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Barefoot Walking: Free Your Feet to Minimize Impact, Maximize Efficiency, and Discover the Pleasure of Getting in Touch with the Earth Paperback – March 26, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Michael Sandler

Q. You share an inspiring story of how you came to abandon footwear that demonstrates you needn’t be a superhuman to walk without shoes. Can you describe the physical challenges that led you to barefoot walking?

A. In 2006 I was involved in a near death accident. This debilitating injury left me with a titanium femur and hip, an inch leg-length discrepancy, and a total of 10 knee operations, plus no ACL in my left knee. Doctors didn’t know if they could save my leg, nor if I’d ever be active again.

Many months later, when I first started walking again, my left leg felt like it was falling apart. I went from overuse injury to overuse injury—from chronic plantar fasciitis in my feet, to shin splints, then tendonitis in the knee, plus problems with my hips and back.

However, everything began to change when I started going barefoot. First off, the swelling, achiness, and inflammation in my joints and legs began to subside. That alone was huge. Then without shoes on, I found myself standing straighter, (and taller!) despite my leg length discrepancy. Feeling the ground helped me step extra-light (gingerly at first), teaching me how to protect my bones and joints. Over time I almost felt like I was floating over the ground. My feet and legs grew stronger, my joints much happier, and my posture improved. Even my incessantly chattering ADHD mind would miraculously go quiet on my barefoot walks. It was both a health-changing and life-changing experience.

Q. Why should I walk barefoot?

A. Remember how great it feels to walk barefoot through the grass or to feel the sand between your toes on a beach? There’s a near-universal joy of going barefoot, one that brings us back to a time when we were kids. Once you go barefoot, it’s as if you’ve just flipped the on switch for perfect health, helping return your body to a younger, healthier you. Your feet and legs grow stronger, you stand taller, and you have more energy throughout the day. Your immune system gets a boost, your blood pressure may lower, and since barefoot walking is a mindfulness exercise, you begin to experience greater peace of mind. Neuroscientists say it even helps wake up the mind for better focus, concentration, and balance!

Q. Is barefoot walking really for everyone? I’m not an athlete nor very athletic; will I still enjoy this book?

A. Nearly everyone can benefit from Barefoot Walking. While an athlete will get a lot out of this book, it was never specifically designed for athletes. Instead, it’s designed for people who want to get moving, get healthy or back into shape, overcome an injury, or just discover the pure joy of natural movement. Everyone can benefit from stronger, healthier feet and legs, and less fatigue and soreness on all joints throughout the body. So barefoot walking’s for almost everyone…with the exception of diabetics with advanced neuropathy and those who’ve had serious foot challenges or surgery (always check with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program). For kids, it helps them grow up with stronger bodies, boosted immune systems, and an incredibly healthy muscular-skeletal system—scientists would say better focus and concentration and stronger brains too! For seniors, it helps with balance, strong joints, maintaining muscle tone, sharpening the mind, and preventing falls. And for those overweight, it helps them walk extra light, reducing impact on the joints and back. And for everyone, it acts like a fountain of youth, returning us to a state of greater health and vitality!

So we’ve designed a step-by-step program in the book to be extremely gentle in easing people into things, no matter your fitness level. This way, everyone can benefit from the advice in this book.

Q. But I love my footwear. What if I’m not ready to give up my shoes?

A. We wrote Barefoot Walking to help people heal and grow stronger whether in or out of a shoe. So while we have our bias and think the benefits of direct contact with the earth are very important, we recognize many people may want or need to stay in footwear. So we wrote Barefoot Walking in a way everyone can benefit. In essence, we recommend spending time barefoot whenever possible, and for the rest of the time, using the advice in this book to make the most of the experience in footwear. And for choosing footwear such as minimalist shoes, we spend an entire chapter dissecting footwear and what to look for to keep your feet happy.

If you simply can’t give up the painful footwear—like high heels and most “traditional” shoes—the strength training and stretching exercises we include will still help tremendously with keeping your feet happy.

Q. I live in the city; where can I walk barefoot there?

A. City sidewalks or paved park paths are great. In the beginning you want a harder surface, which helps us learn to land extra light on our soft and sensitive feet. Think of it this way, you can cheat and hit your heel down hard on the grass, without any problem, but try that once on the pavement, and you’d never do it again. So, the hard surfaces help us develop a lighter, more natural stride—one every child knows before they start walking in their shoes. Hard surfaces also help you engage more muscles of the foot, and the roughness stimulates the growth of stronger skin too.

If you’re concerned about safety while the skin is still soft, you can always walk a sidewalk in shoes first to be sure it’s safe before you begin. And to keep your feet clean, simply keep cleaning supplies by your front door and wipe off your feet when you get home.

About the Author

MICHAEL SANDLER is a barefoot-running and -walking coach and motivational speaker who has coached athletes, business executives, and medical professionals for nearly 20 years. With coauthor JESSICA LEE, he travels around the world, teaching people how to rediscover the joy of running. Michael and Jessica are the cofounders of RunBare Company.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307985911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307985910
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Sandler is a national fitness and running coach, as well as the cofounder of RunBare Company ( Michael has coached world-class athletes to wins in cycling, running, and triathlons for over 20 years at the local, national, and international levels.

Among Michael's personal athletic achievements are training for the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in both cycling and speed skating at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. While racing in Europe aiming for the Tour de France, an unexpected vehicle collision on a closed race-course dashed his chances for both international competitions.

Michael completed the California Ironman, and has a personal record for the 10K of 30:30 during the finishing leg of The Harvest Moon half-ironman. He went on to win a 2002 cycling state championship in Olympic sprints, beating the national team, and placed seventh in the master's national championships. In 2005, he garnered a sponsorship from Rollerblade for ultra-endurance inline speedskating. In 2009 he paced Barefoot Ted--a well-known, colorful figure in ultra-running--for the last leg of the Leadville 100, in which Ted shattered his own personal record by over an hour.

In 2004, Michael rode his bike in an entirely different direction. He completed a monumental bicycle trip across the U.S. by riding 5,000 miles in 40 days, solo and unsupported to raise awareness for children and adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD). He ended the ride in Washington, D.C., where he was invited to speak before the U.S. House and Senate on the Mental Health Parity Act, urging equal health coverage for psychological as well as physical health.

National and international media have interviewed him, including NPR, BBC, and America in the Morning. Michael has been featured on CNN, the CBS Early Morning Show in Chicago and New York for his athletic efforts to raise awareness of ADD.

He is also author of the best-selling book College Confidence with ADD and founder of The Creative Learning Institute, a national center for coaching students with ADD and learning disabilities.

In 2006, while training for a cross-country inline skating trip, Michael suffered a near-death accident, which left him with a shattered femur, hip, and arm. Michael surprised the medical community when he made a full recovery by running barefoot. Two months after the accident, he set the fastest record for the Bolder Boulder and Denver Half-Marathon by completing these popular races on crutches. He now runs barefoot 10 to 20 miles daily on rocky trails, hot asphalt, and even snow and ice, and sub-five minute miles barefoot all with his titanium femur and hip.

RunBare Company, based out of Boulder, holds clinics for barefoot running nationwide, and in Canada. Michael also conducts similar clinics for destination travel adventurists worldwide.

Customer Reviews

They also advise taking it slowly and really being patient as you run or walk barefoot.
Following on Michael Sandler's book, "Barefoot Running", this book discusses the health advantages of walking barefoot.
Nelson R. Beck
Rebuilding the muscles in your feet take time and this book is careful about doing it the right way.
Dustin Gardiner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Wendel on March 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hate it when amazon reviewers say a book changed their lives. But here I am with my own personal story about this book changing my life. As the original editor for this book (and there is my full disclosure), I was tinkering with the nuts and bolts of the text, the chapter order, and the marvelous stories. But at the same time, skeptical me, I kicked off my shoes, tried to pick up my dog's tennis ball under the desk with my toes. Yes, I did it! And I kicked off my shoes during aerobics and zumba classes at the Y. Wow, what a different experience. And now people ask me if I forgot my shoes. Ha! Not only did my feet grow a half size, they were warmer this winter without socks. Michael explains the science of all this in the book. I buy entirely different types of super flat, no padding shoes, never wear anything with a heel. My knees are pain free. So when I say this changed my life, I'm living proof. Ease into the practice. Follow the instructions and truly walk free.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Uncle San on March 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a gem! Barefoot walking is a treasure trove of information.

I got Barefoot Walking after starting down this barefoot path last year. I'm in my 70's and thought it would help me walk easier and strengthen my feet even more. What I got was much more than I bargained for. It's like a natural health bible. It's filled with information on improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, eating healthier, reducing your weight, strengthening your joints and, well, the list could go on and on. But I was happy to see it's not just physically oriented. Like a good book on yoga, it dives into the mindfulness side of things; how to quiet your mind, how to use barefoot walking as a walking meditation, and how to be more at peace through all of your daily activities.

It also spends a good deal of time talking about Earthing. I was fascinated by this and incredibly happy to see this. Earthing is the process of connecting to the ground and reducing the static electric charge from your body. I've been reading studies on this, and how it can help reduce inflammation, helping with auto-immune disorders, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, even cancer! The Earthing section (what they call "Vitamin G" for ground), makes this book well worth it!

I love this book, is it a life-changer? I think so. Is it a game changer for how you move, and connect with the earth? Absolutely. Going barefoot I feel better, stronger, younger, more energized, and surprising to say, more at peace. Just like Michael and Jessica write about, I feel more like a kid again!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Zachary D. Bergen on March 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a barefoot runner yet I find for the most part that I am able to walk barefoot more places than I am able to run. I bought the Barefoot Running book by Sandler and Lee. I loved the barefoot running book. In fact I went to Maui to experience the "reality" of what I saw in the subsequent movie by Sandler. Yep for sure it is entirely doable though I have been doing this for 5 years. Yet I and wondered why a walking book? I really loved it because I think the walking approach provides the benefits and is much more accessible to people than a running approach. I think this is because to run barefoot you must start slow and people sometimes being lazy want shortcuts. Walking however is a much more reasonable introduction to the benefits of an unshod life with most of the benefits. I am so happy to see this book because I think it will reach more than just runners and in a real way. I think the presentation is complete and actually is a fun book to leaf through (on my iPad Kindle edition) LOL. I only hope we'll see more barefoot accessibility as more appreciate the benefits of plugging in.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By redbicycle on April 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
Barefoot Walking is a very thorough, almost encyclopedic collection of stories, advice and exercises that goes well beyond Michael Sandler's previous publications. The book opens with Michael's argument for why natural foot function and connection to the earth will lead to improved health and movement for all bodies. Insightful images and diagrams show how unnatural footwear can maim feet and lead to a multitude of health issues, but a positive attitude asserts that there is hope for everyone because you already have what you need for strong feet and a strong body. One of my favorite chapters, titled "Excuses Be Gone!" confronts any excuse you may conjure for thinking that going barefoot isn't for you. These range from "I have flat feed and need support" and "That looks painful" to "I'm too heavy" and "I'm pregnant."

From there, the book turns to the mechanics of walking barefoot. This involves evaluating your form, tips for good posture and a schedule for transitioning slowly without injury. Several walking methods are suggested, depending on your specific needs, and each is accompanied by detailed images of every movement involved. My personal favorite is the stealthy Ninja Step, because I've long been self-conscious about how much noise my steps make when I walk.

For anyone concerned about weak feet, the comprehensive exercises and relaxation techniques Michael offers will provide you with no shortage of options. There are stretches, massages, cross-training ideas, balancing techniques and even fun games to help you get into shape (playing hot potato with your feet looks fun, but slackline-walking looks awesome). Injury prevention and concern for aches and pains for all parts of the body are also addressed.
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Barefoot Walking: Free Your Feet to Minimize Impact, Maximize Efficiency, and Discover the Pleasure of Getting in Touch with the Earth + The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes + Barefoot Running Step by Step: Barefoot Ken Bob, the Guru of Shoeless Running, Shares His Personal Technique for Running with More Speed, Less Impact, Fewer Injuries and More Fun
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