One foot at a time | One sole at a time | One hell of a good time


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Denver Post Barefoot Running Debate

The Denver Post has been printing some interesting articles on barefoot running...stirring the debate about barefooting...pro and con.

It turns out that the biggest opponent of barefoot running is Mark Plaatjes, the owner of the Boulder Running Company. He makes the argument that running barefoot is not for Americans because "98 percent of the U.S. do not grow up barefoot, walking barefoot" and that "If you do not grow up barefoot, it is a really difficult thing to do."

Granted, Mr. Plaatjes is correct that many if not most Americans did not grow up barefoot..., but making the case that since they did not, they should not, is not the kind of argument one should make without a lot of evidence backing it up. And that evidence is not there.

My experience tells me that you can regain use of your feet, one thoughtful step at a time. For many, the foot has atrophied and become weak from years of wearing shoe casts. Constantly supporting the foot leads to weakness. Strengthening the foot requires patience and care, but the results are so well worth it. Your foot is an amazing and beautiful piece of magical equipment that you've inherited from a long line of successful movement. Self-healing and self-nourishing, your feet get stronger with use...the best shoes you'll ever own.

Michael Sandler of Boulder is the article's main barefoot running proponent. Sandler says that "When you are barefoot, you are forced to run the way ancient man ran, which is a soft dance," and I agree. He further points out that even his upper body is getting stronger from barefooting. I understand this too.

One of the other proponents, Ivo Waerlop, suggests that
barefoot running allows muscles to strengthen and work in different ways than they are familiar with while in shoes. Runners experience a more natural stride when they are barefoot, he says, and I agree. Further, he points out that when in training shoes, runners are more likely to land on their heel before rocking through to the toes, and that is not a good thing.

They also quote me in the article thus:

"When you take away the feeling of the impact of your feet hitting the ground, you end up putting much more impact into your body than if you felt it and adjusted your stride," said Barefoot Ted, perhaps the most well-known barefoot running enthusiast. He lives in Washington and has spread the gospel of barefoot running for five years.

"The more padded the shoe has become, the more impact people are putting into their body," Barefoot Ted said.

No shoes = bigger smiles

Further in the article, it suggests that we (Sandler and me) are on the extreme side of the barefoot spectrum..., but is that exactly true? We are just showing what is possible and suggesting that barefoot and minimal running be included in the dialogue of mainstream's understanding of running rather than resorting to scare tactics to make people shy away from being barefoot. We are living proof that it can be done...and that it is joyful.

I suggest you give barefooting a try. Start slow and build slow. Be thoughtful, mindful and gentle. The rewards seem very high, and I have been receiving a lot of emails with amazing success reports.

If you live near Boulder and you may be interested in meeting up with the Boulder Barefoot Running Club. It is an enthusiastic group of folks proving that the foot is just fine as it is.

If you are near Seattle, I do coach barefoot running technique in an introduction to barefoot running workshop which I like to do one-on-one or with small groups. See my coaching page here.

I plan on starting a Seattle (Capitol Hill) Barefoot Running Club in the near future using Volunteer Park and the Arboretum as the club running grounds. Should be fun.

For the original Denver Post article, click here.

Barefoot Ted



Anonymous Niels Teunis said...

I only recently started to run again and I am starting out barefoot. I run at the beach. The old rule applies: "Don't be a bloody fool." At first my foot was very tired from running in the sand and flexing in ways it hadn't done in a long while. But I also run too long, too far.
Because of sheer joy! I never felt joyful when running with shoes on the pavement and I now understand why.
My feet are no longer sore after a run, only my calf and achilles tendon. I still take it slow and expect to keep doing that for some time. I don't mind, I am having fun early in the morning. I sure don't expect anything else after a twelve year (yes, year) hiatus.
Thanks Ted for your encouragement. You made a real difference for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger southofthecliff said...

How does Mr. Boulder Running Co know that it's difficult to do? Difficult for his bottom line, maybe.

I'm with you, Niels. The biggest risk with barefooting is doing too much too soon because it's so fun.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger Tigaj said...

THANK you for posting this! As a big fan of barefeet and a Boulder resident, this article is double exciting!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger Team Harris said...

I find it interesting that Mr.-Can't-Remember-His-Name suggests that people shouldn't run barefoot because they aren't used to it. Hmmm... I'm a registered nurse. I have seen people who've been bedridden for months and have completely atrophied muscles. I've even seen this in young, pregnant mothers who have been forced to be on strict bed rest in order to avoid miscarriage. Some of these mothers can barely walk to the bathroom because of atrophy. Yet, should we say to them, "Don't bother trying to walk again. You aren't used to it. It'll be too hard and you'll suffer"? That would be preposterous.

I've just started barefooting and I am loving every single minute. (Granted I did grow up barefoot but have been shod for the past 11 years or so.) Still, it is wonderful and I haven't felt this good in a long time. So take that Mr.-I-Can't-Remember-Your-Name!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger AlmostBarefootCaleb said...

I have to agree with the above comments, especially Team Harris's logic. If muscles and tendons are weak the best way to help them get stronger is to give them some exercise. To add to that, does it really seem wise to continue running (or walking if you're so inclined) in shoes that, by Mark's own admission though indirect and I'm sure unintentional, weaken our feet? Won't our feet continue to get weaker if we do that? Seems illogical.

Keep up the good work El Mono ;)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger Thomas said...

10k winner does it barefoot: http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/event/image/id/7501/headline/Jake%20Pittman,%20winner%20of%20the%20Pepper%20Fest%2010K%20/

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger WendyBird said...

As a runner with rheumatoid arthritis, barefoot running has been amazing at decreasing impact on my joints. With the damage I have in my feet, it would seem logical that I would desperately need padding and support, but since I made the transition I'm faster, can run longer, and feel much better after a run. I never thought I could train past 10 miles, but now I'm planning to train for my first marathon next year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blogger shel said...

ted - you are mas LOCO, man! you're going to step on some broken glass if you don't get those feet into some shoes STAT!
hahahaha. thanks for posting this, i was hoping for a rebuttle

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anonymous Space Girl said...

It's nice to see that a regular newspaper is even having this debate. In Oklahoma, it's all about football, and most of the state doesn't even play football, they just watch it. Explains our godawful obestity ranking, no? (Well, maybe not fully, but close enough.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anonymous King of sneaker said...

Wow, good analysis

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anonymous Tricotine said...

Thank you for this clarifying blog, Ted! I needed it in these current times of doubts... I wish there was a barefoot running group in Maine.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anonymous Zolodoco said...

Have fun in Leadville this weekend. I'm looking forward to the race report.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blogger Jason Robillard said...

Great job, Ted. You are an excellent ambassador for the barefoot running movement. I really appreciate the fact that others are pushing the barefoot distance running envelope!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blogger Boris T. said...

Thanks for the great article. Mr. Plaatjes seems to have some faulty logic in his thinking. So we don't walk barefoot all the time = therefore we shouldn't try. I hear this a lot from a lot of people who've never ran barefoot and dont seem to get that we didn't evolve with shoes glued to our feet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I have kids, I would like them to retain their barefoot strength as they grow. However, not many shoes are suitable for this. Does anyone have good recommendations on shoes that would simulate barefoot strength for kids? And not look to goofy? I think fivefingers look cool, but they are not exactly suitable for children, mostly due to such rapid growth as one develops.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Mike Langan said...

I have been running barefoot for about a month now - only on a treadmill so far. I am in the Army in Iraq and the Army has graveled everything and running on it is far too painful (I've even tried with Feelmax and VFFs but it's still too painful). When I run outside I wear Nike Free and I try to keep my form the same as when I run barefoot. Ted, can you recommend anything better for running on gravel to "simulate" running barefoot?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anonymous Runner Without A Cause said...

Barefoot Runners, I just finished reading, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall It's something I found very interesting...
Any tips or personal experiences as far as how you integrated into this style would be greatly appreciated. You can read my story and first experience with barefoot running at the blog link below. Happy trails!

Steven D. Gonzalez
Blog | http://runcoreaustin.blogspot.com
Email | runcoreaustin@gmail.com

Friday, August 28, 2009

Anonymous Julle said...

Feelmax has some models also for children. Sizes seem to go from 22 to 34. I think Feelmax uses euro sizing but there is size table in their site where you can find out what size you are.


I also think Feelmaxes could be answer to the concern about shoes getting quickly small for children. I base my opinion in this to the fact that I ended up buying my Niesas one size too large. I have been using the shoes now for two weeks and although they do feel large they don't move around your feet when I'm wearing them, as regular shoes would do. Or if they do I don't notice it at all.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogger dan said...

I just finished Born To Run as well and it is a truly inspirational book. I ran barefoot for the first time a few weeks ago, and the experience was truly memorable. Somehow, my legs just felt like springs...very bouncy and fresh. That first experience is akin to a scuba diver taking the first underwater breath...absolutely refreshing. Thanks for the inspiration on this blog and I hope this catches on!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

(this comment isn't exactly for Ted or one person)

Everyone has a point of view and what works for them. Barefoot is great for some, not so great for others. Similar arguments could be made for “getting back to nature” on all fronts; is there a “ZoneDiet” Ted out there? I don’t think that belittling Palates (1993 world marathon champ for the US) who has more running credentials in his big toe (shod or not) than McDougall or Ted helps the cause. In fact, this gross superiority complex is quite off-putting. As if the only way to enjoy running is barefoot. Please! I find many smiles while running in shoes or (gasp!) on the treadmill. I smile when I go fast and barefoot running doesn’t allow me to do that. I feel there is a place for barefoot running in my tool belt as there is a place for all types of surfaces, race distances and experiences. I welcome by barefoot brothers and sisters into the running community without looking down my nose.

The irony is barefoot evangelists are becoming as close minded as they claim the rest of us are. And while blasting Palates for making a living with shoes, no one mentions Ted’s plug for his barefoot lesson and speaking engagements.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

No one should be belittling anyone here. That was not my purpose.

And I am definitely NOT dogmatically barefoot...not even close. Barefooting is the best for me...but I can't assume for everyone...and don't.

I don't like people telling us that we CAN'T do something...without being quite certain that they know what they are talking about.

I say let a 1000 flowers bloom...and spend less time talking about what is not possible and more time sharing what is possible.

My Google Group is title Minimalist Runner...and includes discussions on all kinds of footwear that people find to be useful.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

to be clear Ted.

I think you were completely fair in your response to the article. I don't know you but your advice is sound and not dogmatic.

However, Not all responses were.

I guess the "No Shoe=More smiles" kind of bugged me but if you are saying that is the way it is for you, that's cool. Shoes don't play into my smiles when I run.

Thanks for putting up my dissenting opinion. It shows me more than a post ever could about what kind of person you are.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...

By the way, the line:

No Shoe=More smiles

...is from the article. :)


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blogger southofthecliff said...

Anonomous: My "bottom line" remark re Palates was snide, which unfortunately is a way I sometimes express frustration.

Sorry about that. Let me try to express myself as an adult:

I would like to know what, exactly, are the critics' experiences with running barefoot. Maybe I'm not reading it right or just haven't done my homework, but I'm beginning to suspect that there is no evidence. This makes me wonder if profit motive is the reason for criticism.

I hope this isn't the case, and that it's a matter of misinformation or just plain old allegiance to a meme.

Or, if their concerns are valid, I would like to know more details about their experiences with running barefoot. I do notice frequent messages on a few different barefoot running forums complaining of pain and injuries, and have had to take some time off myself after overdoing it.

Too much, too soon, no research. That's going to cause a lot of unnecessary pain, and is totally avoidable.

OK, so apparently adult means "long-winded" to me.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blogger Random Blog said...

Good job out there on the trail it was nice to meet your crew and take some photos of your new Vibrams!
www.MrBimble.com is our running groups site - your feet are currently on the home page. :)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Blogger Mrs. H. said...

I'm not going to pretend to be a barefooting expert, especially since I wear shoes to run on my asphalt road, and save the barefooting for the house, but I did read that you shouldn't put small children in hard-soled shoes while their feet are developing, so except for dangerous conditions or extreme cold, I've always let my children go barefoot at home, in the yard, etc. Of course, this is easy in the deep south, where it is much warmer.

Rock on, Ted! I just finished Born to Run for my 3rd time. I'm saving my pennies for my first pair of VFF, andrunning my first 5k in 15 years this year. Starting all over again, the right way this time. For joy, nothing else.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Anonymous KOICHI said...

I ran Vff Tokyo-marathon .

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blogger Barefoot Ted said...


Gokurosama desita!

I want to do a barefoot/minimalist adventure in Japan. Perhaps next year, or this autumn.


PS. Doko de sunde imasu ka?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


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