Barefoot Real Fitness

Heel Pain

Foot Pain

Bottom of the Foot Pain

Bottom of the Heel Pain


Plantar Fasciitis

At first it was only a little ache just forward of your heel on the solar (bottom) side of you foot. It was not enough to stop training, and if anything, you thought you could train through the pain. Without even noticing it seems, you somehow ended up where you are today-with bottom of the foot pain so bad you wonder if you will be able to walk one day.

What does not make sense is that you have always invested well in your foot care-you spared no expense when it came to selecting athletic shoes. You have even been to a speciality shoe store that had a professional watch you move and run then recommended a shoe structured to correct or support your weaknesses. If you pronate, you have a special shoe to correct your gait irregularity. If you have weak arches, you purchased custom orthotics for support.

The strangest part? When you first started wearing your specialized shoes, your feet felt better than they had ever felt before.

The sad part? The feeling didn’t last. If anything it keeps getting worse over time. In addition you might be feeling pain when you flex your foot. You could also be getting some knee discomfort.

Now if you are off your feet for very long, when sitting for an extended period of time or after sleeping all night long, the first few steps walking are almost laughably painful. You hobble and gimp along until your feet get going again. Once moving, your feel pretty good, good enough to keep on training. That lasts until the next time you have to get up after being off your feet. It is a terrible cycle that is not only frustrating but is interfering with you participating in the activities that you love the most.

Barefoot Left-Real FitnessThe pain in your…foot might be Plantar FasciitisBarefoot Right-Real Fitness


Plantar Fasciitis (PF) can be a very painful condition that is caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue that starts under the heel over and runs under the sole to the toes. The condition is common in runners, other athletes and about anyone that spends a great deal of time on their feet. It is also a common condition in people that are facing weight and metabolic challenges. Interestingly enough, it is rarely if ever found in those people and athletes that train and spend most of their time barefoot.

About two years ago, I was where you might be today. I had some tough foot pain and my running was suffering because of it. At that time, I had already been an advocate of ‘minimalist’ or barefoot hoof care for performance horses. I have spent the last 10 years of my life devoted to educating horse owners on the benefits of allowing a horse to work barefoot or at least very least, in minimal shoes (those without special wedges or heels). It’s funny how it took almost 8 years of studying hooves to make the connection to my own feet!

Horse Lover Tips-blueHorse Lover Tip: For more information on the benefits of allowing horses to live and train barefoot, please read an article that I wrote in 2008 that was  published in The Horse’s Hoof Magazine.

I have learned a lot in the last 2 years about ‘transitioning’ both horses and humans from specialized shoes to barefoot and have also changed how I would handle it in both instances if I were at step 1 again today.

In humans, I now believe that the pain or inflammation in the heel or bottom of the foot is a result of lack of strength in the foot structure. The foot is simply pushed beyond what it is capable of handling. Rather than addressing that lack of strength with exercises (or a real fitness program for feet), the common response is to get a pair of ‘supportive’ shoes to protect the weak structure. The problem lies in the fact that the shoe used for support only allows for a continued weakening of the very structure that is was supposed to be helping!

There are many people that insist on immediately training barefoot or in shoes with minimal support. This is possible only if the person is willing to severely reduce the demands of the training schedule and is only logical to try after the inflammation is remedied.

Below is the best video I have seen showing how to use a foam roller for foot pain. The video was created by Dr. Mark Cheng and produced by Beachbody. Dr Cheng is a well-respected authority on functional movement. He has an authentic understanding of how using improper form during movement creates improper function of the body part not only involved in the movement, but also creates trouble for surrounding body parts. In other words, your foot pain could be causing your knee pain.

If you want to take your commitment to strengthening your feet one step further, I would recommend committing to Dr Cheng’s at home workout plan, Tai Cheng. It is a 90 day program that emphasizes healing movement. You do it in your barefeet! It will not only strengthen your feet but will also help restore functional movement in your entire body.

For daily and athletic activities where barefoot is not practical, I personal have chosen to wear only shoes classified as minimalist shoes. A minimalist shoe is one with very little arch support and little to ‘zero drop’ in the elevation from toe to heel. Simply put, they are flats (just like your own bare feet) as opposed to high heels !

Several companies now make excellent barefoot shoes for not only sports but also for daily use. My personal favorites are Altra Zero Drop shoes, Vivobarefoot and Lems™. If you are new to minimalist shoes, I would suggest contacting Greg Scott, the owner of Natural Strides shoe store. Greg is not only very knowledgeable in minimalist shoes, but is also a certified ChiRunning™ instructor and would be able to assist you in learning new ways to run to protect your valuable feet.


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6 thoughts on “is foot pain stifling your race to real fitness?

  1. Awesome write up Leah.

    I have suffered from PF in the past and still do (once a PF patient always a PF patient). Right now my PF is dormant because of the recommendations you made to me about a year and a half ago (all the stuff your wrote above). In that time I have run multiple races varying from 5 miles up to a marathon. Thanks for the cure.

    Love my Altras and Lems. I also use Brooks Pure Flow on and off. They are less supportive than most “runners” out there and have a nice wide toe bed and a minimal drop.

  2. John Griffin

    This is a good article with a lot of explanation on why it is important to stretch pre and post workout. I currently have this aching problem on my left heel. I found out that the only cure is stretching it out, and when I do my plyometric type of workouts, to do them out in the back yard and not on hard surfaces. My Altra shoes have helped as well. Good read Leah!

  3. Erik Wolpert

    I very much enjoyed the write up. Considering the prevalence of foot pain in today’s population, definitely worth addressing. The described program may both prevent and help to resolve plantar fascitis. For those that are having difficulty getting over the hump with foot pain, however, I highly recommend finding a Physical Therapist certified in the use of the ASTYM technique. This augmented soft tissue mobilization technique works wonders and is combined with a flexibility strengthening program. Good luck to all.

  4. Great article and as a person that can only workout barefoot or wearing vibrums or merrells this is a great article.

  5. This is a great article. I have a friend that was just experiencing pain like this and I’m going to show her this. Thanks!

  6. Scott

    Some great information in this article!

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