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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Want to Read an Inspiring Story About Barefoot Running?

Isn’t it wonderful when people respond positively to your writing? I always enjoy interacting with readers. Here is a wonderful story I received from a reader. Enjoy.

Jarod runs the NYC half
Barefoot sandals got me running again.

My name is Jarod. And I’m writing to tell you about about how your website and barefoot running changed my life. About five years ago, chronic back, knee, and heel pain was killing me. It got to be so bad that I started to HATE running. My doctor said that I was getting too old for running and that I should take up another sport like swimming or yoga. I quit running cold turkey and did some hot yoga instead. I strained some muscles from the yoga; so I took up swimming. Swimming was OK, but I kept getting ear infections, I ended up riding a bike. I was close to quitting biking because the pain in my ass was almost as bad as pain in my back from running.

Then I read Born to Run. I found your blog while I was searching for barefoot running blogs. I learned a lot about barefoot running and shoes from your posts. And I really enjoyed the section about learning to run without shoes.

I tried running without shoes, but my feet started to hurt all over. Then I took your advice and gave Xero Shoes a try. They were just what I needed. My knee , back, and heel pain are gone.

I just wanted to thank you for the resources your blog provides. It was a real help to me. Thanks.

……

And now I take advantage for a SHAMELESS AD PLUG:

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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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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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Covert Hippie Praises Sandals

Hirschvogel Sandals
Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Mr. Valen Longfeather is making some major life changes. But, at heart, I’m still a fun loving hippie. In my latest YouTube Video, I kick, yet again, the horse of barefoot shoes–you see I still mix metaphors. You may wonder if I kick the horse with a straight bare foot or with a fancy sandal wearing foot or  with some other stylish minimalist shoe wearing foot. The truth is that sometimes I kick it straight bare other times I kick it wearing classy sandals.

You are probably thinking that I am ramblings; you are probably right. Just watch the video. It is slightly more focused. It will take more than short hair, organization, goals, and better hygiene to tame this wild beast.

Thanks for watching, thanks for reading. May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you live with ease.

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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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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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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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