Barefoot Running

I saw a programme recently examining the science and the proof behind things like expensive, hi-tech trainers and sports drinks. The conclusion in a nutshell was that there is no scientific basis for the need to keep glugging sports drinks or paying a fortune for sports shoes that supposedly do all sorts of wonderful things for your feet and posture.

The sports drink con has actually  been exposed by various people over the years but nobody seems to notice. What interested me the most was that they examined the fairly recent phenomenon of barefoot running, the idea being that the human foot is perfectly well designed for walking and running and doesn’t need special thick, cushioned soles, and big heels that make you run in an unnatural way. The programme featured one or two people who went jogging in their bare feet and, being a casual jogger, it captured my imagination!

So today I took the plunge and went for a run without anything on my feet. On Sunday mornings I drive to the very scenic local university campus for an early morning jog, and today planned a slightly different route so that I would mainly be on grass and avoid the gravel track I normally use.

It was exhilarating! Running through grass wet with dew early in the morning is a wonderful, almost primal experience. The most difficult thing was trying to change my running style from heel-first to ball-of-foot-first, as I knew I was supposed to. It felt odd – but more worryingly it felt as if it was putting more strain on my calf muscles, and I have a history of calf problems from my football days.

I suspected I was exaggerating the style a little so eased off, and I also found it helped to take shorter strides. That helped, but I did develop a strain in my right calf.

I’m now really enthusiastic about barefoot running, but the other problem is that I know I can’t always run where there’s a surface that won’t rip my feet to shreds. One of the surprising things was that I found hard surfaces much less problematic that I’d expected. At one point I ran across a courtyard of stone slabs and it felt very comfortable underfoot. I even ran half a mile along a tarmac cycle track and that was fine too. In my experience although grass is preferable, hard surfaces are not a problem. It’s uneven surfaces, small stones and even twigs that make you wince. There was no way I could have run on the gravel path around the otherwise lovely lakeside route I usually take.

I can’t always get to the campus and more locally barefoot running would be much more hazardous. Alternating between barefoot and trainers would probably be a bad idea, so I’m not sure if this will be a one-off experiment or not. I may look at some of the ‘barefoot running shoes’ you can get now – but they are very expensive…

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About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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4 Responses to Barefoot Running

  1. chloefb says:

    As an ex-competitive track and cross-country runner, this has always had an appeal for me. But due to long-standing ankle problems I can’t really fore-foot strike, so I guess it’s out? I now have to wear insoles to correct an ankle problem (round one of surgery didn’t work) so need my trainers, but I often wonder whether some of my myriad joint problems (knees, hips, shoulders, back, wrists…) would be sorted with less technology, not more. Barefoot running would probably do very little for my wrists…

  2. I may well need surgery after yesterday… But seriously, you’re very unlucky to have such problems at your age and it must be frustrating after having been a competitive runner. I’d at least consider going for a very short, gentle barefoot jog – but maybe after getting advice from a physio or other specialist. Who knows?!

  3. Hi Martyn
    Good luck with barefooting. What sort of questions does someone new to barefooting have. i have been putting a list together at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/how-do-i-become-a-barefooter-common-questions/
    I would value your input.
    Regards
    Chris

  4. Well as someone who is purely a recreational jogger rather than a serious runner my initial thoughts were to do with what extent I would need to alter my running style, whether it would increase my chances of injury at least in the short term – and how painful it would be underfoot! As it happened I did twinge a calf, meaning I’ve only managed one barefoot run so far, so maybe I’ve partially answered one of my own questions!

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