Born to Run – Barefoot??

I am a barefoot runner.

There – I’ve said it.   Now some of you are scratching your heads, or asking ‘why?’  Or ‘what does that mean?’  Or even ‘Are you crazy?!’

Let’s go back to the beginning here.

You see, growing up I was fortunate enough to live near the woods and fields.  I can remember spending hours and days, and perhaps even a week, walking around barefoot in the summer.  We would run to our friends down the road, run to the pond through the fields, or even biking around the neighborhood.  All while wearing not a sock, shoe or flip-flop.  It was glorious.  Not much at the time, but looking back I loved it so much.  It was like a feeling of freedom.  Squishing through the mud.  Feeling the grass blades underfoot.  And I just… didn’t care to wear anything.  My parents left me well enough alone, so I pretty much was able to do what I wanted.

Years later, and just a few months ago, a friend on Facebook posted a picture of new shoes he had gotten.

The second I saw them, I had to ask what they were.  They seemed a bit bizarre, and yet made sense without knowing anything about them.  He tipped me off to a book he had been reading by Christopher McDougall, ‘Born to Run.’

I downloaded an audio copy (I listen to them while I’m driving to & from clients in the car).  But I didn’t have a chance to listen to it, but added it onto my own personal queue.  A few weeks later I got around to listening, and was completely engrossed.

In a nutshell he talks of how mankind’s natural instinct is to run barefoot.  All people all across the globe do it on a regular basis.  Some say that is why we were able to evolve as a species, and surpass the other mammals.  Not only that, but by wearing shoes it prevents a natural gait and stride, limits the arches our feet were designed for, and can typically cause more problems the shoes are meant to resolve by means of added support.

I was sold well before I reached the end.

I’ve had back problems for years.  Much of this stemmed from a snowboarding accident (Cernik!!)  Though I’ve been managing just fine with Chiropractic help.  But unfortunately it makes running difficult, and my back begins to hurt if I run further than 200 feet.  Not so with barefoot.

I decided to take the plunge last week.

The recommendations, more than anything else, are to ease into it.  If you’ve been running for some time, you’ve already got the stamina to keep going, but your arches and soles may not be quite so prepared.  Tales are common of people doubling over, miles into their run in pain.   My chiropractor was even less kind when I asked him for his opinion of it, and he dismissed it ‘as a passing fad.’

Having little running experience, other than those two months back in college, and my love of nature and hiking, I made sure to start off easy.

I stripped off my shoes, decided today was the day, and ran out the front door.

Next thing I know I’m at the end of the driveway, and I just kept going on the pavement down the road.  Now most people (myself included) think how painful this could be.  But you see that is also why you take it easy.  Your soles need time to toughen up, and your eyes can be your greatest asset as you dodge the rocks and pebbles that can cause the sharp quick stabs on your undersides.

Before I knew it, I was at the end of the road, and turned around and headed back home.  All in all, a short 1.2 miles per mapmyrun.com

The next day was Saturday.  Nico had his soccer practice, so I took it upon myself to scoot around the grassy fields.  Per the same site, my 5 laps equaled about 1.5 miles.  A little easier on my feet this time thanks to the comforting grass and cushioning soft earth.

And that brings us to today.  A run on main street with the kids on their bikes, and taking turns with Michelle holding the dog.  The time went by quickly, but I certainly felt it on my feet far more this time.  1.82 miles, per a new Android app EndoMundo (thanks Will)

3 days down, and I can feel the difference.  My toes have small blisters on them, and hurt for no less than 2 hours after finishing the runs.  To top it off, what I thought was a blister on one, turned out to be a rock embedded in my foot. But I haven’t given up hope.  McDougall’s book centers on people living in Mexico called the Tarahumara.  They run with thin soled sandals, that allow the natural feet to capably run, while protecting against small rocks and such.  Needless to say I’ve already ordered a pair at InvisibleShoe.com.

My hope is to run a 5K either barefoot or with the Tarahumara sandals.  Either way, I’m not only getting in shape, but able to enjoy it too.  For the first time in years, I’m really looking forward to running… barefoot :)

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