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
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?