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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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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DIY Running Sandals / Authentic Barefoot Shoes

DIY Sandal
Do It Yourself Tarahumara / Ruramari

Have you ever wanted to make your own running shoes? Steven makes it easy with his step by step Tarahumara Running Sandal Kits. He shows you everything you need to know to build a custom running sandal.

If you’re not into DIY, Invisible Shoes will also cut and construct a custom shoe for you. You just trace your foot and mail them the template.

If you’re going to run in a barefoot shoe, but don’t want to spend too much money for a running sandal, I highly recommend Invisible Shoes.

BTW, you can use Steven’s  excellent instructional videos to make your own Tarahumara running sandals out of other materials. I built some out of cardboard, oven mitts, and an old doormat. I use the oven-mit sandals for treadmill running. (The cardboard sandals were a joke.)

 

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The First Rule of Foot Club

When you step into the ring of bare-footing, you automatically feel as if you’re suddenly a part of “Foot Club”, as if by some strange magic, the shod world becomes an opponent. Not by choice; it just sort of plays out that way. Even in spring and summer people stare at the lone barefoot walker, hiker, and especially the barefoot runner. Some people even think it’s OK to put on the verbal gloves and punch out an assortment of comments, ranging from simple questions like, “Where are your shoes?” to the more potent jab: “You forgot your shoes.” I’ll admit that comments like the last one do make me want to give someone a black eye.

Perhaps, I should be grateful. Such remarks remind me to be mindful. The cheap shots bring to mind the story about a Zen master who was verbally attacked by a peasant. The peasant shouted at the Master all manner of insults, “You’re on old fool; Your robes are ridiculous”, etc. The Master just smiled. Soon a cloud of people gathered. The crowd emboldened the cruel peasant who exploded with spite. He worked himself into a frenzy, erupting now with outright lies about the Zen Master. Throughout the Zen Master listened, his demeanor unchanged. When the peasant was finished with his tirade, someone from the crowd asked the master, “How do you respond to this? He has made some serious accusations.” The Zen master held his silence. “Have you nothing to say!?” the man from the audience continued. The Zen Master laughed. “I can see that this has upset you,” he paused. Looking to the crowd, the Master said, “What power do mere words have? If someone calls you a tree, do you become a tree?” The crowd laughed, “Of course not.” someone said.

The Master turned to the peasant who had shouted the insults at him. “You cannot see the enormous burden you carry. That is why you lay it at my feet, hoping I will join you in the carrying of it. But I will not pick up your load. Your spite does not belong to me. If you wish to carry it, you must do so alone.” That said, the Zen master continued his daily tasks.

When all is said and done, I’d rather shake hands in friendship than make a fist to fight. Better to gain a friend than an enemy. So, Foot Club is open to all. Heck, everyone is a member part of the day. Unless of course, you shower with your shoes on.