A regular reader of Natural Running Center’s website, Patrick sent us the following essay– which in the interest of runners everywhere, we’d like to share. To misquote Thomas Paine, “these are the times that tries men’s soles.”– NRC


I am a barefoot runner from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. As I get better at running barefoot, I am increasingly returning to the wonderful trails of the Cuyahoga Falls National Park and the Summit County Metro Parks.  While they are beautiful and ideal for running, the soil around here is dominated by clay, and therefore quite slick when wet.  When you combine the slipperiness with the often steep hills of the Cuyahoga Valley, you can imagine just how treacherous running can be, with and without shoes.

Here is my observation.  Much is being said about the benefits of barefoot running, and I count myself among the strongest supporters.  I love it and am thrilled with each new breakthrough I make.  Even though it is winter, I run  all my treadmill miles barefoot as well as any outdoor miles when the temperature is 40 degrees or above.

The only time I have been hurt (and only mildly) was running in mud.  Even though everybody seems to love barefoot running in mud, I have found that it represents a hazard like nothing else.  When we run and inevitably slide on/in mud, we lose the ability to control our feet. If we begin to slide and there is a rock embedded in the mud, our feet scrape over that rock in a way that we have no ability to stop.  When one is sliding in mud, we simply lose our ability to react to dangers.  In my case, on a recent run, I felt something scrape on my large toe while sliding, but it didn’t hurt very much.  I only discovered after my run that I had a medium-sized slice along the bottom of the toe.  I had either slid over a sharp stone, root, or stick.

None of this has discouraged me from running barefoot.  I still vastly prefer the real thing because I still find that when I wear minimalist shoes I end up running less barefoot-like, and ultimately hurting somewhere.  I guess at 50 years old, with about 38 years of running, old habits die hard. Anyway, I thought that somewhere in the discussion about things to be cautious about when barefoot running, the necessary caution that barefoot runners should have when running in mud needed to be raised.