Why I went from shoes to barefoot running

The first time I ever had a conversation about the idea of running barefoot was a couple of year ago just after I had finished playing a game of tennis. We were sitting around chatting and my partner in crime, Ben, was explaining that we don’t need to wear sports shoes for simple running. He argued that anatomically our bare-feet have all the necessary requirements for running. I scoffed at the idea. I’m the one who’s done the sports and exercise degree (BM Sports and Exercise at the University of Technology Sydney), I was the one completing my Master’s in Physiotherapy (University of Sydney). I’d never even heard about it. Here was an IT graduate telling me about running biomechanics. Although I had no evidence I was convinced that the scientific advancements in biomechanics has surely led to the creation of superior footwear. I mean giving the foot a shoe with cushioning and arch support must be good. Furthermore I didn’t want to think that I had wasted thousands of dollars on useless sports shoes. As I drove home all I could think about was how I was going to do a quick search through the many journal databases I had access to and blow the barefoot argument to shreds. Two hours later after scouring through article after article I found nothing on either side of the argument. The most I found was that shoes limit the ability of the forefoot to splay (spread out) upon foot strike. I didn’t think much of it at the time and the idea kind of faded. Definite mistake on my behalf. If I had cared to apply some physiological and biomechanical reasoning to this I would have realised that this is actually rather significant (information on the mechanics of running coming to BRA soon!).

The next time I mused over the mechanics of running was during/after a lecture on the mechanics of running as part of my  Physiotherapy course. My eyes lit up and I was ready to instantly relay all the evidence in favour of shoes to Ben and kill off his argument once and for all. This didn’t eventuate however. The lecturer kind of sat on the fence and revealed that there was no solid evidence  for either shod (shoes) or unshod running. The lecturer did reveal though some new emerging evidence by Dr Lieberman and Dr Richards suggesting that the barefoot argument may have some credence. I wasn’t convinced either way at this point in time however I promised myself that I would keep an open mind. I researched further. Research and applied logic was pointing towards natural running!

Then one day when I was out riding, a mate began telling me about this amazing book which was about people running phenomenal distances and enjoying it. I  didn’t think much of it again. I never enjoyed just pure running. It was hard. I played football, tennis, basketball and cycled. Happy to run as part of a sport, but simply running did not appeal to me. So my friend sent me a copy of the book (Chris McDougall’s ‘Born to Run’ – see review). This book challenged my thoughts on every aspect of running. I had come full circle.

During exams I would periodically need to leave the house to do some exercise to calm myself down. This time I ran out of the house wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. I couldn’t have done more than a quick 3k dash. My feet didn’t hurt but for almost a week my calves were killing me. They weren’t injured, it was simply a very bad case of delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) which is often experienced when muscles are used strenuously for the first time in a while (e.g. just after your first workout in the gym). This was potentially the first time I had run properly and my calves were very explicitly telling me how deconditioned they were. Had I ever run without heel striking? I completed my masters in physiotherapy and threw myself into research.

Damn it, I was a full barefoot convert (rest assured I will present all information on our site!). I swore to myself I would never buy an expensive pair of running shoes again! How is it that I had no idea about this? I had access to information and knowledge about human anatomy, physiology and biomechanics that the general population didn’t and it took me a solid two years to come around to the idea. I discussed this with Ben and we agreed that the wider community needed access to this information, yet there was no easy place where people could come to learn the facts without having to dig through articles and jargon. If it didn’t exist then we would simply have to provide it ourselves. So that’s why I became involved with BRA. I want to be able to help you understand why we run and how we can run in a safe and enjoyable fashion as well provide a place where the running (not just the barefoot) community can come together to discuss all things running.

Happy footprints!


By Sam

BM in Sport and Exercise and BA in International studies (German Major) completed at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Master of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.

Interests: I am an exercise enthusiast full stop! I play or have played football, tennis, basketball and dabbled in waterpolo and underwater rugby! Recent sporting interests are cycling and barefoot running! I also love watching all codes of football/rugby.

Physiotherapy: Due to my interests in sport and health I am fascinated in human movement and physiology. In addition to musculoskelatal physiotherapy I’m also interested in neurological (stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury rehab), and cardiopulmonary (heart and lung function and rehabilitation) physiotherapy:

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *