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In the past I was only occasionally walking barefoot, on relatively short distances, on the earthy surfaces. But I'd like to train my feet to be able to do much more - including walking on harsh surfaces such as rocks. My inspiration are the documentaries of indigenous peoples walking barefoot in many environment, including rocky ones, and the family tales, that in the past people were walking barefoot to church, even in the winter.

However, I've done today a 20-minutes walk in the city. The pavements were hot because of full sun, and after reaching home I've found out that the skin on my soles is creased and I feel pain even standing. Luckily, it seems that I'm going to get out of it even without blisters.

Obviously my feet are too soft for harsher surfaces. I should walk a lot on earthy surfaces - unfortunately most trails in the surrounding are graveled... But are there any exercises, training programs or treatments to speed up the tempo of hardening foots? From what distances should I begin, and in which tempo to increase them? Does some ointments, cold or hot showers help?

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I have done a lot of barefoot running. You can train your feet to do a lot of things. But at some point the temperatures of concrete on a hot summer day will burn your feet. You can't get around that. Humans weren't designed for concrete. You can train for rougher surfaces, but not so much hotter ones. –  theJollySin Mar 20 '14 at 23:02

2 Answers 2

I lifeguarded in a beach for many years where the beach was covered in iron ore pieces, kind of like walking on crushed glass mixed with sand. It wasn't painful but it did hurt and tried to avoid when possible. By the end of the summer my feet were tough enough that I have stepped on glass about 1 inch in size and it does not puncture.

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Try running on sand for your morning or evening run - sand is very good at early stages of toughening up your feet as it still spreads the load well.

Once you have toughened the skin a bit, you will be able to walk on forest trails, stone, gravel etc.

But for now, the best thing you can do is moisturise your feet - this helps the cracks smooth out so they don't dig into your foot (which is what causes a lot of the pain). Moisturise, and use a pumice stone to rub down any really hard bits of skin.

Your feet will toughen rapidly if you walk barefoot every day.

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Wouldn't rubbing off hard skin be disadvantageous in that the (well-earnt) callous layers of skin would revert back to softer skin underneath? Or does it not really work that way? –  user2189 Oct 5 '14 at 20:40
You don't want a solid and thick callous right next to soft skin, as the edge will dig in and cause injury. Rubbing the callous down a little helps even up the developing tough skin. –  Rory Alsop Oct 5 '14 at 21:05
I'll have to try some experiments, but when walking barefoot (and if you're lightweight person/load etc), so far I've only experienced benefits from building up super hard pads on my feet - like rocks, they can get. Don't think I've experienced the callouses 'digging in' to the sides of my feet above or anything - but maybe I haven't done enough experimenting yet. You need consistent hard terrain barefooting to be able to observe this. The callouses don't take long to soften back down if you stop using them afterwards... –  user2189 Oct 5 '14 at 21:25
I think we are saying the same thing:-) You don't want to rub the callous off, but in the OP's case, moisturising and rubbing off the hardest bits will help him now. –  Rory Alsop Oct 6 '14 at 6:56
And on the subject of moisturisation, I have (on occasions) tried an oil high in Vitamin E such as (pure) neem, and it seems to definitely help (without softening the pads per se, but just healthfully assisting them - like resting your muscles in between workouts to only foster their growth). (It's certainly antifungal as well, but it also has well-documented skin healing properties). Other than that I'd mention coconut oil as a generic moisturiser I guess, but possibly not as potently healing as neem is. –  user2189 Oct 6 '14 at 11:02

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