Photo Courtesy Muskegon Chronicle
Answers to your probing inquiries...
NOTE: THIS SITE IS MOVING TO A NEW SERVER. THE NEW ADDRESS IS BAREFOOTCHRONICLES.COM. Google is discontinuing googlepages, and the new Google Sites is not especially user-friendly. Please update your bookmarks. Thank you!
Also, I now have a barefoot coaching site located at http://barefootrunninguniversity.com, and have written a barefoot running book that can be found here:
1. Why do you run barefoot?
Initially, I began running barefoot to prevent injuries. Specifically, plantar fasciitis, black toenails, and blisters. Since 2006, I have been running barefoot because I enjoy it. The feeling of your feet on the ground is great! Admittedly, I do enjoy doing something that seems to be counterintuitive based on conventional wisdom.
2. How do you begin running barefoot?
Slowly. Most advocates recommend starting with a VERY short distance on a forgiving surface such as grass. The longer you have run with shoes, the weaker your foot musculature and connective tissues will be. Over the course of a few months, time can be increased. Personally, I went from 5 minute barefoot sessions on grass to exclusively barefoot runs of 20+ miles over the course of six months. Patience is the key.
3. Is there any empirical research supporting barefoot running?
Yes! I'm a big fan of peer-reviewed research! Many barefoot runners will claim barefoot running helped them become better runners, but anecdotal evidence isn't always enough to convince me. I'm a skeptic at heart! These helped change my opinion:
AND IN THE SPIRIT OF A BALANCED STANCE:
Know of any other research not included? Email me the link!
4. Are there any other barefoot runners out there?
Yes! Here's a forum on Runner's World website dedicated to barefoot running. Also, here's a Yahoo group dedicated to barefoot running. If you are a barefoot runner, drop me an email, I'll add your site to my links!
5. Doesn't running barefoot hurt your feet?
If you are patient and allow your feet to adapt slowly, running barefoot actually hurts your feet less than running with shoes. The key is to adapt your gait to the type of running or racing you do. In three years, I have two examples of improper adaptation. I ran a 15k on asphalt at a pace MUCH faster than my training pace. I ended up with three relatively large blisters from friction. In a 50 mile trail race, I hadn't practiced trail running for about five weeks. I hit my fourth toe on my right foot on a root and broke my toe.
6. What about glass or dog poop?
Obstacles in your path are easily avoided because you learn to watch the path directly in front of you. With practice, your brain will create a mental map of the terrain 5 to 25 feet in front of you. Your brain will automatically guide your foot landings to avoid obstacles. You develop excellent foot-eye coordination! If you do happen to step on bad stuff, your feet are usually tough enough to resist punctures. Also, the soles of your feet become sensitive enough to shift your body weight if you step on something sharp. The result- less downward force helps prevent puncture wounds.
7. How can running barefoot reduce injuries?
The simple answer, you allow your feet to operate as evolution intended. Running barefoot strengthens your feet and all associated systems used for running. As the theory goes, barefoot running allows your feet to function as nature (or God/ gods/ or whatever you happen to believe) intended. Modern shoes limit the movement, thus function, of the feet. This limitation of movement is then responsible for interfering with other biomechanical aspects of running (ankles, knees, hips, back, etc.) The result is an increase in injury. Even Nike agrees!
8. How do you keep your feet clean?
Counter-intuitively, going barefoot actually keeps your feet more clean. Shoes and socks that make your feet sweat cause odor, not your feet themselves. The only problem- the soles of your feet do get pretty dirty.
9. How far can you run barefoot?
The sky is the limit! With proper adaptation, a barefoot runner would be able to run as far as a shod runner (maybe further). Personally, I routinely run 20+ miles barefoot on variety of surfaces ranging from asphalt to dirt trails, to gravel-covered roads. My longest run to date is a 50 mile trail ultramarathon.
10. What about racing barefoot?
While there aren't a lot of runners that race barefoot, there are no problems with it. I race exclusively barefoot these days. I've run 5k's, 15k's, 25k's and 50 milers barefoot.
11. What do other runners think of you?
Experienced runners are often either amazed or have A LOT of questions. Inexperienced runners, spectators at races, or people I encounter on training runs have the same general reactions, but tend to give me more of a "WTF" look. I have heard the occasional negative comment, mostly from young males who have spent great sums of money on shoes. I also get a lot of comments about my feet/ ankles/ knees wearing out in a few years. It's like the overweight couch potato refusing to exercise because they are afraid of getting injured. The human body has an amazing ability to adapt to the strains you put on it. We'll rust from disuse before we wear out from over-use.
12. Is it fun?
Yes! So much so, I am hopelessly addicted! The only shoes I ever wear when running are beach shoes (aqua socks- the neoprene and rubber "shoes" people wear while swimming). I mostly wear them when the temps drop below 40°.