Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Barefoot Running

I think it's fine that increasing numbers of runners are shedding their shoes and pounding the pavement and cement on bare soles just like their prehistoric forefathers and foremothers did. I simply find it a curious thing for people to want to attempt. I also wonder how many runners try it and stick with it. I know, apparently there's scientific evidence that this prevents shin splints and knee ruptures and endless other things, and I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from doing it. I just don't see these apparent benefits making sense when I see it in practice. For one thing, very few of us can go through the day barefoot, so we don't have an opportunity to toughen up our feet. Our prehistoric friends didn't have to run on cement and asphalt. They also quite likely impaled their feet on small sharp rocks on occasion. Most importantly, they didn't have shoes, so they were running barefoot for the same reason they climbed trees when a tiger showed up: because they had no choice.

I ran two marathons this year in which I saw barefoot participants in action. In the first, the barefoot runner completed the race in almost exactly the same time as I did, and there was a helluva lot of cement on that course. My cushioned feet were hurting more than they usually do after a marathon. So that runner had my admiration; she appeared no worse off than I was. In the second race, the barefoot runner was limping along on the outsides of his feet at about mile eight. He was toast; there was no way he was getting to the finish unless he crawled.

I like the cushioned soles on my extraordinarily light running shoes. I also like electricity and the endless things it allows me to do effortlessly. I like using matches to light fires (which is a rare requirement in my world) since I couldn't rub two sticks together effectively if I had to.

I'm probably missing something in this barefoot running thing. I love being barefoot, if it's warm and there's a beachful of sand surrounding me, or if I'm on the couch watching TV. I wish I understood the appeal of running barefoot, but I don't care enough to try it.

And by the way... Vibrams are shoes/slippers with thin soles. If you wear them, how do you figure you're barefoot?


Kovas Palubinskas said...

I haven't tried it yet, but definitely will go barefoot at some point, if only because it feels so good. My guess is that the first runner you saw had trained properly and the second not, but maybe, as with shod runners, he was just having a bad day.

Anonymous said...

As long as I'm at home, I'm barefoot. I kick my shoes off under my desk frequently. I'll run through a park barefoot with my son. I am just not prepared to run on pavement sans shoes.

Vibrams are for a minimalist runner, but aren't considered barefoot. (And I'm not prepared to be seen wearing such ugly shoes).

RocketJam said...

I've been wearing VFFs since early March of this year. Running with them is definitely not barefoot, but it's a lot closer to barefoot than "normal" running shoes. I've run completely barefoot a couple of times (a 1.25 mile and a 2 mile run), and it does have a similar feel to running w/Vibrams, but there's definitely a difference. I would need to work up to it to be able to go any long distance that way. Mostly just to toughen up the soles of my feet.