5 Mistakes Barefoot Runners Make

  1. English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...
    English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Running on the Tips of the Toes
    Tippy Toe running will chew up your calves and achilles; it will also hammer agonizing spikes of torment into your sensitive metatarsals. (As the illustration shows, it may also activate the long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head to release a fluid that makes the muscles contract. It may also disrupt one of the four humors, thereby requiring bloodletting to restore balance). So, don’t run on your toes. Your heel should touch the ground, but it shouldn’t be the first part to strike the ground.

  2. Too Much Too Soon (TMTS)
    This doesn’t only apply to those who scamper the streets without shoes. It applies to everyone who races on foot. If pain darts through your lower leg, then you’re rushing your training. This is the most frustrating aspect of barefoot running. It’s taken me a few years to develop enough foot strength to run reasonable distances. Even a mile barefoot walk can give some people issues. It takes time, but your body will adapt. Persistence, not distance is the key. BTW, I cross train with Pilates and I do High Intensity Interval Workouts on my non run days. When I was injured, I still exercised I was even able to adapt some of the cardio HICT moves.
  3. Running Straight Barefoot without Sandals or “Barefoot Shoes”
    There is nothing wrong with wearing sandals or truly minimalist shoes, such as Merrill foot gloves. I do most of my running in sandals, not only because the streets in my neighborhood are brimming with tiny stone spikes (pain pyramids), but also because I enjoy the jaunty style. Let’s face it, even the Tarahumara Indians run in sandals. Most runners do not expose their naked feet to the scraggy pavement. If you live in California or some other place that offers sunshine and smooth streets, you may ignore the previous sentence, but if, like me, you live in Oregon or a place with rough streets,  heed my warning. I do enjoy running completely barefoot now and again, but most of the time, I gallop about in sandals.
  4. Monotonous, Plodding Gait 
    The main benefit from barefoot running is the ability to connect with the planet as it spins around the sun. But that doesn’t mean that you should copy your stride over and over again, every step of the way. It is important to change pace and gait occasionally, especially on longer runs. Sometimes, I run like a gazelle, skipping my body along the dirt trail, other times I run like a cross country skier, gliding myself over the long asphalt road. I often do interval sprints from power line to power line; other times I just jog at slow to go pace. I have even been known to twirl myself like flamenco dancer; now and then, I even begin or end my runs with a flashy cartwheel.
  5. Giving Up Too Soon
    Because it takes some time to develop foot strength, many runners give barefoot running a try for a month or two. Usually, they end up getting top of foot pain, achilles pain, calf injury, or shin splints. That’s when they give up and write articles such as “Dangers of Barefoot Running”. While you should not run through real pain, barefoot running does hurt a little. Progress doesn’t happen in the “comfort zone.” Getting past the initial aches is part of the fun. Think of the discomfort as friendly college hazing from the barefoot running gods. Like all gods, they require sacrifice. The oblation of pain, is a small price for many joyful secrets the gods will share with you.
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Eliminate Top of Foot Pain Once & For All

It feels like a drunken construction worker with a bright yellow hard-hat dropped a huge red brick on the top of your foot. It’s a dull, nagging pressure wedged between your big toe and the center of your foot. Worst of all, its cause is a mystery. You haven’t upped your mileage or even done any speed work. The phantom ache is a strange Halloween ghost haunting the spaces between your metatarsals and phalanges.

Has phantom top of foot pain ever struck you after a barefoot run?

I had my first scuffle with Top of Foot Pain (TOFP) this summer. At first, I thought it was from increasing my mileage or from doing wind sprints, but as it turns out it was from something else.

What’s the real cause of TOFP?

The number one cause of Top Of Foot Pain is TERRAIN! Most unshod runners ignore terrain; instead they focus on mileage or kilometers. But terrain plays a HUGE ROLE in injury. 4.8 barefoot kilometers on a steep, rocky mountain trail is more likely to ignite TOFP or whip-up pain in your Achilles than an 8 kilometer run on flat, smooth asphalt.

When to See a Doctor?

If the Pain increases when you walk or run. If you have sharp, shooting pains. If it’s fractured, running on it will only increase the size of the fracture, which means longer recovery.

How to Treat TOFP?

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Terrific Terrain Tips:

  • Avoid Stepping on small stones–especially on flat surfaces; they will pop pain into your brain and damage your foot. Stepping on small stones is the main cause of TOFP. Tiny pebbles push the foot apart and crack bone. It’s a good idea to wear sandals or minimalist trail shoes such as Merril Foot Gloves when running on uneven, rocky terrain.
  • Stretch your feet AFTER you run.
  • Read my post —> The Secret to Superhuman Feet Finally Revealed.

 

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How I Run Barefoot in the Snow

How I safely and comfortably run barefoot in the snow.

My Safety Tips

  1. I bring a hefty pair of wool socks when I run in the snow. I put them on my if and when my feet or toes go numb. I massage my feet/toes to get the circulation going before I put on the socks. The socks are emergency protocol: GMAH  “Get My Ass Home.” (As long as the wool isn’t worn through AND your feet are NOT NUMB, the wool socks will allow for LONGER running in cold weather. Wool is great because it stays warm even when it’s wet. Cotton socks are a BIG FAT FAIL for snow running. They will make your feet colder because they sponge water, they’ll freeze onto your toes,  causing foot rot in chilly climates. Kill Cotton for Cold Climates.)
  2. I stay close to home. I use my 1 mile route and just do laps. So, I’m always less than a mile from home–my place is close to the center of my loop; as a result, I can quickly cut down the streets to get to my place ASAP.
  3. I STOP RUNNING & MASSAGE my FEET if my TOES go NUMB. Numbness is BAD. It makes it easy for sharp metal, glass, etc. to slice my foot. I ALWAYS, STOP, GET WARM. I never try to Run through Numbness.
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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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5 More Reasons to Be Square and Run Bare

 

  1. Image by davida3 via Flickr

    If you desire, you can walk on fire–barefoot running gives you thicker, stronger soles.

  2. Vanquish the foes of your toes (pause) and heels. Running without shoes eliminates heel blisters and “black toenail”.
  3. Improve sensation relations between you and the earth. Running with shoes is like kissing someone with a bag over your head. Your feet are as finely wired for sensation as your lips. Kiss mother earth with all your sole.
  4. Bash Trash. Running bare motivates your neighbors to keep the streets clean and debris free. Also no more used  running shoes to throw away in landfills.
  5. Less Harm(a) for Your Karma. It’s easier to avoid snails, slugs, and beetles and tiny beings when running unshod.
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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.


3 Easy Barefoot Running Programs.

Discourse-into-the-night
Image via Wikipedia

As I have mentioned many times, barefoot running has to be eased into. In fact, many responsible, barefoot shoe makers, such as SoftStar, are putting caveats on their products. You can, however, discuss deep philosophical topics without shoes or special training like these scholars of old.

In the “how to run barefoot” section of my site, I include a video that has step by step instructions about how to start running barefoot. But some people prefer reading and want to have a schedule. So, here are three resources to help first timers make the transition to barefoot running:

  1. The utter beginner program. For people who haven’t run a while and want to start out in their barefeet.
  2. The shod to shodless runner. For people who run in bouncy shoes, but want to become hippie barefoot runners.
  3. The “common sense” approach. This is for people who want advice from a Harvard man. Yes, it’s Lieberman.  Lieberman is a luminary  in the barefoot running community. His paper about the evolutionary roots of running explains much about the our biological need for cardio vasular exercise: “endurance running is a derived capability of the genus Homo, originating about 2 million years ago, and may have been  instrumental in the evolution of the human body form.”
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The Secret to Superhuman Feet Finally Revealed

Have you ever wished for steel feet?

Ballerinas have unlocked the secret to superhuman foot strength. Ballet is insanely hard on feet; dancers suffer the same types of repetitive foot and strain injuries that barefoot runners have to endure. Ballerinas also have to abide by strict schedules and rigorous training. Over the years they have developed a system of strengthening their feet to superhuman levels. Here are some of their secrets.

  1. Secret Ballet Foot Stretches

    Ballerina Foot Stretches.

  2. Esoteric Top of Foot and Toe Stretches

    Secret Stretch moves.

  3. The Occult Power of Ballerina Footwear

    Ballerina Flats are ideal for barefoot runners, they have all of the qualities of “barefoot shoes” without the nasty mark-up. They are also designed to mold to the your foot and are perfectly suited to running.

    The Samra Ballet Flat/Barefoot Running Shoe is particularly suited to barefoot running. Flats are slightly less breathable than some of the expensive barefoot shoes, but they work just as well and cost a heck of lot less.

  4. Sublime Energy of the Tutu

    There is a mysterious quality to fabric of the tutu. It is both opaque and transparent. If a man wears a tutu while he runs barefoot, it will make other drunken males want to chase him, thereby increasing his speed training. Plus, he’ll look absolutely fabulous whilst staying in shape.

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Soft Grass is Dangerous

One of the many joys in life is walking barefoot on wet grass. It’s like a foot massage from the hot Goddess Universe. But running barefoot on grass is packed with danger.

Many drunken teenagers, careless hicks, and serial polluters turn dreamy lawns into a runner’s nightmare. Camouflaged shards of glass, rusted nails, snapped screws, and wet feces of all kinds lurk between the gentle green blades of seductive lawns. If you know you are in a remote area, then running on the grass can be great, but in most cities, it must be done with great caution and should NOT be done completely bare.

Last week I almost stepped on a razor sharp shard from a green “rolling rock” beer bottle. It was embedded in a park lawn like those evil tire spikes at drive-in movies. If I had been running, I most definitely would have sliced my foot wide open. Those kinds of deep tissue injuries can become serious fast, especially when they attack your precious feet. Walking home with such an injury can easily lead to infection.

Beware the tempting green goddess, she can change into a bleeding red devil in a moment. For lawn running, it’s best to wear minimalist shoes. They offer much better protection against such dangers.