Daniel Mason earned the name “The Barefoot Ninja” on the popular tv show, Australian Ninja Warrior. Having recently learning about living barefoot, I was eager to learn more. It turns out Dan is a very interesting young man and there’s every chance we’ll sit down for more discussions in the coming months but here we discuss his own barefoot journey.
I’ve been going barefoot for 9 years now. But even before that I tended to be barefoot a lot of the time anyway. My main sport was gymnastics and so was barefoot in training all the time anyway.
How did you hear about barefoot?
It wasn’t something I had heard about before I started. Myself and a couple of friends from uni just liked going barefoot and so started doing it more and more often and started to notice the benefits. That’s when I started to look into whether anyone else has noticed these too and I started to find lots of information on it.
Why did you decide barefoot was for you?
It suited my lifestyle and my developing philosophy about training and functionality, but most of all I just really liked it. Also after about a year of doing it I really started to recognise the benefits I had got from it. Less ankle injuries and foot pain basically.
What was it like when you first went barefoot?
I started pretty gradually, I had already been training gymnastics barefoot and I just started to expand where I went barefoot. I started going to uni barefoot, then started walking around shops or the street barefoot, then started Crossfit training barefoot and eventually started medium distance running and hiking barefoot. So the change was relatively slow and I didn’t feel a change quickly. But after a year or so I definitely started to notice less injuries and pain, and also just felt generally more in control during activities like hiking or walking on uneven ground. I also found I enjoyed activities like hiking, rock scrambling and walking in rivers or on natural surfaces a lot more because there was an added aspect or experience to it now.
How often do you wear shoes?
I wear shoes to work and formal occasions, or outings to restaurants and that kind of thing. But nowhere else really.
Is barefoot for everyone?
I think some amount of barefoot living can be for everyone, but that may vary depending on injuries, health, weight. The main thing is to start slow and build up to it. If approached slowly there isn’t much damage that can be done, but potentially a lot of benefit to be gained.
Have you got any tips for anyone interested in barefoot living?
Starting slow is the biggest tip. I find a lot of people get turned off it or think it’s not for them because they jump straight into doing everything barefoot and get pain. Think of your feet like any other joint or muscle. If you haven’t done any exercise with them for years, of course they’re going to hurt when you start using them (especially if done too quickly). But our bodies are great at adapting and it will eventually lead to increased functionality (not only in the feet, but knees, hips and back.
If you’re going to start running barefoot make sure you read up on it, as a lot of the time it requires a change in running style (although I find this happens quite naturally anyway)
Can you suggest any links for further reading on barefoot?
The best book I’ve read on it is Born to Run by Chris McDougall.
What are your top five pros and cons of barefoot?
– Increased functionality and conditioning of your whole lower body. Meaning less pain in all the major joints
– Feels better (to me anyway). You get to actually feel grass and dirt and sand etc
– Don’t have to worry about getting your shoes dirty or wet, I quite happily jump in rivers or mud with my son when playing down the park. Or even while hiking it’s much more comfortable to hike barefoot than in either wet socks and shoes or shoes that weigh 5kg each.
– I save a lot of money on shoes
– increased awareness of where and what you’re walking on
– I tend to forget where I last put my shoes because it may have been weeks since I wore them
– Some cuts and bruises (I don’t really see this one as a con but some people would)
– Some judgemental looks and comments (not that often though, most people just seem confused)
– Some initial discomfort and may decrease running ability initially due to having to use muscles that haven’t been trained to cope with it (again I don’t really see this as a con, more as part of the process of becoming more functional