Barefoot Running Patience | The willPower Method®

Growing up a dancer, I’ve been a barefoot mover for my entire life.  As a fitness instructor, when I kicked off my shoes for my group exercise class (in 2000) I was called rebellious. My host club, Equinox, (NYC) supported my barefoot walk on the fringe – since all gossipy chatter brought publicity to their clubs. As a result, I’ve been teaching people foot fitness for over a decade. I know how to teach people to exercise barefoot, safely and effectively.

Christopher MacDougall brought the subject into the pop culture spotlight in his best selling novel Born To Run. Now, barefoot has now become a public debate on a global scale, and minimal shoes are a controversial subject with running coaches, personal trainers, athletes and doctors. This EyeWitness News Report is a great one.  People are freaking out.  I’m loving it!

As far as I’m concerned, though, there is nothing to debate: it’s a simple concept. In a “traditional” fitness shoe, (the type that has been around for, hmm, 35 years) your foot is cushioned, controlled and supported, and your foot is treated as if it’s got one joint: the ankle.  Folks: the foot is not one big bone!

Let me explain: Let’s say you break your arm, and Doc puts you in a cast.  Your arm, (and possibly shoulder, and wrist) are immobilized, right? Eventually, your arm heals, and the cast is taken off.  By then, your muscles have atrophied, and your joints have become stiff.  Then it’s time for physical therapy, right?  (Exercises that rejuvenate and strengthen). The PT sessions are uncomfortable, requiring patience, practice and perseverance.  Eventually your arm is restored to it’s healthy state.

Well – modern athletes (and non-exercisers as well) have essentially put their feet in casts…. but never taken the cast off. (!!) Each day, you put on a pair of “good shoes” in which the 33 joints in your foot don’t move. Your muscles (due to non-use) get weak, and become un-coordinated (can you wiggle each of your toes independently of one another?) When the function of the foot is stunted, so is overall movement. Your posture declines, your balance falters, your push-off becomes powerless. Your entire kinetic chain (from the ground up) is effected.

So: the minimal shoe idea should be a no-brainer, but you need to be smart about it. Allow your feet to move, and stretch and strengthenTake your time (you’ve been wearing cushioned support for 10, 20, maybe 35 years). It could take you a few months or even years to fully adapt, but honestly – aren’t you trying to be healthy and injury-free for the long haul? Please don’t buy a minimal shoe and expect to be a great minimal runner overnight. You’ll end up an injured statistic. Exercise your feet first. Patience, grasshopper.

Do you need more direction? There are thousands of people using my Sole Training® video, which is a smart pre-hab and rehab method. Practice these exercises while you are adapting to minimal shoes.  It makes sense: you’ve got to wake up and strengthen your feet before running on them.

As a Foot Fitness Pro for over a decade, it still took me 8 months to reach 5 miles in my Vibram FiveFingers.  But guess what?  I’ll be running for the rest of my life, and I plan to do it injury free.

Stacey Lei Krauss

Stacey Lei Krauss

Stacey Lei Krauss is the creator and developer of the globally recognized barefoot cardio fusion program, The willPower Method®. Specializing in foot-fitness since 2000, she helps people understand why and how to develop healthy, fit bodies, from the ground up. Reiki practitioner and student of transformational arts, she's a mover, writer, traveler, and general truth-seeker. Recipient of the 2014 ECA Best Female Presenter Award, she's the Mindful Music Advisor for Power Music® and has programmed educational courses and workouts for Nike , Vibram FiveFingers®, BOSU®, Schwinn® Cycling, and Peak Pilates® .


  1. Jennifer Schumacher
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 10:26 am ·

    I do Sole Training® everyday and me feet LOVE it!

  2. Jennifer Barlow, DPM
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 10:38 am ·

    While I am also a barefoot training advocate, I would have to disagree with your statement that in a shoe, the joints of the foot “don’t move.” For example, I would have to look up the exact citation, but there was a study documenting that the motion of the first metatarsophalangeal joint was dependent on the available motion in that joint itself, rather than the shoe it was in.

  3. staceylei
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 10:48 am ·

    Thanks Jennifer (s). (both of you!) Jen B: Ok – perhaps I wrote with “slight” exaggeration / sarcasm. Sure, the foot moves slightly… in SOME shoes (perhaps a more flexible running shoe). But for general purposes, BARELY! And, if joint ROM is not regularly practiced (and potentially challenged) then the ROM will diminish in time… especially over 15, 25 or 35 years of very limited use.

  4. Marangely
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 11:21 am ·

    I run with my five finger vibrams it awesome . Love it

  5. Jen Gentry
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 2:46 pm ·

    Learning to run again definitely takes lots of patience! My body wants to just keep on going and stay out for that long run I’m craving, but my mind knows I need to be smart and take my time, and eventually we will get there.

  6. Lisa Peterson
    Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 5:20 pm ·

    Great read and fantastic advice. As an injured statistic from trying to get too much too soon, Sole Training and the willPower Method was exactly what I needed to transition safely to barefoot training and minimalist running. We are an instant gratification society and we want it all NOW. Guess what…….it doesn’t work in fitness (and most things that are worth working for). PATIENCE is the key word here. And we aren’t all necessarily “born to run” either…..there are many people who shouldn’t be running AT ALL much less barefoot OR minimalist. Doctors offices are FILLED with people injuring themselves in hundred dollar running shoes. Connect to YOUR BODY…….down to your toes and you will know what is right for you.

  7. Kim Harring
    Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 at 7:20 am ·

    Since running at Summit in the VFF, I truly love running again, I look forward to my runs! Between running with mid-foot strike and Chi running, it has become my time to be 100% with me! I almost get into a meditative state. I do have to remind myself not to increase mileage to soon.!