­ners at first, though, as they live in a world mea­sured by miles and min­utes on a weekly cycle. I like the idea of joy being the met­ric. Really happy to hear it’s worked out well for you. It’s also a good reminder to be patient and to be ok with the tran­si­tion tak­ing time. Bare­foot Ted echoed your thoughts in his bare­foot clinic I par­tic­i­pated in yesterday.

    BTW, love your web­site. The video of how you learned to climb after the Mov­Nat sem­i­nar was very help­ful. I’m a huge fan of Erwan’s tech­niques as well. Great that you were able to spend so much time learn­ing with him.

    Keep in touch!

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks so much for shar­ing your per­sonal expe­ri­ence, John. I think it’s a good idea to lis­ten to your own body and let that guide you instead of spe­cific met­rics, such as mileage. That can be dif­fi­cult for run­ners at first, though, as they live in a world mea­sured by miles and min­utes on a weekly cycle. I like the idea of joy being the met­ric. Really happy to hear it’s worked out well for you. It’s also a good reminder to be patient and to be ok with the tran­si­tion tak­ing time. Bare­foot Ted echoed your thoughts in his bare­foot clinic I par­tic­i­pated in yesterday.

    BTW, love your web­site. The video of how you learned to climb after the Mov­Nat sem­i­nar was very help­ful. I’m a huge fan of Erwan’s tech­niques as well. Great that you were able to spend so much time learn­ing with him.

    Keep in touch!

  • Quone

    Thanks for putting this together. From my own expe­ri­ence, I would not be able to do the pro­gram. I am at a mile BF right now and have done it twice so far. I am almost pos­i­tive I will not be able to make the jump from 1 to 2 miles with­out a major blis­ter out­break. I am almost pos­i­tive I could do it if I wore my VFF’s but I am try­ing to at least get going by going BF. Any­way that’s just my situation.

  • Quone

    Thanks for putting this together. From my own expe­ri­ence, I would not be able to do the pro­gram. I am at a mile BF right now and have done it twice so far. I am almost pos­i­tive I will not be able to make the jump from 1 to 2 miles with­out a major blis­ter out­break. I am almost pos­i­tive I could do it if I wore my VFF’s but I am try­ing to at least get going by going BF. Any­way that’s just my situation.

  • Tami

    Thank you for putting this together … I am just dis­cov­er­ing the ben­e­fits of bare­foot or near BF run­ning and was look­ing for how to tran­si­tion from my sta­bil­ity shoes … I think the P90X leg exer­cises I have been doing the last sev­eral months helped me a lot as when I over­did it with going 2 miles in min­i­mal­ist shoes right away I didn’t suf­fer as badly as I’ve heard oth­ers suf­fer, but now I’m look­ing for the safest and yet fastest way to tran­si­tion because I don’t like using my sta­bil­ity run­ning shoes any longer. Thank you for the information!

  • Tami

    Thank you for putting this together … I am just dis­cov­er­ing the ben­e­fits of bare­foot or near BF run­ning and was look­ing for how to tran­si­tion from my sta­bil­ity shoes … I think the P90X leg exer­cises I have been doing the last sev­eral months helped me a lot as when I over­did it with going 2 miles in min­i­mal­ist shoes right away I didn’t suf­fer as badly as I’ve heard oth­ers suf­fer, but now I’m look­ing for the safest and yet fastest way to tran­si­tion because I don’t like using my sta­bil­ity run­ning shoes any longer. Thank you for the information!

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    I think daily stretches of the calves is a great idea. I’ve found that stretch­ing the calves, feet, and quads are par­tic­u­larly impor­tant with a bare­foot form. I am for­tu­nate that the exer­cises my phys­i­cal ther­a­pist has me do each day include those stretches and more.

  • http://www.paulpetch.com/ paul

    Cool post :) I really like the con­cept of BF run­ning but still believe that min­i­mal run­ners or even cush­ioned run­ners with­out arch/ orthotic sup­ports with cor­rect tech­nique can offer the same. In the­ory BF run­ning pro­motes cor­rect tech­nique due to lack of rear cush­ion­ing– so why not just run in min­i­mal run­ners and safe guard against cuts and other injuries to the upper feet?

    I am try­ing small BF runs this sum­mer though– on soft grass and the sandy beach as i do think that it helps to build the arches.

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Form is what is most impor­tant, you’re right. How­ever, the width of the mid-foot area is also impor­tant. Stud­ies have shown that the more foot that hits the ground the faster you go. And the more cush­ion­ing the harder you tend to hit the ground — body seems to need that feed­back. I always say that every­one should learn proper form by run­ning with­out any shoes at first. Once you have the form, though, some min­i­mal shoes won’t stop you from run­ning cor­rectly. Thanks for sharing!

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  • aaron­curl

    I enjoyed the guide. I just started run­ning six weeks ago, prior to that I rode about 1500 miles this sea­son. Now about 3 weeks ago I came across bare­foot run­ning and thought I would give it a shot. I agree with every­thing in your guide except 10 miles in 11 weeks. The most I have ran with shoes so far is 8 miles and I thought I was going to die. Week 10 you run 5 miles then increase the dis­tance by 50%. Isn’t that a bit much? Accord­ing to every sin­gle thing I have read on run­ning increas­ing your mileage by 50% would be very bad. I have never tried it though so I don’t know. I have been bare­foot­ing it for 3 weeks so far and im up to 1 mile. Just my 2 cents. Great stuff though…keep up the good work!

  • http://www.mountainbikingnewzealand.co.nz/ MTBNZ

    Good point about increas­ing dis­tance. I see 10% per week as good practice.

  • bri­an­richard­son

    Thanks for the arti­cle. The only ques­tion I have is this: is “shod­less” even a word? I think it’s actu­ally “unshod”. I know, I know. There’s one in every bunch. But I cringed every time I saw that word. If I’m wrong, please cor­rect me.

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Yes, you are right, it is too much of a jump. I have received that feed­back from oth­ers and have made adjust­ments to the pro­gram, espe­cially in the last phase. Let me know what you think of the changes, and how run­ning goes for you! Glad you’ve been try­ing run­ning. If you almost die on a run, though, don’t push your­self too hard. I used to do that and it was a big rea­son I hated run­ning for so long.

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Yes, most stud­ies have shown and increase of 10–20% from one week to the next to be good.

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Thanks for stop­ping by Brian. Well, you might be right, that “shod­less” isn’t offi­cially a word, though it is used a decent amount online. How­ever, I had been think­ing using the more famil­iar word “bare­foot” would be bet­ter, so make the change after see­ing your comment.

  • http://www.healthwellnesstips.net/ health_wellness_tips

    Yep! I was agreed, I’ll keep in touch to your blog.

  • http://www.scharlemann.com/ Greg Scharle­mann

    Great stuff! Just got my FiveFin­gers today

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Fan­tas­tic! I think you’ll enjoy them. Remem­ber to ramp up slowly and take a rest day after every run to assess how you are doing (calves often won’t be sore dur­ing run, but sure will the next day). Let us know how it works out by stop­ping back here. All the best!

  • http://www.scharlemann.com/ Greg Scharle­mann

    Great stuff! Just got my FiveFin­gers today

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Fan­tas­tic! I think you’ll enjoy them. Remem­ber to ramp up slowly and take a rest day after every run to assess how you are doing (calves often won’t be sore dur­ing run, but sure will the next day). Let us know how it works out by stop­ping back here. All the best!

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  • http://blog.naturallyengineered.com/ David Csonka

    This is a great resource! The patience part is def­i­nitely impor­tant; I have trou­ble with that (and suf­fer the consequences).

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Thanks, David. It sure is hard to take it slowly, espe­cially when run­ning bare­foot is so exhil­a­rat­ing! Good luck with it.

  • david­wal­lace

    Ran for many years in deer­skin moc­casins because peo­ple are pigs and you never know what you will step on. The soft deer­skin con­forms to and pro­tects your feet.

  • http://www.Flickr.com/photos/richtpt Richtpt

    What about junk in the road, like glass, nails, etc? I would worry most about step­ping on some­thing that could cut/hurt my foot.

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  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    That is the num­ber one con­cern peo­ple have. It was my first con­cern as well. How­ever, after hear­ing the expe­ri­ence of many bare­foot run­ners and try­ing it myself I was quite amazed with how lit­tle glass, nails, gen­er­ally sharp and nasty objects there are out there. Now, most of my run­ning is on the trails, so it’s per­haps less of a daily con­cern of mine, but I have run bare­foot in cities and been just fine.

    That being said, it is impor­tant to watch where you are going. I like the way Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run, responds when asked the same ques­tion. He says he has these incred­i­ble tools he calls his eyes. If he sees a sharp rock, he steps beside it, not on it.

    Give it a try and if you feel more com­fort­able wear­ing min­i­mal shoes like Vibram Five Fin­gers or Vivo Bare­foot EVOs, no wor­ries. At the end of the day, after try­ing some bare­foot run­ning, I think every­one should go with what feels right to them. Over the win­ter months I did just about all of my run­ning in my Vibram Five Fingers.

    Thanks a bunch for the com­ment. Stop back and let us know how it goes for you!

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Deer­skin moc­casins sound great. I’d love to give moc­casins a try. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/asbness Asb­jørn Ness

    I have a ques­tion on how to com­bine the steps. If I decide to go with your pro­gram, should I:
    - the 2nd week, add the out­side walk­ing on top of the indoor walk­ing?
    - the 3rd week, add feet/leg/breath-exercises on top of both indoor and out­door walk­ing?
    - keep adding the new step on top of the pre­vi­ous? until I reach step 6 maybe?

    Maybe you’ve already answered this ques­tion in your arti­cle, but I read it twice, and could not find it, or under­stand it :)

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Excel­lent ques­tion. I think your sug­ges­tion would make sense. How­ever, I don’t think it’s nec­es­sary to treat each step as cumu­la­tive. For exam­ple, in week 5, there’s no need to con­tinue run­ning on grass. How­ever, if you’ve got the time and enjoy that, go for it! Thanks for help­ing to pro­vide clar­ity. Please stop back and let all of us know how it goes.

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  • john

    Here’s a ques­tion: If you’re a run­ner, and already runnng say 30 miles a week and you want to make the con­ver­sion to BF run­ning, how do you keep up with your work­out and grad­u­ally go into BF? I would be very hes­i­tant to stop run­ning for any length of time, because i love run­ning and it feels great now (with shoes), but I want to make the tran­si­tion to this more nat­ural style.
    To me, what would make sense is prob­a­bly min­i­mal­ist shoes for some of the runs, and incor­po­rate some of your sug­gested steps to traing and strengthen your feet.

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Exactly, no one wants to have to have to cut their mileage way back to tran­si­tion to bare­foot or min­i­mal style run­ning. I didn’t have to worry about that because I was forced to stop all run­ning due to a back injury and surgery, so started from zero mileage.

    But for seri­ous run­ners, the idea of hav­ing to cut back their miles is under­stand­ably a big bar­rier. How­ever, there is an alter­na­tive approach, one you out­lined. Just add bare­foot run­ning to an exist­ing run­ning plan.

    I cre­ated the 12 Step Pro­gram to Run Bare­foot to enable folks to do just that — over­lay it upon an exist­ing run­ning plan. That’s one rea­son it’s based on the weekly model and uses famil­iar met­rics, such as dis­tance. I sug­gest you add some min­i­mal run­ning to your cur­rent plan, fol­low­ing the 12 Week Pro­gram below.

    While I cer­tainly can’t claim to be sci­en­tific in my esti­mate, I would say the vast major­ity of injuries and dis­com­fort is caused by peo­ple run­ning too far, too soon. Take it slowly. But since you won’t have to cut your reg­u­lar miles back, you should be fine with being patient.

    Let us know how it goes!

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  • http://posecoach.blogspot.com Ken Schafer

    Thanks for point­ing me here. This infor­ma­tion will def­i­nitely help ease into bare­foot running.

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