I have a confession to make…I love running barefoot.
I love running with shoes, too, don’t get me wrong. Heck, I’ll even run with those minimalist shoes if I can’t be properly barefoot. But there is something spectacular about nude soles and asphaltconcretebiketrailsgravelgrass.
This isn’t a barefoot running blog…goodness knows there are enough of those out there these days, what with it being a fad and all. But I thought I’d post about it anyway because it is part of who I am and what I do.
As a note, I’m not recommending that you run barefoot. I’m not recommending anything at all, in fact. I’m just talking into space, as usual.
As another note, I’m going to be talking about feet in this post, so if that bothers you, you may want to navigate elsewhere. Here’s a nice picture for your time.
I'm still looking for that iconic fall photo...do you like this one?
I’ve been running barefoot for years now. Back when I lived in Colorado, it was a big thing. There were barefoot running clubs even back in the early 2000′s. Probably before that too. What attracted me to it initially, and probably what remains a major reason, is freedom and independence. I hate being reliant on things and what is more freeing than to be able to run anywhere, anytime? Running has never been a sport that required a lot of gear, just a good pair of shoes.
What if you didn’t even need that?
And then, once you’re barefoot, you learn how to feel through your feet. There are a lot of nerve endings in your feet. If you’ve always worn shoes, you can’t imagine the things you have missed. Every surface has a different texture and feel, smooth or rough, grainy or spikey, bouncy or hard. Years passed where I ran barefoot for no more reason than that.
When I was in college and running barefoot because I couldn’t afford to replace my shoes often enough, I even heard the “barefoot scientist”, Daniel Lieberman, give a talk. Only back then he wasn’t talking about running barefoot. He is an anthropologist, and his talk was all about the mechanics and efficiency of knuckle walking in apes. It was a good talk!
More recently, they’ve come out with research to show that barefoot running may have less impact on your joints and may help to prevent running injuries. Here’s a link to the Lieberman webpage, with videos on barefoot versus shod running, if you’re curious.
So that was nice. It was kind of like a bonus. You can run barefoot because you love it and also it’s good for you. Here’s a cookie!
But here’s the problem. I’m not going to lie to you…I have definitely hurt myself running barefoot. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and endorphins can make you immune to some pretty serious injuries.
Glass is no problem. It mostly lies flat and my feet are, in general, too tough to be cut by glass. It is those darn acorns. Once the cars run them over, they are three dimensions of jagged edges. I once had a broken acorn embedded in the bottom of my foot for the last mile and a half (~2.4 km) of a run. When I got back, instead of checking my foot, I assumed it had fallen out and went to bed. It was only three days later, when the pain was becoming intense and hard to ignore, that I checked my foot and found the acorn, still stuck and now infected. Unperturbed, I cut it out and ran with shoes for a while.
Here’s another thing you probably didn’t want to know…bare feet are more slippery than rubber shoes. In the rain especially, they slip around a lot more (especially on those white lines they paint on the roads). One time, after enjoying a barefoot run in the rain, I found that both my soles were covered in big poofy blood blisters. It felt like I was running on Dr. Scholl’s gel shoe inserts for days.
Are you gellin’?
I’ve left bloody footprints behind after stretching down from a barefoot run and I’ve come dangerously close to frostbite from running in the winter.
To be perfectly honest, one should probably wear shoes in the winter, if at all possible.
But here’s another bit of food for thought (should I not mention food in this post? sorry). I’ve also hurt myself pretty seriously running with shoes.
I was running with an Iron Man triathlete this summer (goodness knows why he let me tag along, much to my benefit). I guess I should say I was running “after” him. I lost seven toenails over the period of three months. Since then, I’ve been trying to keep up a pretty rigorous schedule (about 160 miles/257 km a month) with speed training (fartleks and all), and I’m missing all but my big toenails. I’ve just got calluses where the nails used to be. *sigh*
My feet are worse for the wear right now. I won’t post any photos, because they are pretty gruesome. Missing eight toenails, with 14 blisters, three of which are blood blisters (one the size of a silver dollar) and two of which are the size of a credit card, one on each heel.
What’s a girl to do? I just keep running! It will resolve itself in time. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
But I’m curious…do you run barefoot? Shod? Do you lose toenails, get blisters? What’s your policy on barefoot running in the winter? How do you feel about minimalist shoes?
Some visual relief after all this foot talk.