Welcome to Barefooting It - my personal blog about my journey with barefoot running. There are many, MANY other barefoot running blogs out there, most by runners with many more miles on them than myself. But I have been asked so often about my own experiences with barefoot running that I decided to go ahead and establish a blog. I also need something to share my great experiences with, so this media shall be it.
So why did I start running barefoot? A year ago I wouldn't have been caught dead running with no shoes on. I thought it was dangerous, completely unnecessary, and perfectly crazy. I won't lie - I didn't think much of barefoot runners because of those reasons. But at the same time, I knew I couldn't really speak because at the time I was struggling to just run two miles. Eventually I discovered barefoot running and found out that it is the best option for me to keep me running further, longer, and with less injury.
I used to run all the time as a kid. I remember having a racing club in the third grade, where all my friends and I challenged each other to races around the playground over several predetermined "tracks." But somewhere between elementary school and high school, I lost that desire to run. Fast forward to high school, where we had a running course for several weeks in the dead of winter. All the running (after not running in years) over frozen ground destroyed my shins. That was the last time I had any prolonged running regimen.
I've always been the athletic type, having ridden horses competitively since I was seven years old (later I rode professionally). I also played ice hockey on a regular basis. I was fit, but by no means "running fit." In 2009, I moved and decided to start a new career. I also decided to start working out, as I was no longer riding up to nine horses a day. So I started the Couch-To-5k program in my cheap running shoes. After running into my old nemesis, shin splints, I remembered why I had given up on running years ago. On the advice of several runner friends, I went to a local running store and got fitted for some expensive running shoes. I rested, then tried the same program again. I suffered for weeks trying to run through the pain of shin splints, only to have to stop, rest, and try again a couple of weeks later. Doctors and sports therapists were no help. I was getting nowhere!
Introduction to Minimalist Shoes and Vibram FiveFingers
Transitioning to Completely Barefoot
Unfortunately, I still struggled for months. Were the VFFs better for me than running shoes? Absolutely, and by a large margin. My shin splints had completely disappeared. But I still had minor injuries due to bad form. I had to run as if I were barefoot, but I had never actually run barefoot. My body didn't know what to do or how to do it. I strained my calves, Achilles, and got sore in the metatarsal region of the foot (the dreaded "top of foot pain" or TOFP). Yes, I could run up to four miles now, but I was still hitting road blocks. I was still frustrated. So eventually I ended up switching to racing flats (nice, nearly flat shoes with only a 4mm drop, with thin and flexible sole) instead. It was right about then I decided to try going a little barefoot for the heck of it. Much to my surprise, I loved it! I loved the feeling of the ground and how that feedback affected my form right away. My body instantly knew what to do, and immediately my whole perspective on running changed. I wanted to go out and run now, it wasn't some chore I had to accomplish.
Gradually the distances I ran barefoot increased. Initially, I did short stints barefoot at the end of my runs (the majority was done in my flats), then I started splitting my easy three mile runs between the two. Eventually, and just because I was feeling good that day, I did the majority of one run barefoot much to the chagrin of the local traffic. It seemed that once I went over two miles barefoot, that my form dialed in and I was good to go. I went three miles barefoot a few times, then edged up to four. Held at four, then finally edged up to almost five. Eventually I did five miles, then six miles, completely barefoot, and completely happy. They were great milestones for me, because this time a year ago, I could not even fathom going five miles (let alone six), or even wanting to try. I was struggling so badly to do a mile and a half, but six miles was fun and almost effortless.
I'm not fast barefoot. If I have to run for time, then I put on my Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flats (pictured at right) and go. But if I just want to go out for a jog and don't care how fast or how far I go, then I am certainly barefoot. I just find it so fascinating that someone like myself, who once thought it impossible to run comfortably, and was recommended for orthotics, could make a transition to barefoot running and be successful. The body is an incredible machine. I was a student of anatomy and physiology in high school and college, so how the body operates is a captivating subject for me. My barefoot runs are interesting, because as I go along, I can't help but wonder at how well it all works. I find that when I start to tire, that I just have to step back mentally and remember that I was out there running on CONCRETE, barefoot (something that non-BFR's say is impossible), and was totally fine. Then I don't feel nearly as tired because it just seems like a small miracle for me.
So that's why I run barefoot. Because I feel great and it allows me to run longer distances injury free. Much more to come in this blog. :)