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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3 Amazing Barefoot Running Secrets

  1. Still life with human legs and daisies
    Image by J. Star via Flickr

    Run Recovery. When starting out give yourself at least a day to recover from barefoot runs. Never run through foot or lower leg PAIN. This recovery approach has been the key to healing my unnecessarily torn calf muscle and soleus strain. If I had followed this simple time off for recovery formula, I would have skipped many of my aches and injuries.

  2. Straight gait, smooth stride. The easiest way to check your stride is to wear a necklace while running barefoot. I think this is the seventh million time I’ve written about the necklace trick, but it works. (Valen’s Official Barefoot Runner’s Life Barefoot Stride Checker Necklaces Coming SoonThe other essential way to ensure a safe, soft stride is to have someone video record your barefoot run. This is a surefire way to spot bad bio-mechanics. It’s how I cracked my calf and Achilles problems. When I watched the video of myself running, I saw right away that I was swishing my legs from side to side.
  3. Rolling Pin
    Image via Wikipedia

    Rolling Pin Massage Trick. I’ve written about this one too. Buy a cheap wooden rolling pin (LIKE THE ONE IN THIS SHAMELESS PRODUCT PLUG: J.K. Adams BRP-1 10-1/2-Inch by 2-1/8-Inch Maple Bakers Rolling Pin). The rolling pin will not only release the lactic acid from sores muscles, but it will also break up scar tissue, leaving your muscles strong and sexy. The pin will reveal tightness in spots you thought were fine. It’s easy to use, just firmly  it roll over your lower leg. I start rolling from Achilles up to my calf. Then I move to my ankle over my shin up to my knee. I find a lot of hidden tension in my tibialis anterior. Don’t MASSAGE OVER VARICOSE VEINS.

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What Barefoot Dreams May Come?

G.-B. Duchanne de Boulogne, Synoptic plate 4 f...
Image via Wikipedia

“What dreams may come…?” That’s the plot device Shakespeare used to stop Hamlet from ruining the tragedy. Death, Hamlet decides, is too mysterious; why “fly off” to new troubles? Instead, he stays alive and essentially kills everyone he loves.

But the dreams of today are not road blocks to suicide.  Quite the opposite. The dreams of today are the automatic million dollar money machine cash bank, the instant rejuvenating, anti age cream that boosts metabolism while increasing libido and leads to world domination. The dreams of today are incentives.

Marketers sell hope and make desire. How? They speak to the heart, not to the brain. Logic comes AFTER the emotional decision to buy. It’s not good it’s not bad. But it’s the way marketing works. So, they appeal to our feelings, they tell us stories or better, yet they try to get us to tell ourselves stories.

The Barefoot Running Industry is no different. Take this commercial which stars long distance running super star, Anthony Krupicka.


The music, the scenic footage, the “all natural” feel are not accidental. The ad is designed to make you dream of injury free barefoot running. It sells the dream of being an all natural runner.

The reality of barefoot running is that you’ll probably get injured at some point. You’ll step on glass, aggravate your Achilles, stub your toe, or have pain on the top of your foot. The dream of injury free running is there. But the reality is too. There’s nothing wrong with dealing with running injuries. I have had my share from running barefoot.

It seemed that I traded upper body problems for lower leg problems when I started out. I’m still getting over a terrible tear in my right calf. Yet, I’m still running barefoot.

Am I crazy? Maybe a little. Am I glutton for punishment? Maybe a little. Do I secretly hate myself? Maybe a little less. But I carry on not because I’m chasing some dream of injury free running, but because running barefoot actually makes me ENJOY running. That isn’t a dream. That’s a reality. I look forward to my barefoot runs.

While I do think that many of my lower leg injuries have disappeared, I don’t think they’ll be gone forever. My feet are much stronger than before. But I think that constantly running on hard concrete regularly does test the integrity of the foot.

Maybe injury free running isn’t a dream, maybe this time next year I’ll have a different view. But won’t sell that dream until it’s real.

I’m not barefoot runner because I think it will keep me from being injured. I’m a barefoot runner because I love the way it feels, I like being connected directly to the earth, I enjoy feeling the wet cold asphalt, the squish of moist fallen leaves, and the rough texture of the road; heck, there’s even a part of me that enjoys the glowers from my neighbors.

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2 Tricks to Running with Soft Barefeet on Hard Concrete

IMovie
Image via Wikipedia

First of all, I want to stress that the easiest way to damage your lower leg and hurt yourself is to RUN BAREFOOT ON CONCRETE before you’re ready. Running on a hard surfaces SHOULD BE done CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY.

That said, a week or two ago, I posted something about over-pronation (see link at the bottom of this post). But I hadn’t yet had the time to make a iMovie about it. To solve that problem and to contribute to the world’s collection of iMovie transitions and annoying music, I had my lovely wife shoot footage of my sexy legs and dirty feet while I discussed over pronation. After adding a random picture of a trail, my masterpiece was compete. Here is my barefoot over-pronation eradication video. It features my devil tattoo and my lovely sparrow tattoo, which in this video looks like a butterfly. One day I film myself running without a shirt and will my feature my skull tattoo and “ice dice” tattoo and probably by then some other tattoos of spiritual significance. But for now, my video:

The solution to my lower leg problems came in two parts.

First I changed the direction of my feet as seen in the video; second, I corrected the “over stride”. I will have my lovely camera woman take some footage of me running gracefully soon enough. For now, I simply emphasize that is IMPORTANT NOT TO TAKE BIG STEPS. As I have mentioned, the trick to running barefoot on concrete is to ACTIVELY DECREASE impact. The head should be stable and NOT BOB UP AND DOWN.

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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.