I have written twice on barefoot running, and have in an earlier post put up some photos of my “barefoot shoes” Vibram Five Fingers. Despite my joy with the five fingers, I have constantly battled whether or not to go strictly barefoot at all times of running, or to balance between actual bare feet and what is nowadays termed “minimalist running shoes.” Minimalist shoes are supposed to give you at least the benefit of running in bare feet (better running form, closer connection to earth) if not the actual feel of it.
The constant conundrum I face is that I live in a state that gets ridiculously freezing cold in the winter. Before winter, in fact. I have heard of people being able to run barefoot in the snow and ice, but I am not ashamed to admit that I am a chicken and would probably never dare to try it. So what to do in the winter? Public indoor places do not allow for shoeless people. Strange and ridiculous as it may be, gyms do not want bare feet running around.
And what about terrain that is just too tough for bare feet? There are times when I might want to run a trail that I cannot build enough callouses for, simply because it is not nearby so I can’t run it often. But I never want to wear “traditional” running shoes again. What then?
The answer: “barefoot shoes.” I have encountered a problem with the five fingers: my pinky toes are just barely disproportionate from the rest of my toes, thus the pinky toe slot is too small. Yesterday one of my toenails fell off from damage. Thus, I realized just suffering through with squished toes would not suffice. I needed to find an alternative. What I found is huaraches. They are a sandal made of a rubber sole and leather straps. I ordered materials from Barefoot Ted (see barefootted.com) and will make the sandals myself! So, I get next to nothing on my foot with the thrill of making my own shoe!!!
So, what is with all the hubbub about barefoot running?
My journey began with observing other people run. So many people are what I call “shuffle” runners. They are more or less walking but vaguely look like they are in running form. It may be because I am a dancer and thus concerned with form, but I shudder at the idea of becoming a shuffle runner myself. I have never been a shuffle runner, but the fear was there.
And then, there was the problem that when I ran in traditional running shoes, my toes would ram up against the end of the toe box, causing my toes to feel bruised and sensitive after a run. Not good.
As I was contemplating various alternatives to what I was then doing, I researched proper running form. One website claimed it was a good idea to land, not on your heel, but on your toes instead. I tried altering my stride to fit this technique. But, the big fat heel on my supposedly flat shoe got in the way and it was impossible to land on my toes.
What to do now? As fate or providence or spiritual guidance would have it, I needed to find a scientific topic to briefly write about for one of my classes. I could choose whatever I wanted. I can’t recall at all how I found the site, but I found an article about barefoot running. It cited a Harvard professor and how his research showed that barefoot running enabled the runner to land on the ends of the fourth and fifth (outside of foot) metatarsals instead of heels. This reduces the strain of impact that sends a jolt up your legs, harming joints, that occurs if you land on your heel.
To return to my earlier dilemma of always barefoot or not, I have decided to be barefoot whenever possible but go in my soon to arrive huaraches or five fingers when bare feet just aren’t an option.
Overall, barefoot running is the best way to run for safety and enjoyment. The trick is figuring out what is the best method for your lifestyle.
When I receive my sandal materials and finish making them, I will post pictures!