The 3 Miracles of Barefoot Running

Save Your Sole Run Barefoot
Save your Sole Run Barefoot

It’s been over a year since I tossed my Nike’s in the trash. Since then I have been running either in thin Tarhumara sandals or straight barefoot.

Last summer was a disaster. I didn’t run much because I battled lower leg injuries: Achilles tendinitis, a torn calf, and wicked bruises on the ball of my foot. All of the injuries resulted from over striding and doing too much too soon.

Now that I have overcome the difficulties I am having the summer I was hoping to have last summer. I’m back up to my previous mileage. And I’m loving my runs.

Here are three miraculous benefits I enjoy from running without shoes:

  1. No blisters.
    I have run 9 miles in the heat without ANY blisters on my feet. I challenge any shod runner to five miles without blisters. I am astonished after each run. On occasion I will get a tiny blister on my toe or near the ball of my foot, but they’re nothing like the heel blisters I used to get in shoes.
  2. No lower back pain.
    I took a break from running because my lower back was killing me. After each run, it would ache for days. Barefoot running has eliminated the pain. For my longer runs, I may feel a slight twinge of pain during the run, but it vanishes hours later. Barefoot running automatically improves posture while leading to lower impact forces. The bouncy cushioning of shoes blinds the foot from the terrain. As a result, the runner tends to either heel strike or hit the ground harder than he or she would in bare feet.  If you want to see a fluid PERFECT barefoot stride, watch any barefoot toddler run this summer. Barefoot children run with excellent form. And they DO NOT heel strike on the concrete or the lawn.
  3. Super Spiked Runner’s High.
    Maybe it’s childlike stride or perhaps it’s the steady pounding rhythm of my feet that releases the delicious sensation of flight, the wild insights, and the glorious communion the sexy universe. She kisses my arms face and neck with her cool breezes, she fills my eager lungs with the fresh essence of air and the scent of wet cedars; she delights me with the squish of soft earth, twisting a gentle tickle through my toes. Three miles completely barefoot in the woods is almost like smoking a joint–not that I would know what smoking a joint feels like 😉
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Easy Training Schedule for Barefoot Half Marathon

Have you always wanted to run a half marathon? Most people can achieve the feat. Unfortunately, many programs don’t give barefoot runners enough time to recuperate. This regime gives a person one day of rest between runs. The rest periods allow for recovery, thickening of the foot pads, and time to write blog posts. This program is also good for a person who is transitioning into minimalist/ “barefoot” shoes.

Maybe you ran a full marathon in 2011 and just want t take it easy this summer. Maybe you’re wondering which barefoot running shoes work best. You might ask yourself questions such as, “Are there running shoes for mid to long distances?”

Sandals are my personal choice for all distances. BUT I did buy a pair of Merrel Road Gloves for work and I love how comfortable they are. Vibrams five fingers suck!!!! They look stupid, they stink, and they give satanic blisters. They are the pandora’s box of running shoes. Next to sandals, Merrell’s are dang good. Enough five fingers, sports shoes, barefeet, running without shoes keyword stuffing.  Onto the program:

Easy Barefoot Half Marathon Training Schedule
MON MILES WED MILES FRI MILES SAT OR SUN
WEEK 1 3 3 4
WEEK 2 3 3 4
WEEK 3 3.5 3.5 5
WEEK 4 3.5 3.5 5
WEEK 5 4 4 6
WEEK 6 4 4 3
WEEK 7 4.5 4.5 7
WEEK 8 4.5 4.5 8
WEEK 9 5 5 6
WEEK 10 5 5 9
WEEK 11 5 5 10
WEEK 12 4 4 Rest Half Marathon!
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How to Wear Shoes & Not Be a Dumb-Fuck Hick

The fight happened early in the morning New Years Day, 2012. It was, clear, cold, and windy. Patches of frost powdered the shaded parts of the road. A few strips of shiny ice painted the rough black asphalt. My Achilles were aching a bit; so, I decided to cut my run a little short. I went down a street on my shorter route, the route I haven’t taken since summer.

Like most other barefoot runners, I ran in the middle of the empty street.

When I heard a car drive beside me, I edged over to opposite side of the road to let the vehicle pass. The driver slowed his rig, unrolled his window and shouted, “You alright!?”

I said, “Yeah, I’m great!”

He said, “Because you’re running barefoot in the middle of the street.”

“I know,” I said, “it feels fantastic.”

He said, “I mean you’re running barefoot in the middle of the road!”

I said, “I know. You said that. I’m not blocking your way. Drive on!”

He pulled over into a driveway a few houses ahead of me. He got out of his car and stood by the door, waiting for me to pass. When I was half way down the block, I heard him shout, “Yeah, you better keep running barefooter!”

I freaking lost it, my adrenaline was already pumping from pounding the icy concrete and my endorphin level was cranked up because it was the last leg of my run. I sprinted over to his car, shoved him, and said “What the Fuck! Keep running!? I run where the Fuck I want! How the Fuck I want! And when the Fuck I want! I wasn’t blocking your Fucken way. And if I was, you can drive the Fuck around!”

That scared the shit out of him. His tone changed.

“I was just concerned,” he said, “It’s cold and you’re running barefoot in the middle of the road. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

Then, even though I didn’t need to, I decided to state the obvious: the road is warmer in the middle of the street, there are fewer shards of glass, nails, metal scraps, pebbles, etc. in the middle of the street, and the pavement is generally smoother in the middle of the street. That dose of sensible logic relaxed him a bit. It’s NOT freaking rocket science, anyone with a brain bigger than a walnut could have figured it out.

Then I offered my hand in friendship, which, to his credit, he shook. He apologized for yelling at me. I decided to stop saying Fuck and be nice for a change; so I said, “It’s fine. We’re men. Sometimes shouting at each other is how we talk.”

I completely understand his point of view; he sees some guy running barefoot in the middle of street New Years morning. Maybe he thought I was high or something. That’s really stupid conclusion because I don’t know of any drug that would cause a person to suit up in running attire to go for a barefoot run at eight in the morning. I mean a barefoot running pill would kick the asses of other pharmaceuticals.

Jump from Sandy, OR to San Jose, California.  When I ran barefoot in Willow Glen, I did get a few quizzical stares, but no one said anything negative. The expressions conveyed puzzlement rather than objection. It wasn’t as if my being barefoot was like spitting chewed up walnuts in their faces. The few Californians who did speak to me while I ran barefoot said things like, “Right on Brother!” or “You’re hardcore!” or “That’s cool!”

This verbal fight wasn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with idiots saying stupid shit in Sandy.

In fact, I wasn’t going to post this because most of my neighbors are cool–they affectionately call me “the barefoot guy”.

Dear MINORITY of Dumb Fuck Hicks who live in Sandy,

When you see me running without shoes, grow a brain, pretend you’re from California, and just say, “Right on Brother!” or keep your Fucking mouth shut!

Barefoot at the Airport

English: Concourse D at Portland International...
Image via Wikipedia

Whilst traveling to California, I had the divine pleasure of making my way through the ever so tender and caring arms of airport security. At PDX, the line was 45 minutes long and the security guard in charge of the thing wore a wrinkled uniform that forced his ample belly to pop over his belt. Also, the man needed a proper shave for he had missed some stubble below his chin. And his left shoe was untied. But the worst thing about this guy was his directions, he said, “There’s a shorter line this way” then he motioned toward the left of the packed line I was in. I and some other people in my line headed in the direction he pointed. It lead to a “Do not enter, Restricted area.” When I cut back in line, the guard tried to get me to move to the end.
I said, “You told us the line was shorter there, but that’s a restricted area.”
He stammered, “Oh, I uh, meant the line over there,” then he pointed in the opposite direction.
He said, “Sorry, but you have to go the end of the line, sir.”
I freaking hate it when people apologize for giving me orders, polishing with sir! It makes me want kick ’em in the teeth. I looked at the people who let me cut back in line and said, “Do you mind my staying here? Security gave me bad directions and my plane leaves in 15 minutes.” They said they didn’t mind. So I turned from the guard and staid put, luckily the slovenly guard didn’t push the issue. He went on trying to control the line.

At the security check point, like the rest of the flock, I was forced to remove my shoes. That happily freed my  feet. I don’t wear shoes much and when I do, never

The sunset silhouettes a FedEx plane and the B...
Image via Wikipedia

with socks. My bare feet, of course, brought some glares. The expression on persnickety elderly woman’s face made me want to laugh; it looked as if someone had dripped warm maple syrup down her spine. I shot her a winning smile and wink. I was surprised when she returned the smile. I decided to leave my shoes off for a while. I love my black converse, but they still give me blisters. It felt good to be barefoot in PDX. Walking without shoes makes the world feel bigger, plus it’s easier to soak up the energy of a place and PDX has a funky energy. A few minutes later, I spotted security headed my way. I promptly sat my ass down and put my shoes  back on.

At SJ airport, I wasn’t the only person with bare-feet. The guy in front of me didn’t wear socks either. Of course, at SJ, I had endure a full body scan. During the scan I remembered that I had forgotten to remove a packet of eye drops in my LEFT pocket. “OH, Sh%#!”, I thought with my hands behind my head–firing squad style–while the scanner whirred me from head to toes. Sure enough after the scan, a guard approached, “Sir, follow me. Do you have anything in your RIGHT pocket?”
I said, “Not that I know of.” He padded my right pocket. Nothing. He looked to person manning the body scanner and said, “He’s clean.”
“Have a nice flight, sir.”
When I was well out of view, I reached into my LEFT pocket and administered my eye drop. They were in my pocket the whole time.

What do I think airports can do to improve travel? Let’s see. I think they’ve got humiliating innocent men, women, and children at security check-points down; they could, however, probably hire security guards that know how to shave themselves and give proper directions, and it wouldn’t hurt if the person running the body scanner knew his left from right.

Fly safe, fly bare.

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Barefooting is Hot and Sexy

For decades, I was afraid to get naked in public. I had learned to despise my human form. I had succumbed to years of guilt and shame about my body, it’s needs, and what I really want.  Guilt is a self-manufactured feeling. It means that I’m hiding my REAL desires from others because I don’t think they will understand or accept them. It usually spirals into depression or self loathing and a general sense of dissatisfaction with life. I spent my life like that for far too many years. I shut myself inside my house and clung to my routines, seeking a “safe and quiet life.” That’s fine for some things, but not 24/7. After all the freaking years, I see the light.

Barefooting in public has opened me. It’s sensual, it’s somewhat daring, and, yes, it’s literally a step closer to full on nudity. I’m NOT a streaker, I’m NOT flasher, I’m not even a nudist–maybe I am.

Yesterday at Ano Nuevo State Park in the warm California sunshine on a deserted stretch of beach, I flung my shirt off, pulled down my pants, stripped off my boxers and ran headlong into the ocean surf. The first wave baptized with freezing salt water, next one knocked me down, the third, I dove beneath.

When I raised my head from the pounding surf,  I felt ALIVE, AWAKE, WHOLE, and JOYFUL. I was NOT ashamed to be nude in public–not really “public”–no one was around. I am NOT ashamed of myself any longer. I am who I am. I will be who I will be. If others don’t like it, they can use the tight fabric prisons around their feet to walk away. Best of all, the awakening has given me the impetus to overcome fear and it has super-charged my libido! I haven’t’ felt this good in a long time.

Speaking of libido, I think, deep down, many women find barefooters secretly sexy. We are, after all, a little daring; we’re indepedent thinkers; not satistfied with status quo; most of us don’t accept what we’re told; we’re very open minded and like to test the world against our personal experience.  But back to the sexiness, in San Francisco when couples headed toward me, I noticed this scenario: Guy looks at my barefeet, then looks a way; his girlfriend looks at my barefeet, scans me up and down. Direct eye contact. A smile, sometimes followed by a blush.

I am thrilled to the core that I decided to take the shoes not just off of my feet but also off my mind. I’m nude and I love it.

 

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Why I run: Wing Tipped Shoes with the Divots

 

Wing Tipped Shoes with the Divots
Grandpa's Black Leather Brogues

After my grandpa’s funeral, I trudged into the backroom were he passed away. I took off my dark blazer, white shirt, tie, and slacks and replaced them with blue shorts and white t-shirt. (My parent’s house was full; so I had to stay in the one room every one else wanted to avoid.)

I ran five miles that day. It was clear and sunny as is the case in California most of the year. My heart felt dead and heavy like tarnished lead. My neck slumped me toward the ground, my arms barely swung by my side; for the first few miles, I was miserable.

But around mile four, a presence overcame me.  And I imagined Grandpa Perez as a teenager. His hair was freshly cut, short, thick, full, and lampblack; his figure tawny the color of bronze. He wore dark brown polyester shorts that were too tight, a bright white shirt (also way too tight), and, of course, his world famous black leather brogues. The shoes made me chuckle.  I wonder if they ever left his feet. I suspect he may even have been buried in them. They had divots around the stitches, which, for some unspeakable reason, I associate with carpentry–the trade that brought him to California and which supported my young father until he was old enough to enlist in the Airforce. They were “nice shoes”: the kind I imagine an old world cobbler repairing with delight.

Even though my grandpa seemed sort of ridiculous in that outfit, his bones were no longer brittle as chalk, his skin was no longer like buzzard’s chin spattered with tan shoe polish, and his lungs no longer gurgled with each terrible gasping breath. For the last mile, my grandpa was young, strong, and full of life again. For the last mile, my grandpa was a runner, like me.

Rest in Peace Grandpa.

 

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5 Holiday Gifts for Barefoot Athletes

Holidays 2011
Image by Christopher S. Penn via Flickr

What do you buy for the barefoot hippie , health nut, or super athlete in the family? If they’re anything like me, they’re as persnickety as cats when it comes to holiday gifts. So, here are 5 surefire, easy gift ideas for a joyous holiday season.  The athlete in your circle of friends or family will thank you, without the insincere, patronizing grin that they’ll probably lay on everyone else.

  1. Amazon Gift Card
    This is the ultimate no-brainer present. You can’t possibly go wrong because the person can pick whatever he or she wants. Amazon sells an array of products for bare footers, swimmers, and athletes: chia seeds, blenders, agave nectar, portable gps devices, and even books! Gift Cards also add an extra element of surprise. If the odd duck in your family is anything like me, he or she will enjoy the USPS anticipation. It’s one of the secret joys buying online. The USPS also seems to ship a little faster this time of year.
  2. Invisible Shoes
    These sandals are excellent “barefoot shoes”. Steven Sashen has upgraded the traditional Tarahurma Sandal without detracting from its brilliance. The Invisible running Shoes come in several different styles. There are bare bones kits and assembled sets. The barefoot running sandals are perfect for the DIY runner. The shoeless shoes will automatically conform to your foot; their thin soles and “feel true” technology really do give you all of the barefoot feel without destroying your sole.
  3. A Good Juicer
    Another essential product for anyone who wants to live healthy. Although juicing mostly separates the sugars and other nutrients from the fiber, it allows you to create and combine nutrient dense compounds which will give you the edge with turbo boost super all natural energy drinks. You can eat the yummy pulp or use it in other secret health concoctions.
  4. The Big Ass Book of Endurance Training
    This will make the family health-nut stoked. It gives you the low down on all things endurance. There is even a chapter about minimalist/Pose Style running. The premise of the book is solid and sensible: You have to be fine and fit for endurance sports. Step by step, the book teaches you this essential knowledge. Along with tips for proper diet and detailed exercise programs, this book will give you secrets to getting into, measuring, and staying in the best shape of your life. You’ll amaze yourself and your friends with your new found stamina and vigor.
  5. Water Bottles & Hydration & Food Pack Accessories
    Good water bottles, hydration packs, and holders are the kinds of things that most runners don’t often buy for themselves. They’re great for those longer runs.
  6. Runner’s Race Medal Hanger
    This is something every runner doesn’t know he or she wants. And it’s definitely something they won’t usually buy for themselves. Having a place to hang marathon medals will give your runner pride in the accomplishments of the past and motivation for the races in the future. My wife bought me one for my birthday; I use it more than my water bottles. It also it’s a lot nicer than draping your hard earned medals on a rusty nail pounded deep into your sheet-rock.
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How to Start Running in Free Shoes

Nike Air Max LTD 2
Image via Wikipedia

Candy wants to get fit fast. She asks herself : “How do I start running without getting hurt?”
Her brain’s response: “Go shoe shopping!”

At the shoe store, Candy sees and army of brands: asics, new balance, Nike, saucany, not to mention these funny looking “barefoot shoes”.

She decides to go home to do some research. Wow! Amazon sells  them online. Then the question hits: “What size am I again?”. Last time she took up running she was 9.5 in Nike, but the time before that she was 10 in Asics. She saw one barefoot shoe site that had videos about how to make a template of her foot for to a custom pair.  But it was too much trouble.

A pair of ASICS running shoes, model GEL-Kinsei
Image via Wikipedia

Unfortunately for most of the Candys out there, high priced or custom fit running shoe won’t do the running for them. In fact, Candy’s foot might not fit  into the factory made, mass produced pair of running shoes. Sports shoes are a joke; they’re full of gimmicks such as asics “gel” even the toe glove for five fingers or the special cushioning of saucony. Candy might be better off trail running  in a plain pair of tennis shoes like the low top converse all stars than the high tech brands she saw online or at the running store. Almost any pair of walking shoes that fit her feet would serve well for running.

Candy needs to know that it’s not the shoes; it’s the runner. Athletic shoes and sport shoes can’t trail run for her. The running store wants her to think they will. They want her to believe that the shoes will magically fix all her bad bio-mechanics that they’ll make her faster, leaner, and lighter. But they won’t. The best shoes in life are free.

Don’t get me wrong, shoes are good tools for improving form. They can compensate for bad bio mechanics and keep Candy running by alleviating the strain on her foot, but they don’t solve her core issues with running.

So, I give to Candy a pair of free shoes and a few free resources  about how to start running without shoes:

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Unexpected Pleasures of Running Barefoot

The happy family ...

I have written about the annoying things people said to me when they first saw me running without shoes. Lately, the comments have shifted.

One lady said, “I like your style.” Two of my neighbor’s children saw me running bare and ran along side me for a few blocks.  In fact, my neighbor’s are so used to seeing me run without shoes that they say things like, “Not going bare today” when they see me running in sandals.

It’s odd. Like most things unconventional, barefoot running brings out the best and worst in people. I’m glad my neighbors are getting used to my naked ass feet stomping through our rough streets. I have a feeling that when spring hits, I won’t be the only one running without shoes.

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Haunted Shoes: The Harm of Over-Pronation

Pronation and below, supination (19DYp12)
Image by sportEX magazines via Flickr

Did you know that:  “Gait is the single most complex motor function of the human body?”

It involves half of the body’s 650 muscles and 200 bones, along with a large share of the joints and ligaments. (Dr. Rossi)

As many of you know I suffered from serious barefoot running injuries when I started running without shoes. I partially ruptured both Achilles tendons, I severely ripped my calf muscle, and I suffered a little top of foot pain.

After some recovery and conscious effort, I have FINALLY DISCOVERED the SOURCE of my Lower Leg Barefoot Running Injuries. In addition to “going to far too fast” a major cause was OVER-pronation.

Yes, I know some pronation is natural and good, but OVER pronation is NOT. It can damage your lower leg.

Here is text-book Runner’s World Explanation of Over-Pronation and the by the book, orthotic fix for it:

The problem I had was the bad habit of walking and running wrong. My shoes had allowed me to walk with klonky unhealthy steps and strides. They allowed me to over-pronate with impunity. However, when I took off my shoes, my body let me know right away that something was wrong.

By trail and error, I discovered the secret to my particular problem. It was to straighten my feet. I tended to angle my feet outward, this put a lot of stress on torn calf. In fact, I can tell right away if I’m falling back into the old stride because my calf will bark at me if let my foot angle out.

This video about Chi running has some practical advice about how to correct over-pronation with better form, rather than with orthotics.

Danny Dreyer describes Chi running form and the use of shoes, but I applied his suggestion to my barefoot form and they have helped tremendously. Pointing my feet straight forward rather than angling them has eased a lot of stress to lower leg. It takes conscious effort, but it’s worth it. In a few days, I will post a video of about this and show some of the other tricks I learned about proper barefoot running form.

The problem with shoes is that simply cover-up the dangers of bad form. It’s like bailing water from a leaky boat instead of fixing the leak. Orthotics will make you bail until the boat finally sinks; going barefoot will put you in a shiny new yacht.