Barefoot Shoes for Running 101: Getting Started and Choosing the Right Shoes

Barefoot Shoes for Running 101: Getting Started and Choosing the Right Shoes

Start here: Ditch Your Shoes and Go Barefoot!

Barefoot Shoes for Running

Are you new to barefoot shoes for running?


Do you want to learn more about the why, what and how of barefoot living – as well as some recommended barefoot shoes you can use for every occasion?

Then you don’t want to miss our bigger (and better!) article:


[ > Ditch Your Shoes: Go Barefoot (and Barefoot Shoes) for Stronger, Healthier Feet < ]


After reading that, come on back here for the specifics of barefoot running.


Table of Contents

Barefoot Shoes for Running

The popularity of barefoot running has surged in recent years, with many runners ditching their traditional cushioned shoes in favor of minimalist or barefoot options.

But what exactly is barefoot running, and why are so many people embracing this back-to-basics approach?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits of barefoot running, help you determine if it’s right for you, and provide tips on transitioning safely and choosing the best barefoot shoes for running.

The Benefits of Barefoot Running

Barefoot running has gained traction due to its numerous potential benefits, including:

  1. Strengthening feet and lower leg muscles: Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes engages and strengthens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet and lower legs, leading to improved foot function and stability.
  2. Improving running form and reducing impact: Barefoot running encourages a more natural, mid-foot or forefoot strike, which can help reduce the impact forces on your joints and lower your risk of certain running-related injuries.
  3. Enhancing sensory feedback: Without the thick cushioning of traditional running shoes, barefoot running allows your feet to better sense the ground beneath you, providing valuable proprioceptive feedback that can improve balance and body awareness.

While barefoot running offers many potential benefits, it’s essential to approach this transition cautiously and progressively to avoid injury and ensure a positive experience.

Is Barefoot Running Right for You?

Before diving into barefoot running, it’s crucial to assess whether it’s a suitable choice for your individual needs and circumstances.

Consider the following factors:

Precautions and Who Should Avoid Barefoot Running

While many people can safely enjoy the benefits of barefoot running, there are some individuals who should proceed with caution or avoid it altogether, including:

  • Those with certain pre-existing foot conditions, such as severe flat feet, high arches, or chronic plantar fasciitis
  • Individuals with a history of lower leg injuries, such as stress fractures or Achilles tendinitis
  • People who are significantly overweight or obese, as the added stress on the feet and lower legs may increase the risk of injury

If you have any concerns about whether barefoot running is right for you, consult with a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist or sports medicine physician, before making the transition.

Preparing Your Feet and Body

To minimize the risk of injury and ensure a smooth transition to barefoot running, it’s essential to properly prepare your feet and body.

Some key steps include:

  1. Gradually increasing barefoot activities: Start by spending more time barefoot during your daily routine, such as walking around your home or doing yard work. This helps strengthen the muscles and toughen the skin on your feet.
  2. Performing foot and lower leg exercises: Incorporate exercises like toe spreads, calf raises, and ankle circles into your daily routine to improve strength and flexibility in your feet and lower legs.
  3. Practicing proper running form: Focus on maintaining a tall posture, landing with a mid-foot or forefoot strike, and keeping your stride short and quick. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend running with this technique.

By taking a gradual, progressive approach to transitioning to barefoot running, you’ll reduce your risk of injury and set yourself up for long-term success.

Barefoot Running Basics

Once you’ve determined that barefoot running is right for you and have begun preparing your feet and body, it’s time to dive into the basics of this unique running style.

Mastering proper form and technique is crucial for reaping the benefits and minimizing the risk of injury when running in barefoot shoes for running.

Proper Barefoot Running Form and Stride

One of the key differences between barefoot running and running in traditional cushioned shoes is the way your foot strikes the ground.

When running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, aim to adopt the following techniques:

  • Mid-foot or forefoot striking: Instead of landing on your heel, as is common in traditional running shoes, aim to land on the middle or front part of your foot. This helps reduce the impact forces on your joints and encourages a more natural, efficient stride.
  • Shorter stride length and higher cadence: Barefoot running often results in a shorter stride length and a higher cadence (steps per minute). This can help reduce the stress on your feet and lower legs while improving your overall running efficiency.
  • Maintaining good posture: Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and back straight. Avoid leaning too far forward or back, as this can throw off your balance and lead to inefficient running form.

Where to Start Running Barefoot

When you first begin barefoot running, it’s essential to choose the right surfaces to minimize the risk of injury and discomfort.

Some ideal options include:

  1. Natural surfaces: Start on softer, more forgiving surfaces like grass, sand, or dirt trails. These surfaces provide a more natural and cushioned running experience, allowing your feet to adapt gradually to the new style of running.
  2. Smooth, even surfaces: As you become more comfortable, progress to smooth, even surfaces such as a rubberized track or well-maintained sidewalk. Avoid uneven or rocky terrain until your feet have fully adapted to barefoot running.
  3. Gradually increasing distance: Begin with short runs, focusing on maintaining proper form and technique. Gradually increase your distance and duration over time, listening to your body and allowing adequate rest and recovery between runs.

Choosing the Best Barefoot Shoes for Running

Barefoot Shoes for Running

While some runners prefer to run completely barefoot, many opt for minimalist or barefoot shoes for running.

These shoes provide a thin layer of protection against the ground while still allowing your feet to move and function naturally.

When selecting barefoot running shoes, consider the following factors:

  • Zero drop: Look for shoes with no height difference between the heel and toe, known as a “zero drop” design. This encourages a natural, mid-foot or forefoot strike and promotes proper running form.
  • Wide toe box: Choose shoes with a wide, foot-shaped toe box that allows your toes to spread naturally as you run. This can help improve balance and stability while reducing the risk of toe-related injuries.
  • Thin, flexible soles: Opt for shoes with thin, flexible soles that allow your feet to better sense the ground beneath you. This enhances proprioception and can help you maintain proper running form.
  • Lightweight, breathable materials: Select shoes made from lightweight, breathable materials that won’t weigh you down or cause your feet to overheat during runs.

Some popular barefoot shoe brands and models for running include Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell Vapor Glove, Xero Shoes, and Vivobarefoot Primus Trail or Stealth.

When trying on barefoot running shoes, ensure a proper fit that allows for ample toe room and a secure, comfortable feel throughout the foot.

Avoiding Injury and Troubleshooting Issues

As with any new physical activity or change in routine, transitioning to barefoot running or running in barefoot shoes for running comes with a certain level of risk.

By understanding common issues and taking proactive steps to prevent injury, you can ensure a safer, more enjoyable barefoot running experience.

Common Barefoot Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Some of the most common injuries associated with barefoot running include:

  • Plantar fasciitis: Inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, causing heel pain. To prevent plantar fasciitis, gradually increase your barefoot running distance and intensity, and perform regular calf and foot stretches.
  • Achilles tendinitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. To avoid Achilles tendinitis, focus on proper running form, gradually increase your mileage, and incorporate calf strengthening exercises into your routine.
  • Metatarsal stress fractures: Tiny cracks in the bones of the foot, often caused by overuse or a sudden increase in running intensity. To prevent stress fractures, gradually increase your barefoot running distance and intensity, and allow adequate rest and recovery between runs.

The Importance of Rest Days and Cross-Training

Incorporating rest days and cross-training activities into your barefoot running routine can help reduce the risk of injury and promote overall fitness.

Consider the following tips:

  1. Schedule regular rest days: Allow your body time to recover and adapt to the new stresses of barefoot running by taking at least one or two rest days per week, especially when starting out.
  2. Engage in low-impact cross-training: On non-running days, participate in low-impact activities that complement your barefoot running, such as swimming, cycling, or yoga. These activities can help improve your overall fitness while giving your feet and lower legs a break.
  3. Listen to your body: If you experience persistent pain or discomfort while running barefoot or in barefoot shoes for running, take a break and reassess your approach. Pushing through pain can lead to more serious injuries.

When to See a Medical Professional

While some minor discomfort is normal when transitioning to barefoot running, certain signs and symptoms warrant a visit to a healthcare professional. Seek medical advice if you experience:

  • Severe or persistent pain that does not improve with rest
  • Swelling, bruising, or visible deformities in your feet or lower legs
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your feet or toes
  • Pain that limits your ability to perform daily activities or disrupts your sleep

Dealing with Blisters, Hot Spots, or Foot Soreness

As your feet adapt to barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes, you may experience some blisters, hot spots, or general foot soreness.

To manage these issues:

  1. Use lubricants or anti-chafe balms: Apply a lubricant or anti-chafe balm to areas prone to blisters or hot spots to reduce friction and prevent skin irritation.
  2. Wear moisture-wicking socks: If wearing barefoot running shoes, opt for thin, moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and reduce the risk of blisters.
  3. Treat blisters properly: If a blister forms, avoid popping it unless necessary. Cover it with a clean, dry bandage or blister pad to protect the skin and promote healing.
  4. Allow time for recovery: If your feet feel sore or fatigued after a barefoot run, give them time to recover before your next session. Soaking your feet in cool water or applying ice can help alleviate discomfort.

By staying attentive to your body’s signals and addressing any issues promptly, you can minimize the risk of injury and maintain a consistent, enjoyable barefoot running practice.


Barefoot running, or running in barefoot shoes for running, can be a rewarding and beneficial way to approach your running routine.

By encouraging a more natural running form, strengthening your feet and lower legs, and enhancing your connection with the running surface, barefoot running offers numerous potential advantages over traditional running shoes.

However, it’s crucial to remember that transitioning to barefoot running is a gradual process that requires patience, preparation, and attentiveness to your body’s signals.

By taking the time to properly prepare your feet and body, focusing on proper form and technique, and selecting the right barefoot shoes for running, you can minimize the risk of injury and maximize the potential benefits of this unique running style.

As with any new physical activity, it’s essential to listen to your body and progress at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable for you.

If you experience persistent pain or discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare professional or a qualified running coach.

With dedication, mindfulness, and a willingness to adapt, barefoot running can become a transformative and enjoyable part of your running journey, allowing you to rediscover the joy of movement and connect with your body in a whole new way.


To further support your barefoot running journey, consider exploring the following resources:

Books and Websites

  • “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall
  • “The Barefoot Running Book” by Jason Robillard
  • The Barefoot Running University (
  • The Natural Running Center (

Barefoot and Minimalist Running Shoe Companies

Barefoot Shoes for Running
 [ > Click here to get 10% off Xero Shoes < ] 


Barefoot Shoes for Running
 [ > Click here to get 10% off Vivobarefoot Shoes using discount code PRIMALVIVO < ] 

Barefoot Running Communities and Events

By tapping into the knowledge and experiences of others in the barefoot running community, you can gain valuable insights, find support, and stay motivated on your journey to mastering this rewarding running style.

Remember, every runner’s path is unique, so embrace the process, celebrate your progress, and enjoy the freedom and connection that barefoot running can bring to your life.

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