Now, after reading Part 1 of this discussion, you may have already seen your specialist to ask whether or not you could withstand barefoot running. If you were told that you are eligible for barefoot running, it’s now time to start training your intrinsic foot musculature… what? Remember when I said you would have to start training muscles you never knew you had? Welcome to your intrinsic foot musculature, those muscles that are responsible for moving your toes. They also add the necessary framework to your feet to withstand the forces of barefoot running.

A little history lesson first. We evolved wearing no shoes when we were primates digging around in the dirt. Our intrinsic foot musculature was well adapted to the point we could manipulate objects with our feet just as well as with our hands. But over the past few thousand years shoes became the norm and our feet lost contact with the ground. Instead they only had contact with the soft interior confines of the modern shoe. The musculature in our feet began to wither away because our body no longer had need for these precious little muscles because shoes were taking over their role in terms of support. Our bodies are quite efficient; if we don’t use it we lose it.

Now back to the topic. After so many years of being in shoes, we now need to strengthen those muscles to prepare you for barefoot running.  Below is a list of exercises to help strengthen and increase control of your feet prior to commencing barefoot running.

Intrinsic Foot Strengthening

1)     Big Toe Extension

  1. Plant the outer 4 toes firmly to the ground and press into the floor
  2. At the same time, raise the big toe off the ground
  3. Reps: 10-12
  4. Sets: 2x each foot

IMG_0078 (2)








2)     Toe Extension

  1. Plant the big toe firmly to the ground and press into the floor
  2. At the same time raise the outer 4 toes off the ground and flair them
  3. Reps: 1-12
  4. Sets: 2x each foot









3)     Adduction of Toes

  1. Squeeze all toes together without curling the toes in
  2. Hold for 10-15 seconds
  3. Sets: 2x each foot

IMG_0081 (2)








4)     Toe Walking

  1. While sitting, curl in the big toe (without using the outer 4 toes) as in walking the foot forward
  2. Next, use the outer 4 toes to walk the foot up (without the big toe)
  3. Walk as far forward as possible while sitting, then bring foot back
  4. Repeat 4x with each foot

IMG_0083 (2)IMG_0084 (2)

5)     Forward Lean

  1. While standing straight, slowly begin to lean forward close to a wall (in case you lose balance)
  2. Dig all toes in and lean as far forward as you can (keep heels on the floor)
  3. Hold for 10-15 seconds
  4. Sets: 3

IMG_0085 (2)








6)     Squat on Toes

  1. While in a deep squat position
  2. Step 1: lean in all directions in the shape of a circle slowly
  3. Step 2: Balance up on toes and repeat circle movement

Step 3 (advanced): Balance up on one foot and extend the opposite leg straight out in front of you and slowly curl

IMG_0087 (2)IMG_0089 (2)


Many people will find these exercises quite frustrating because many of us will lack the motor control to accomplish these movements. However, with practice and patience, you will get acquire more control with your feet. Work on these exercises for the next 3-4 weeks 1-2 times per day. I will be adding a Part 3 to this blog to cover the training schedule and how to properly transition into barefoot running to decrease chance of injury.