A Lesson In Barefoot Beach Running

September 21, 2008

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When you are really excited to do some beach running during the weekend while visiting your friend’s beach house, only to realize that youre membered everything except for your running shoes, it sucks. Bad.

After getting mentally psyched up for a nice change of scenery, I finally decided to suck it up and realized that I probably didn’t need shoes anyway. Sand is nice and soft, right?

Early Saturday morning I walked down to the beach at low tide, stretched out a little and headed down across the shore. I quickly realized that running without shoes was completely different. If I slowed down too much and started striking with my heel first, my whole body rattled. With every stride it felt like a hammer being taken to my skull as the shock traveled all the way up my leg directly into my head.

Weird. I guess I was getting an impromptu lesson in fore-foot running.

Once I focused on running on the front of my feet and down closer to where the waves were crashing, I felt a lot better. Wet sand is a lot friendlier on the legs than the dried up stretch of sand higher up on the beach.

While it was only about 2 miles, it was probably my favorite run of the year so far. No heart rate monitor. No shoes. Blue skies. Cool breeze. Watching the surfers paddle out and ride back in on the surf. I even had that “chariots of fire song” going through my head as the waves came in and crashed around my feet. It was perfect.

My calves were definitely taking an extra beating from going shoeless and having to absorb all of the shock normally taken by my shoes (I wish I had my compression socks…). I decided to just stop at one lap down the beach (about 2 miles). The balls of my feet were even starting to feel pretty raw from the sand. It wasn’t until the walk back up to the house that I realized I was starting to get blisters all across my toes. Who gets blisters when they aren’t even wearing shoes? Seriously?

Once I got home, I popped ’em all and wrapped them up in athletic tape to hopefully dry them out.

The “taper” for my last sprint next weekend may be a little longer than I would have hoped unless these clear up quickly and I can get back on the road. Even knowing what I know now, I still would have ran on the beach on Saturday. The relaxation was well worth a few days of limping around. But now I’m back at my apartment and getting back for another work week of the daily grind. At least I’ve got a sprint on Sunday to keep me going through the week.



  1. Heh. Tender foot.

    Reminds me of when I started working barefoot running into my training regimen to strengthen my legs (which really did help, by the way). But barefoot running on a track is nothing like grass, dirt, or even sand. It’s not a good idea.

    The entire bottoms of both feet was completely blistered. I could barely walk for a week.

  2. Shoes are overrated. Barefoot is best – you have a long way to go, but it is worth the journey. You got blisters because you were trying to run as if you had shoes on. You were pushing off way too hard. You have to lean forward, let gravity do the work. Much like the Pose Technique. Too bad Jaime did it wrong and concluded it is not a good idea. Incorporating running barefoot into your training is the smart way to go. Humans were designed to land on the forefoot while running. It is the running shoe companies that have vested interests in telling people to land on their heels heels, causing more injuries, leading them to purchase ever more protective shoes. Look it up. Good luck. Have fun.

  3. The best thing for blisters is ice. It is best when the blister are new. Would not hurt to start using it now.
    Running Barefoot is awesome( to use an overused term)

  4. If you got blisters just from running, I guess you may have trouble believing that I play tennis about 5 hours a week. Barefoot. But you need to realize that all that connective tissue on the bottom of your foot has gotten weak from never being stressed.

    I also hike about 250 miles/year barefoot, which helped build up a healthy and strong base, so adding in the tennis was really a minor addition.

  5. Yeah, I can relate to the blisters while wearing shoes. That’s why, after one shod marathon, back in 1987, where every bit of both of my feet were blistered (except my soles), and my toenails were black, and later fell off, I have since completed 66 marathons barefoot.

    Anyway, the key is to learn to run naturally. That’s why we have so many nerve endings on the bottoms of our feet, not to torture us, but to keep us running gently, gracefully, and naturally. Too bad so many folks block this invaluable source of feedback to the brain.

    Check out RunningBarefoot.org for help on how to begin, and how to run, and listen to your feet, and
    Have fun…

  6. Jamie

    Great post… I head down to Horseneck beach whenever I can for a run. It’s great! Playing soccer barefoot… not so great. I broke my toe a couple weeks ago playing soccer with a bunch of nine year olds. I didn’t break it running… I kicked the goal post… ouch… I still Won!

    Good luck next weekend at Buzzards Bay. Maybe I’ll see you there… as a spectator 

  7. Preparing for a run used to take me longer: socks, shoes, mp3 player, extra stretching for my “bum” knee… nowadays I just stretch a couple of minutes and out the door I run–sans shoes. It did take a period of adjustment learning to run differently. I went barefoot everywhere as much as possible to strengthen my feet and toughen my soles, and I shortened my runs in the beginning. But no more bum knee! Now when I run, I feel connected and liberated at the same time. It’s very relaxing.

  8. There is a fresh new alternative coming soon. Skora footwear (see http://www.skorashop.com ) will ‘bridge the gap’ between barefoot and shoes by means of a simple transition philosophy all the while in a design that is appealing and natural.

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