Sunday, May 5, 2013

Barefoot Running? Yeah, I do that.

Even my front walk is pebble embedded cement!
People are fascinated to learn that I run barefoot. Well, either that or incredulous or mystified or instantly bored and couldn't care less. It usually starts with something like this:
Person: You run barefoot? Doesn't that hurt?!
Me: No, well yes, on gravel but mostly no.
Person: (pause) Aren't you afraid of stepping on a hypodermic needle?
Me: I watch where I'm going to avoid things and I've never seen a hypodermic needle lying on the ground when I've been running. Are they a big problem where you run? (OK, that's a smart -ass response I'll admit but I have another one that I suppress that I heard in a YouTube video by Christopher McDougal..... I'll share it here; "I use these high tech gadgets called eyes." Not very nice but really people this should not come as a surprise.
Person: What about at night?
Me: Shoes.
Person:  Oh so you're not really a barefoot runner all of the time!
Me: OK, I guess you're right. I am not a barefoot runner all of the time in fact I carry some sort of shoes with me on my long runs in case I need them and the purists think that is a crutch and is not cool.
But still, running barefoot feels awesome most of the time and I prefer it most of the time but I am not doing it as any kind of statement or for attention. I feel a bit self conscious about it but ignore the looks and run. I just like it. Another plus is that because of the gross factor I am now more aware of stepping on worms and I think that many worms lives have been spared since I've switched over to barefoot. (This may be a Pacific NW thing as it rains a lot here and when it rains the worms try to migrate over pavement.......Oh c'mon! I know I can't be the only one out there who's seen a worm in dire straights and just thought, "You are the luckiest son of a bitchin'est worm in the world as you pick it up ...with a stick or a leaf, and place it somewhere safe. Kind of makes you feel god like.) I also have to say that when it does feel good running barefoot is the best, even minimalist shoes feel constrictive, hot and heavy after just a little time without anything on your feet. It also changes the way you run.
My foot at my corner...scary huh?
The big myth (in my opinion) is that you are barefoot running if you are in minimalist shoes. Don't kid yourself, I have yet to wear anything that doesn't allow me to cheat in my form. Even my Moc 3's which are far and away the  closest to wearing nothing that I've worn will allow me to fudge on my foot falls. There, I said it! I'd like to hear back from other barefooters out there about what they think. I belong to a barefoot runner group here in Portland, Oregon (geek alert!) and they are all over the place on what they wear or don't and where they'll run and won't and what they can or can't stand to run on. For me, I can't stand running for very long on gravel. I've tried and tried over that past three years and just can't develop the soles to tough it out. I'd be curious to know if there are others out there who've figured out how to get there and how they did it. (I really hate the gravel a lot and often dream about being impervious!) I dream of being able to run over gravel and rocks and shit, well not shit. (I would definitely avoid shit) Just floating along like a person wearing shoes but freer without the foot coffins....did I just write that? Damn, I'm a zealot! What next; fanatic!? Then follows extremist and the next thing you know I'm sketching out plans for a violent overthrow of Nike or Adidas or something. Why God WHY!?!

 But I digress......... where was I? Oh yeah; how do those of you who can, do what you do? Give it up my brothers and/or sisters. Clue me and the rest of the barefoot cool cats in on your secrets.

My other street, yes I live in the city limits.
Part 2: ( Oh yeah, I forgot that the last part was Part 1)

I prefer running barefoot on pavement by far over most trails and I take a lot of shit for this preference from my local barefooter buddies but it's true. For me pavement is so much friendlier than are trails. Likely it's because all of the local park trails around here are maintained with a healthy dose of gravel every other year or so and you already know how much I hates me some gravel. I think another possible reason is that I am in training for marathons and I feel that when running barefoot I can run faster when I'm not in pain and dancing around big rocks and sticks and stuff or doing the "deep knee bend shuffle" to get over the gravel.

Ironic that the street I live on is the worst pavement I run on
This is my street, yes it is that rough.
Also have you ever noticed that the nerve endings in the bottoms of your feet have their own idea of how long and what type of surface you can tolerate and that it's different on any given day? I can run on some shitty road surfaces for a decent amount of time and finish the run just hunky dory but then on a different day it's more than I can stand to do 100 feet on so so asphalt (tarmac for the British, Kiwi's and I think Aussies) and the thought of going for miles seems impossible. At these moments I grab my Soft Stars and head out because though I've tried to endure it thinking that the nerves and soles will eventually yield to my force of will, they don't. Maybe I just need to practice breath work.......(guffaw) who am I kidding? The breath work thing may work but I am nowhere disciplined enough to find out.

Person: "But Todd, surely you must wear shoes in the winter?"

Me:  Sometimes.........usually.

As stated before, I live in Portland, Oregon and it does not get crazy cold here very often but too cold for comfortable barefoot running; yes. I have a limit and that limit is 50 degrees wet and 45 degrees dry. I find that below those temperatures in those conditions I loose feeling in my feet and therefore am able to do harm to myself without really knowing it until the thaw happens. That has happened to me a couple of times and it was not pleasant. I mean consider that I am a slow learner and it still only took me twice to not do it again and you know it must have been very uncool. 

 The last thing here is this; Chics dig barefoot runners. Oh sure they all may give you the, "You are crazy and a weirdo!" look but deep down you know they are completely impressed with your uber coolness; I know I would be. I have to admit the attention is probably the main reason I run sans shoes. Well that and all of the "feeling at one with the Earth" stuff that I'm supposed to be aware of. (Confession; all I've ever felt is pavement, or dirt or mud or pain/gravel, fyi)
That's right, chics dig the barefeet

 If you have thought about running barefoot or know someone who is thinking about it here is a list of reasons why you can't from various shod runners I've spoken to.......completely informed I'm sure......... I personally think it all boils down to number fifteen.

 Well I can't run barefoot because I have_____________.
The list:
1) high arches
2) flat feet
3) bad knees
4) bad hips
5) arch supports
6) shin splints
7) feet are way too sensitive
8) one leg is shorter than the other
9) bad back
10) wide feet
11) narrow feet
                                                    12) over pronator
                                                    13) under pronator
                                                    14) the flu (OK, this one is legit but only for a limited time!)
                                                    15) I am adverse to trying new things and prefer the comfort of the same old, same old regardless of whether it works or not.

Let's face it, if you are running barefoot you are very likely a person who is open to trying new things and to that I say you are my kind of weirdo.

I'm just a sole who's intentions are good, Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood,