5 Simple Methods To Help Overcome Barefoot-Induced Anxiety

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Confession time.

It took me nearly 2 years of running in minimal shoes before I finally let my bare feet touch the ground!

Like many people, I was just really nervous about doing it.

It wasn’t the fear of stepping on something nasty that worried me, it was a much more deep-seeded hesitance that I couldn’t really get over. Looking back, I realise that it was the product of decades of social cues that told me that people just don’t run without shoes!

With the benefit of hindsight, I know that taking my shoes off was the best decision I could have made to improve my running, but that didn’t matter back then. I thought that I’d run slower, get stepped on in races, not be able to train in winter…the list goes on. The worst bit was the fear that I would become some sort of social outcast for making this change.

The truth was that all of these perceived problems were manageable, and once I started working on them, they ended up being far from insurmountable.

The hardest bit was taking the first few steps.

I’m absolutely certain that my experience was not unique. I’m sure that most people reading this are minimalist runners, and that many of you, despite wanting to try it out, find yourselves unable to take the next step and shed the shoes.

To help you get through the toughest bit, and get you out of your shoes (if only for a little while), I’ve put together a list of ways that you can help yourself get used to the idea of running completely barefoot (in public! Gasp!)

1. Start out indoors

As luck would have it, most of us are blessed with a perfect place to start out barefoot – our homes. Even the smallest apartment has a wealth of sensations that your feet are going to love exploring.

When was the last (first?) time you noticed how your carpet feels underfoot? Or how differently you move over hardwood versus rugs?

Taking your shoes off at home should be your first goal when you decide to go barefoot. Try to keep your shoes and socks off as much as you can while at home. This will get you used to the feeling of going barefoot, and give you just that little extra edge to help you make your move.

To supplement your home-walking, it’s a good idea to start including some stretching and strengthening exercises. Simple things like picking up toys, marbles, pebbles, etc with your toes will help you build up your feet muscles and make your transition to full barefoot that much easier.

2. Go to the beach

One of the best ways to ease into barefooting in public is to go where barefooting is expected. The beach, or a public park are great places to start. Not only will your bare feet not look out of place, but you get to enjoy the great outdoors!

A weekly excursion to practice a bit of jogging or walking on different surfaces will go a long way towards preparing your soles and your mind for barefoot running.

3. Set goals

One of the best carrots to make you want to do something is to set yourself tangible goals. This doesn’t even have to be a racing goal or a distance goal. It can be something as simple as walking to the end of the road, or going shopping barefoot.

The more little goals you accomplish, the more confident you will become. As you become more confident, your goals will grow, until you find yourself doing things that you never thought possible.

4. Drive barefoot

The world being what it is, many of us find ourselves spending a lot of time in our cars. You can use this time to strengthen your feet by driving barefoot. This is one of those borderline barefoot activities that will give many people pause.

It’s natural to be apprehensive when you try driving barefoot for the first time. I recommend taking a pair of shoes with you that you can put on if you find it’s too much. Start with a short drive, someplace familiar, maybe to the shops and back. As you gain confidence, increase the distance.

It will get to the point that you prefer driving barefoot. It feels good, and is a great way to get your feet out!

If you’re worried about the legality of driving barefoot, then it’s definitely worth checking your local laws. From what I’ve heard and read, though, most places allow barefoot driving.  Besides, it’s safer than driving in flip-flops or sandals, since there’s nothing to get caught on the pedals.

5. Go where people aren’t

One last thing that you can do, when starting out, is to run in seclusion. Sometimes it’s best just to be left to your own devices and allowed to do your thing. A great way to do this, especially in summer, is to head out early, before the neighbours wake up.

It’s amazing how empty the streets are at sunrise, and you can take advantage of this fact to start learning how to run barefoot. Just make sure you have adequate light so that you can see the path in front of you. If you need to, take a flashlight or headlamp along.

Another option is to physically remove yourself from people altogether and go someplace secluded. This can be a trail or field, park, or even a parking lot. The key here is to go someplace you feel comfortable being on your own.

Overcoming the fear and anxiety that most people feel when they first learn to run and walk barefoot is challenging, but it can be very empowering. Once you’ve conquered it, it will change your perspective on how you view yourself and how you feel about how other people view you.

The psychological benefits of barefooting are as many and as important as the physical benefits, and only add to the long list of reasons why taking off your shoes is worth trying!

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Join Us On #BareChat For A Chance To Win A Pair of XeroShoes!

#BareChatStarting on October 24th, BeginningBarefoot.com will be hosting #BareChat!

What’s #BareChat you ask? Well, it’s a chance for barefoot twitterers to connect with one another, share experiences, answer some questions, and win some prizes!

#BareChat will be held every second Wednesday night at 8pm Mountain Time (GMT – 6 hours), starting October 24th 2012.

So how does it work?

At 8pm on the 24th of October, head onto your favourite Twitter client and search for hashtag #BareChat@BarefootDawsy will be asking a series of questions about your experiences in barefoot running. To join the conversation, just add #BareChat to any of your tweets, and they’ll show up as part of the search results.

Since this will be our first ever #BareChat, we’ve lined up something special. We’ve teamed up with XeroShoes and will be giving away a 4mm Connect DIY huaraches kit in your choice of colours!

All you need to do to enter is to participate in the #BareChat conversation on October 24th, and you’ll automatically be entered into the draw.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or hit me up on Twitter (@BarefootDawsy).

See you there!

Review: The Barefoot Running Book

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

The Barefoot Running BookIf you’ve read Born To Run, and want to learn how to run barefoot like a Tarahumara, then I’ve got just the book for you! Last month, Jason Robillard (Barefoot Jason), from barefootrunninguniversity.com, published the eagerly-anticipated latest edition of his Barefoot Running Book.

We’ve discussed Jason before, and even give away an earlier edition for free download(!). His older stuff is great and really useful, but believe me, the latest edition is a departure from what he’s done before, and it’s well worth picking up.

Jason Robillard is one of the ‘old guard’ of barefoot running. He started running barefoot long before Born To Run was published, has logged thousands of barefoot miles, and has run a heap of ultramarathons in various states of foot nakedness. Needless to say, he brings to the table a wealth of knowledge, and with writing skills honed from years of blogging, is able to effectively and entertainingly communicate them.

The Barefoot Running Book: The Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running is a book about barefoot running, but also includes tips on cross training and ultra training. Don’t be put off if it sounds too advanced though, as the book is squarely aimed at the new barefoot runner.

The book runs readers through a series of exercises, drills, and advice on how to go from shod running right up to your first few miles barefoot and beyond.

Interspersed in between all of these useful tips and tricks is a series of wonderful quotes from some of the best know people in the barefoot running community, such as Ken Bob Saxton, Nick Vaernhoej and Tamara Gerken. Oh, and in case you have no idea who these guys are, there’s a comprehensive “who’s who” of barefoot runners included at the back of the book that lists all the key players from Abebe Bikila to Zola Budd!

On top of all this, it includes a comprehensive glossary, an excellent list of blogs/websites, and even a full (and entertaining) account of Jason’s first 100 mile ultramarathon.

I read this book from cover to cover in 3 sittings, as it was very difficult to put down. I sincerely wish that I could have read this book a few years ago, as it would have been a huge help when starting out.

If you, or someone you know, are interested in starting barefoot running, and want a good book to teach you the basics, then look no farther than the Barefoot Running Book.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Jason Robillard and Penguin Publishers for supplying a copy of The Barefoot Running Book for review. Please support the author by purchasing his book online.

Review: Vivobarefoot Gobi – The Casual Minimal Shoe

Written by BarefootDawsy

Vivo Barefoot Gobi Dark Brown LeatherLike many barefoot/minimalist runners, I’ve found myself in the position of owning way
more shoes than I ever used to. One thing that most of them have in common is that they are all sport shoes. In fact, most shoe companies that make minimal shoes seem to be geared towards the running end of the spectrum.

This has always been a bit of a problem for us minimal shoe wearers. As much as I love
my Vibram SeeYas, I’m not going to wear them to my next client visit. I’ve got nothing
against the shoes, and personally love how they look, but the fact remains that for
most people today, shoes with toes are not an expected sight in the office.

Gobi SideviewIt’s for this reason that I’ve been so excited to try out the Vivobarefoot Gobi. The
Gobi is a minimal version of a low-cut boot, much like an Australian Desert Boot. They
are made of high quality leather (or suede), and feature the signature puncture-proof
sole of a Vivobarefoot shoe.

As a casual shoe, the Gobi has everything you need. The soft leather uppers look and
feel great. They come in tan, brown and black, so coordinating with your favourite pants shouldn’t be a problem. The high cut lets you get away with wearing either socks or bare feet inside them without looking out-of-place.

Gobi SolesOn top of good looks, these shoes can dance! I’ve had them on my feet for the past couple weeks and have put some solid walking miles on them. So far, they’ve performed admirably. For comfort and ground-feel, they rival my Invisible Shoes (Xeroshoes)
Huaraches, but also have the benefit of a closed toe.

Gobi Top DownThe extra wide toebox really lets you wiggle your toes and get as close to a true
barefoot stride going as is possible in enclosed shoes.

If there is one downside, I’d say it’s the fact that there is no lining inside the
shoe’s upper. This means that your feet are directly in contact with the single layer
of leather that makes up the bulk of the shoe. This is actually really comfy, but it’s worthwhile taking some precautions to avoid getting stinky feet/shoes (don’t worry, the Art Of Manliness has you covered).

All-in-all, I’m really pleased to have finally come across a good-looking pair of minimal shoes that I can wear to work without getting a myriad questions and disapproving looks. The final piece to the barefoot/minimalist puzzle is finally in place, and my feet have
never been happier!

BeginningBarefoot.com would like to thank Vivobarefoot Australia/NZ[LINK] for providing shoes for testing. Check out Amazon.com for regular deals, and please visit their Facebook page, and give them a ‘Like’ if you
enjoyed this review.

How to Run Barefoot in Life, The Universe, and Everything

This is a guest post by Loren Wade of Unlifer. His blog launches today – so go check it out!

UnliferRunning barefoot. There’s really nothing quite like it. It’s primal. It’s down to earth, literally, and it’s real.

When I first read about the barefoot running trend a year ago, I thought it was kind of silly. I ended up reading more and more about it because I’m a fitness geek.  I became drawn to the idea. Fast forward a few months, I found myself dumping my old shoes and embracing the minimalist barefoot community. Today, I own two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers (KSOs and Komodosports), a pair of New Balance Minimus, and some short Chuck Taylors (thinner sole) that I ripped the soles out of and put in some super feet. I won’t get into the why or how I did this, ’cause that’s Barefoot Dawsy’s job.

Needless to say, I’m addicted. It’s kind of ironic that embracing minimalism found me owning 4 different pairs of shoes.

You’re reading this for a reason though.

You know there’s still nothing quite like being barefoot.

I may own a bunch of shoes, but they mean nothing in the long run (pun intended). I still prefer feeling the earth beneath my feet. I still prefer walking and running the way our bodies were intended.

But what does it mean to live barefoot?

It means to simplify and live simply.

Truth is, I don’t need 4 different pairs of shoes. I could have found one pair that did almost everything I wanted. If you want to learn to run, go out and do it. You don’t need running shorts, running shirts, and runners everything to simply run. Just. Run. Learn from the right people (you’re here, aren’t you?) and just go out and do it. Embrace the adventure.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness constantly quotes Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This is what it means to live simply!

Living simply means having a balance!

Find a balance in everything. This doesn’t mean do everything in moderation, but find a balance on your investment to life. If you spend $150 for the best shoes or product, could you have found an equally or barely less quality product and save $50? Buy only what you need. Maybe for you, it’s a balance between life and work. Work as hard as you can but only work to the point where you receive an equal or greater return on investment. Sometimes this even means working a lot for a long period of time so you do not have to work later.

Simple is not friends with perfect.

In other words: don’t be a perfectionist.

Save for the best but don’t micromanage every detail. Be okay with making mistakes. This is how we learn. It’s okay to pay attention to the details after big picture is already under control. Until then, do only the essential tasks every day for home and work. If you do all of the most important things right away, you’ll have nothing to worry about and you’ll find yourself with a surplus of time to spend on things you want to do.

Like our bare foot on the ground, we also need to be…

Down to Earth!

Be real to people. Don’t fake who you are so people like you. Be honest. Be real. Be your personality. Love people even if they don’t deserve it and share your passions with other people. If they don’t like you, who cares? Living simple is living down to earth because it’s the easiest way to live. Who wants to pretend to be someone else their whole life? That’s confusing. Being down to earth also means being realistic. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

In essence, simplicity is not easy. It’s actually tough and ironically not a simple process.

It’s a battle, but victory is worth it.

To run barefoot and live barefoot is to seek simplicity and live simply.

Loren Wade is the author of Unlifer, a blog dedicated to inspiring and empowering people with practical ways to lifehack a broken world. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Hot-footing It: How I Finally Learned How To Run Barefoot

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

As a change from the usual advice and reviews, I thought it would be nice to tell you a story. Most people that you talk to who took up barefoot running later in life will tell you about a ‘eureka’ moment, when the whole thing finally clicked into place, and running barefoot became fun, pleasurable, ad something they would strive to keep up forever. What follows is how the penny finally dropped for me, after a couple of months of full barefoot running.

When I was first learning to run barefoot, it was hot. Really hot. Australia hot.
Normally I would do my running in the very early morning, when the ground would still
be wet from the previous night’s end-of-hot-day storm. The coolness of the ground was
lovely, and made running a pleasure.

Then I decided to go for an afternoon run.

It was about 30 degrees Celsius out (~85F), and the ground had been hammered by the hot sun all morning. As soon as I stepped out my front door, I knew that this run would be
a short one.

I started to run, and as I stepped, I swear I could feel the blisters starting to form
on my feet. After only a few metres, I was already thinking about turning around and
heading home.

Then something strange happened.

I started stepping really quickly. I don’t think I was consciously doing it, rather my
body had overridden my mind and was running on its own. With each step, I only touched the ground for a fraction of a second, then whipped it up so that it wouldn’t linger on the hot pavement. I was taking a lot of very short, very quick steps.

Then the strangest thing happened. It stopped hurting. The blistering sensation went
away, replaced by a cooling breeze under my feet, caused by the action of my stride. I
was moving quickly and lightly, and it felt like everything just clicked into place.

I ran a lot more afternoon runs that summer, and even did my first barefoot 10k race in 34 degree heat. I’ve never blistered since, and my form improved dramatically, even on the colder days.

The funny thing with barefoot running is that it’s often the discomfort that makes us better runners. It’s tempting to do every run in shoes (minimal or otherwise), but if you really want to learn how to run better, there’s no substitute for taking off your shoes.

How about you? did you have a ‘eureka’ moment? Still looking for yours? Leave a comment!