Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Barefoot running has always intrigued me and recently I saw another article in the Los Angeles Times touting its benefits. I have seen a number of barefoot runners in various races and they always looked comfortable and relaxed. I still remember passing a guy running barefoot in the Wildflower triathlon. The Wildflower run is on trails littered with rocks and stones and it is not the kind of place you would expect barefoot runners.

Just as I passed the guy, someone called out to him, "Doesn't that hurt?" He replied "It keeps my mind from thinking about my legs." It sounded really funny at the time because my legs were hurting like hell. And then something else happened. Just as I passed the man, I saw a live rattle snake. It was the first time in 20 years living in California that I had ever seen a live rattle snake.

Clearly shoes have some uses. They do protect you from penetrating injuries. They may even protect you somewhat from snakes, although these creatures tend to bite higher up when you step on them. In winter, shoes keep your feet warm, but in summer they are often too hot. However, nobody can argue with the fact that shoes keep your feet clean. So why would anyone want to walk, let alone run barefoot? Except on the beach perhaps where shoes become awkward and clumsy and where the cool sand feels great.

Everything in life is a trade-off. That is a good thing to remember. We do pay for everything one way or another. Shoes are confining, they make your feet hot and sweaty and they sometimes rub you the wrong way. Shoes contribute to blisters. But could there be more to it than these simple inconveniences? Do shoes actually make your feet weaker? Do they accentuate misalignments and other problems? Do they cause knee, hip and back aches? Only one way to find out.

I ran shoeless on Tuesday. Not very far, but one has to start somewhere. Clearly my soft feet are not used to such exposure. Having been confined to shoes -most of them ill fitting since I have a high arch- all their lives, one has to start easy.

I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. It felt good. Even though it was cool outside, the sun had heated the asphalt and the warmth felt good to me. It is certainly something I want to do again.

Monday I ran a 10k in the hills, going easy.
Tuesday I rested except for the 0.5 mile barefoot run
Today, I ran 11.5 miles (shepherd plus a detour to fish ranch) wearing very light and thin-soled shoes. I did run about 0.5 barefoot at the end.

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