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Barefoot Sports Besides Running

Posted by on Jan 21, 2011 | 9 Comments

I started consciously playing with the idea of skipping shoes in sports when I was in tenth grade.  As a hobby, I spent a lot of time placekicking and punting footballs in my back yard.  At some point, I decided to try punting without shoes.

As much as I would like to say it was due to an epiphany that my cleats were somehow harmful to my feet, it was really due to laziness.  The cleats required lacing, so I decided to skip them one day.

Much to my surprise, it was actually a lot easier and more comfortable than expected.  The “ball-feel” (feel free to take some time to giggle) was superb.  I could easily add an extra second of hang-time, ten yards of distance, and kick a spiral every time.  It was punting Nirvana.

That experience ultimately led to my early experiments of barefoot running, which would provide the foundation for my “serious barefoot endeavors a few years ago.

Over the years, I’ve continued to experiment with other barefoot sports aside from running.  This is a report of my experiences.  I rated each sport as an A, B, or C.

  • A = Sport is better barefoot
  • B= Shoes neither help nor hinder sport
  • C = Shoes help sport

The Sports

Barefoot Baseball: A.  Hitting, pitching, and fielding seemed easier barefoot.  Baserunning was slightly more difficult.

Barefoot Basketball: C.  Wooden courts suck.  The sudden cutting required in basketball coupled with the “sticky” floor resulted in blisters.

Barefoot Biking: C.  Fast speeds + spokes = disaster waiting to happen.

Barefoot Bowling: C.  Losing the ability to slide with the right foot (right-handed bowler) affected my already bad game.

Barefoot Golf: A. I had better club control, probably sue to balance.  The other golfers didn’t appreciate my shoelessness.  Or drunken urination behind the seventh green.

Barefoot Hacky Sack: C .  Better balance couldn’t compensate for the lack of flat surfaces.

Barefoot Hiking: A.  It’s like slow trail running with more crap on your back.  Of course this one will get an “A”!

Barefoot Horseshoes: A.  Better balance seemed to help my ability to throw.  Or toss.  I have no idea what constitutes proper horseshoe terminology…

Barefoot Paintball: B.  Running around through the forest while distracted by incoming paintballs makes it difficult to pay attention to terrain under foot.  However, the added stealthiness makes this one a wash.

Barefoot Racquetball: C.  It suffers the same problem as basketball… too much traction on wooden courts.

Barefoot Skateboarding: C.  While I liked the feeling, the abrasion danger was too great.  If using skateboards for transportation only, barefoot might be pretty good.  The half-pipe… not so much.

Barefoot Soccer: B. I loved playing barefoot soccer, but it didn’t seem to help performance.

Barefoot Tennis: B.  I guess this depends on the courts, but shoes didn’t help or hurt my game.

Barefoot Ultimate Frisbee: A.  Ultimate should be played barefoot.  That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Barefoot Volleyball: C.  Beach Volleyball: A. Wooden courts suck.  Sand is glorious.  As are the participants.

Barefoot Weightlifting: A.  The balance and proprioception make weightlifting easier barefoot.  Thanks Crossfit gyms… we appreciate your acceptance of being barefoot.

Barefoot Wrestling: A.  I’m thinking of Jimmy Snuka right now, and thanks to my three readers that knowingly nodded at that reference.  Professional wrestling aside, being barefoot makes me a better wrestler.

What about your experiences with various sports sans shoes?

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  1. Patrick
    January 24, 2011

    I have a friend that loves skydiving barefoot. He gives it a thumbs up. Feels good on landing apparently. I have yet to try it though.

  2. Jeremy
    January 23, 2011

    Man, that’s an impressive list. I’ve tried kicking a ball around in bare feet before and it always hurt too much but I have always liked the lightest, most flexible cleats I could find. Something to look into trying again I guess…

  3. Michele
    January 22, 2011

    Martial Arts: A
    Martial arts is also an awesome barefoot sport, particularly on soft and/or smooth surfaces. I don’t recommend it on rough cement (driveways, roadways, sidewalks) – pivoting will be painful.

  4. David Specht
    January 22, 2011

    I completely agree with the hiking rating, unless we are talking about winter mountaineering. My current winter hiking boots are thick soled, stiff, and have a huge raised heel. Do you know of any insulated boots that are more flexible than average, and don’t have a raised heel? I’m looking for a pair of insulated boots that allow your feet to move as naturally as possible.

  5. Andy
    January 22, 2011

    Back in the ’70s there was a barefoot skateboarding scene. The one trick that I can remember was called the Gorilla Grip. The skater would curl his/her toes around the nose and tail of the deck and jump into the air, taking the skateboard with them. Try that with a pair of Vans on.

  6. Nathan Matthews
    January 21, 2011

    I play soccer barefoot quite a bit and I find it does improve my form. I get overall agility improvements, but most of all my how I strike the ball improves most because when you really haul off and hit the ball you better hit it just right or you might loose a toe nail, or break a toe, or slab the ball with the top of your foot or some other bad thing.

  7. Jeremy Gustafson
    January 21, 2011

    I had an interesting revelation a few months ago as I continue to “re-train” my body to run barefoot and in minimalist shoes. I played basketball in high school and was constantly having knee and ankle injuries/issues. The summer after high school I took up playing sand volleyball and subsequently collegiate level court volleyball. In the off-season I lived on the sand courts (barefoot of course)… Within about two years I stopped having knee and ankle issues and I had always wondered why. I went from wearing high top court shoes to very low profile, minimally padded shoes. I now know that my summers playing sand volleyball barefoot greatly increased my balance and strengthened my whole body, especially my feet and legs. Makes me want to take up sand volleyball again as excellent cross-training for my running…

  8. Daniel Howell
    January 21, 2011

    Barefoot kicking was popular in the NFL back in the 70-80’s, and ther was at least one famous bf baseball player:

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    January 21, 2011

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