A Beginner’s Guide To Racing Barefoot

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

There’s something unreal about running your first barefoot race. It’s hard to describe, but even for people who have completed dozens of shod races, the first barefoot one is something special.

Racing barefoot is an amazing experience, but it can be quite different to racing in shoes. To help get you through your first race, here are a few tips that will help ensure that your first race a safe one, and make your experience one to remember.

Training Is Essential

Before you even think about stepping foot on that race course, it’s essential to do your training, and do it well. When you’re out there amongst the push of other racers, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and overdo it.

Training lets your body get used to the stresses and strains involved in barefoot running and will help you keep your head when you’re racing.

When training for a race, it’s great to have a plan that incorporates distance running, speed work, and hills. It’s also important to get a feel for the pace that you intend to run during the race. This can be really important to ensure that you don’t get swept up by the crowd and have your race plan go out the window.

Extra training for barefoot racing would also need to include running on similar terrain to that which you expect to encounter during the race. This is essential, especially for trail runs, as it will help prepare your soles and supporting muscles for the demands required on race day.

Know The Course

For barefoot runners, the unknown can cause serious trouble. If you know what to expect, it’s much easier to prepare for it, or avoid it, than if you don’t. Never is this more true than with race road conditions.

Knowing what sort of terrain to expect in a race is possibly the most important consideration that must be met before signing up for a race. So often, barefoot runners sign up for races that are well within their abilities distance-wide, but that prove to be too tough for their soles to handle.

This is often the case with city-based runs that may seem easy on the surface. Running on pavement is generally easier on the feet than running on trails, but all it takes is one long stretch of rough asphalt to turn a fun race day into a nightmare.

Find The Best Spot

Half the battle when racing barefoot is choosing the best spot to run. When you’re training, it’s easy to select the best route and to clearly see the path ahead of you.

When you’re racing, however, your visibility is limited by the people in front of you, your path may be blocked by others, and you may even get your feet stepped on.

The biggest challenge will come at the beginning of the race when everyone is all bunched together. At this point, your focus should be on finding the right groove to run on. For a road race, the best spot is often right in the middle, where you can step on the lines that are painted on the road. These lines can be a life-saver on rough roads, so keep an eye out for them.

Another trick for navigating the early stages is to sneak in behind a pair or side-by-side runners. There will usually be a gap in between them that will allow you to see more of the road up ahead. This will help you avoid debris while keeping your head up as much as possible.

Once you get through the early stages and runners begin to drift apart, take the opportunity to find the best, most comfortable route, and turn on the speed!

Use Your Senses

Even in optimal situations, when running barefoot, it’s really important to be aware of your surroundings. In the chaos of a race, this is even more essential as it can mean the difference between a fun and safe race, and one with the potential to cause injury.

Start by leaving the iPod at home. For longer races especially, the allure of music is very appealing, however it can lull you into a false sense of security which may pose problems.

When you have your ears open, you will be able to hear marshal instructions and more easily spot trouble. As an added bonus, you can also hear the cheers of friends and family at the sidelines. Don’t be surprised if you get asked a ton of questions, even in the middle of the race. You’ll probably find that most comments are overwhelmingly positive, but if you hear any negativity, just ignore it and focus on your race.

During your training, work on running without earphones to get used to it. You’ll likely end up finding that once you give it a go, you’ll never go back.

Hearing is important, but sight is even more so. We touched on this above, but it bears repeating. You’ll want to be continuously scanning the ground for debris, and finding spots that allow you to see further.

By being aware of your surroundings you’ll decrease the chances of stepping on something bad, or being stepped on by someone else.

Don’t Forget The Usual Stuff

When focusing on barefoot running, it can be easy to forget some of the simple things. During the race, pay a mind to your hydration and food intake, especially for longer races.

Get to the start line early and find a good spot.

Oh, and don’t forget to go to the bathroom beforehand!

Racing barefoot is exhilarating and can be just the thing to rekindle your interest in racing, or give you the impetus to get out there and run your first race. The key is being prepared and mindful of your environment. Do this, and you’ll have a great time, and will have a memory that you can cherish forever.


3 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide To Racing Barefoot

  1. Thanks for this; this is a helpful article.

    I’ve just started running barefoot again after six years of not running. I stopped because I had an SVT and didn’t want to take any risks, but I now know a lot more about it and have decided to (slowly and gently, with my doctor’s approval) get back into running.

    A bit over six years ago, I ran a 10km race barefoot, and that was a great experience. In my training I got up to 20km, which I still can’t believe. I’m now training for the Auckland Round the Bays (8.4km) as my first goal now that I’m back running.

    The only tip I’d add to this list is, if it’s a big race, start at the back so you don’t get your feet trodden on! That’s what I plan to do at Round the Bays, because it attracts 30,000+ people!


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