Last Saturday I ran my first 9 mile loop of the lake in two months. With temps in the 90’s it was tough, but I feel I’m pretty much back to where I want to be for the summer. A little slower, perhaps, but that’s not a bad thing when June temps this year are already as high as our usual July temps. I purposely keep my summer mileage low, mainly because of the heat and humidity, but also to give my body a rest before I start training for my next fall marathon.
All of this means: it’s time to start thinking about some barefoot running again.
I’ve been working up to running barefoot for the past two weeks by walking–a lot. Every morning I take my two dogs for a 2-4 mile walk, and rather than wear an old pair of running shoes, like I usually do, I’ve been wearing an ugly old pair of Columbia flip flops. I’m thinking that’s as close as I can get to walking barefoot without actually taking off my shoes. On Monday I wore a pair of my most minimal running/trail shoes–barefoot–and got a blister, so I took my shoes off the last half mile and walked home barefoot. It was fun, and I didn’t care what anyone thought. On Tuesday I ran 4 miles at the lake, including a half mile stretch barefoot where the running path is extra smooth. The barefoot stretch was the best part of my run.
I could feel the barefoot half mile I ran the next day in my shins, calves, and where my feet bend. Nothing serious or painful, I could just tell that I had done something different. I plan on only running barefoot every other day, and not more than half a mile for the first week or two, and see how I feel.
For me, I think barefoot running is going to be nothing more than an occasional thing, though I would like to transition to even more minimal shoes than the Nike Free. I’ve been rereading a book I read several months ago, Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth by Michael Sandler, and he gives a lot of information about the best ways to make the transition to complete barefoot running. His best advice: start very, very, very slowly. Second best advice: run more on your toes and forefoot. Third best advice: have fun running.
While I do believe the human body was made to run, and without all the bells and whistles the major shoe manufacturers tell us we need, most of us haven’t run barefoot since we were kids, which means we need to build up all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our feet and toes to accommodate a change. Even if you wear minimalist shoes, which may be essentially nothing more than a rubber sole away from barefoot, better to take it slow and ease into it to give your feet time to get used to running in a different way.
Just like when I was a kid, now that it’s summer I pretty much only wear shoes when I have to go somewhere. I don’t remember anyone telling me it wasn’t okay to run barefoot back then, so why should things change just because I’m an adult? We had glass in the streets back then, too, and rocks, sticks, burrs, rusty nails and hot asphalt, and we did just fine. Sure, we didn’t run 26 miles in our bare feet, but I bet a lot of us put in at least a few miles everyday running around outside.
Best of all, we didn’t even think about it, we were just having fun, and that’s the best way to run if you ask me.