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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giving Barefoot a Try

Tonight was a treadmill night because I was concerned that none of my running pals would be showing up to run after we had to sneak under a gate in a gated community in order to find a safe place to run on Tuesday. That's right - seven of us, sliding under a gate like something out of Mission: Impossible in order to have a safe place to run. Apparently, they showed up tonight, but they sounded so uncertain that I decided to run at home.

I gave it some thought earlier, and I decided to give the barefoot running thing a try. Barefoot running is the trendy thing right now in the running world, and it's apparently a "hot button" issue. Should you wear shoes? Should you run barefoot? Are running shoes hurting people and doing more harm than good? Is running barefoot horrible and asking for injury? I've kinda-sorta listened to some of the debates, but honestly, I am kind of indifferent to the whole issue.

Still, I decided to give it a try. I was running on the treadmill, so I figured I didn't have to worry about the whole "stepping on rocks or glass or nails" issue, and I could have a pair of shoes and socks nearby if I didn't like it.

I'll be honest, it was kind of interesting. It was something to do anyway. Certainly, I'd have to get used to it since I think I was landing too much on my heels. I could definitely feel the heat of the treadmill under my feet. I started out excited, like "yeah! I'm barefoot! Ha!" And it did feel free and light and easy.

As I went on though, my left calf and my right ankle were sort of hurting. I was getting nervous about my feet. I wasn't missing the shoes as much as I was missing my orthotics. I was about 20 minutes in and I was watching the timer on the treadmill, seeing how long I had left. Then, it occurred to me, "hey! I could just put on shoes!"

So, I jumped off and put on socks and shoes. Wow, it felt like I was wearing two super-soft, heavy pillows on my feet. Totally a weird feeling, much more weird than the barefoot thing. I got used to the shoes after another 8 or 9 minutes, but it was strange at first.

So, what did I think? Eh. I'm still indifferent. It's something I'd have to speak to my podiatrist about. I'm not ready to drop my shoes just yet. Or, more like it, I'm not ready to drop my orthotics just yet.

I will say this, too - one thing I really dislike about the whole barefoot running crowd is some of the negativity that I see on their websites. They seem to really enjoy attacking running shoes, Runner's World, and people who run with shoes on. Guys, that's not a way to get people on your side. Many people run with shoes for many different reasons. So, go ahead and be enthusiastic about barefoot running. Go ahead and run barefoot. It's cool. But, leave the attacks of others out of it. There's no grand conspiracy by Nike to injure people.

If you're curious about barefoot running, here are some resources:
  • Vibram Five Fingers: I saw someone wearing this at the Annapolis Ten Miler in 2009. They protect your feet so that you're not as worried about stepping on things. Frankly, I kind of like the Five Fingers KSO for the beach.
  • Barefoot Rick has been running barefoot since 2003 (longer than I've been running!) and has done 18 marathons barefoot.
  • A guide for running barefoot.
  • Barefoot Ken, another barefoot running blogger.
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Image courtesy of 802 (Creative Commons)


Lacey said...

interesting. i will do it on the beach but that is about it :) thanks for the resources!

DRaymond said...

I'm glad to hear you had a good experience with barefoot running - I've wanted to try it myself. Now just need the snow and ice to melt so I can give it a shot :)


hmm ... don't think I am willing to test out the barefoot thing. But I definitely look for the most lightweight trainer I can find.

Pete said...

Glad to see that your first barefoot run was interesting to you. I am a middle age man who, until 3 1/2 years ago, wore shoes constantly. When I decided to go barefoot (not minimalist) it took several months to get conditioned. I was a tenderfoot from wearing shoes, my muscles were weak almost to the point of atrophy, flexibility was terrible, and my blood flow was not very good. I really didn't know all this however because as a shodie, I thought that the condition of my feet and legs from swaddeling them all the time was normal.
I love barefooting now and I have only one fear. I'm afraid that many will go out and start barefooting without the proper conditioning, hurt themselves, and give barefooting a bad rap. Please take it slow, allow your feet and legs time to build up strength and flexibility that is lost from wearing shoes constantly. Once you reach the point where your feet can handle anything you ask of them, you will enjoy it tremendously.

Good Luck,
Pete F.

Kim said...

Pete, thanks for stopping in!! I really just wanted to try it for a bit and see how it went. I knew that there were some risks in starting out barefooting, so that's why I ended up putting shoes on at the end of the run.

I think anything that gets people to enjoy the sport more is wonderful!! I'm glad barefoot is working for you, and maybe I'll give it a try again sometime.

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