Why Barefoot?

My feet after five miles barefoot running

My feet after five miles barefoot running

Switching to minimalist footwear or running barefoot in November 2012 was amazing and I haven’t looked back. I wonder if I will wear a heeled shoe of any sort ever again.

Why barefoot:

  • It feels good.
  • It feels *right*.
  • My arches were non-existent. The doctor said orthotics, but they do not fix your arches. The internet suggested barefoot running uphill. I owned a pair of Vibram FiveFingers so thought I’d give it a go and I was shocked by the absence of pain in my shins and my knees particularly. I could run happy.
  • Barefoot is good for my mind; connecting with the earth.
  • Mid-life crisis, or at least some mild concern, has led me to invest time in my skeleton so it better supports me until mortal departure.
  • I grew up climbing trees, swinging from ropes, building hay-bale dens, falling in streams, running around the place – outside, often barefoot.
  • Barefoot running is addictive. The stimulation it brings through the soles of your feet is compelling.

About half my runs are bare-naked-footed. Often, the term barefoot running is used to include running in minimalist footwear. I run on all types of surfaces including rough paths with loose stones; “ouch!” My feet can get sore from abrasions after long runs and need to recover. I have bled only once: when walking to a shop, I trotted to avoid some traffic and a piece of debris (glass maybe) outside a pub broke my skin but I ran on it later that day. The odd splinter has caused pain but a pedicure can sort this out as well as remove toughened dead skin. I wear no shoes whenever practical because even minimalist 3mm soles can conceal the impact of heel striking whilst walking. I’m not bothered if I have to wear shoes somewhere in particular; I don’t mind the social pressure to conform.  I’ve learned a bit about feet, for example, ‘the human foot and ankle is a strong and complex mechanical structure containing 26 bones, 33 joints (20 of which are actively articulated), and more than a hundred musclestendons, and ligaments.’ Wikipedia – your feet contain one quarter of the 206 bones in your body. Interestingly your hands also account for a quarter. Thinking about your feet in a similar way to how you think about your hands is part of going barefoot, differing according to function obviously.

I make the rules. If I want to wear shoes for whatever reason, I will. Often, if I start out running wearing shoes, I’ll take them off half way to free my feet, which never fails to be a positive experience.
Should you be interested in trying barefoot running, you should transition slowly from the footwear your feet have been caged in become accustomed to over the years. A simple YouTube search for “barefoot running transition” will provide a few advice videos to get you started. If you are more interested in the science behind it, this link from Harvard might be useful: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/.

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 9(9)
Right Brain Dominance: 8(8)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

One of my pupils (Y8) showed me a link to a quiz today. It was from another pupil’s blog (Y9). His post is here: http://thereleaseoflight.weebly.com/hemispherical-brain-dominance-theory.html.

Once the quiz is complete it gives you the embed code for your results. It seems I’m a marginal lefty. Takes two minutes if you’re curious about your own hemispherical balance.

Eleven miles barefoot

On Friday I received a pair of huarache running sandals for my birthday.

my new running sandals

my new running sandals

So, on Saturday I punched a toe hole in them, tied them up marathon style and went for a test run up to school and back to collect my livescribe pen. Only one and a half miles. My feet were cold for the first mile but otherwise it was all good. The sandals are really comfortable. It felt a little vulnerable and exposed – and odd seeing my naked feet on the pavement. I’m not convinced I tied the sandals very well and I’ll be experimenting with them until I get it just right; the thong lace was a bit tight I think.

I got home and put the pen on charge and switched to my fivefingers for a longer run up onto the grand union canal which I’d never visited before. I deliberately kept going until I was five miles from home and then turned around. My longest barefoot run at ten miles. The first five felt good other than some hip joint discomfort which I put up with. After resting, and turning homeward, I started to get a sharp pain in my right achilles tendon. I thought it would bring me to a halt but I adjusted my footfall and slowly the pain eased and on I plodded. After eight miles my legs started to become very sore up and down. I persevered to the end but my pace slowed. Each time I caught myself slowing I lifted my head and regulated my stride and relaxed. It worked. As I write this a few hours later, my legs are sore but not as bad as I expected. Maybe it’ll be worse in the morning (update: it is – sharp vertical pain on inside right ankle below ankle bone).

the canal is an odd place but lovely to escape the roads

the canal is a lovely place to escape the roads

Oddly, as I was walking home from the park, a gentleman approached me in his fivefingers. He has been barefoot for two years and donated all his ordinary shoes to charity. He does bikram yoga three times a week and told me how he could dance for a long time without tiring. Oh, and he seemed to be Italian – but I could be wrong. It was nice to meet someone else barefoot enthused.

My reward for running, and then doing my share of the household cleaning, was a piece of the wonderful coffee and walnut birthday cake my daughter had baked for me. Awesome. And nearly a half marathon barefoot.

happy birthday to me!

happy birthday to me!

Barefoot: Born to Run

Yesterday – bedecked in fivefingers and comedy running leggings I bought years ago and my NUFC top – I ran further barefoot than ever before. 8.1 miles round my local park. As with last week, I ran the first two miles at an aspirational pace of about 8mph – 8 minute miles. Not a great speed by many people’s standards but good for me. After the two miles I let my body decide on pace. The feeling of tirelessness – being born to run – came again despite having been full of cold all week.

As the time rolled on I slowed, partly due to going off track and the ground being muddy and wet causing me to slip and slide with less traction. However, when my run keeper app lets me know I’m slowing down, I notice my technique is off as well. I raise my head and quicken my legs and the result is surprising. Without any added effort other than concentration, my pace increases, my body relaxes and I listen to my feet.



During the run, I had little discomfort or pain – some good pain that made me correct my technique. It’s interesting that whilst running barefoot you are able to change what you’re doing to ease any rising aches and pains. I never managed this when shod in trainers; I just thought my body wasn’t up to it.

The mid foot strike discussed last week was certainly in use again and no calf muscle pain during or after. I’m now more relaxed about how my foot makes contact with the ground, but I still don’t think I’m anywhere near a good technique yet. It’s hard to tell sometimes if I strike my heel, particularly off-track in the mud. So, after further research,  here’s a link about the Chi and Pose styles of barefoot running. The comments on that post expose the differences of opinion on this. I’m aiming for more of the Chi method which spreads the weight across more of the foot. I imagine as my pace quickens, I will use the Pose method more.

This morning, other than some expected stiffness, I have a sharp pain on the inside of my right foot about an inch below where the ankle bone protrudes.

This week is half term so I’m on holiday, but I am running a touch-typing club specialising in dyslexia. I might use the school treadmills to do fast short runs during my lunch hour.

Going Barefoot


me at the end of a barefoot run on snow and ice

Late last year I visited the doctor to see what he thought about some foot pain I was getting after playing football. He told me I had flat feet; no arches apparently, and recommended orthopaedic props to wear in my shoes. I checked online to see what others said were the best ones to use etc. and found articles saying they are useless because, whereas they do change the shape of your foot in your shoe, they do not build the necessary muscle structure to support the arch so it collapses again without the support. Instead they pointed the way to barefoot running and barefoot everything else as well. So, after more reading and watching YT videos (there are many, start here maybe inc. a free ebook), I decided to give it a go. A couple of years earlier, my family had bought me some five finger shoes for fathers day. I thought they were funky summer shoes. But I realised I would be able to try barefoot running without expense. First I started with thick socks (winter) around the house for a couple of weeks and wearing the five fingers as shoes whenever I went outside except for work.

NB: fivefingers are not the only barefoot shoe. There are many. The key criteria is no heel drop and a thin enough sole to be able to feel the ground on different parts of your feet. To be honest, I am gripped. It all made great sense to me; fitted into place. I love the outdoors and have no idea why I’ve ended up in London since I spent my childhood up trees, swinging on ropes and falling in streams. I’m an occasional runner. I do play five-a-side football once a week. So, my first run was interesting. I could run further and faster. No pain and not much tiring. But pain did come after a while. I managed four to five miles – more than I normally do before shin splints or knee pain start or my lungs stop working. But this was a mistake. If you’re new to barefoot running you have to take it easy at first. Short regular runs. I dived in at the deep end and was very sore the next day (read: limping like a lame man). I continued to go barefoot as often as possible. Running was kept to two miles twice a week. Shoes were only worn when necessary.

running in the mud and wet is awesome!

running in the mud and wet is awesome!

Barefoot technique takes time to develop. There are drills and exercises recommended by the experts that help you align your posture so you run correctly, without striking your heel on the floor. The free ebook from the vivobarefoot training clinic is useful. For Christmas, my brothers and sister-in-law-to-be gave me a pair of Vivobarefoot Gobi boots. These 4mm soled shoes with wide toe area are acceptable at school with my suit and tie, so, since 25/12/12, I have not worn a normal shoe except to play football. My feet are stronger than they have ever been. I exercise my natural shock absorbers in funny ways like writing the alphabet with my toes before going to sleep and rolling around from outside to inside of my foot and bouncing 180 times in a minute. I am not obsessive about it but do it if I remember. I run when I can. If I need to go to Ealing I run there and back. When I dropped the car off in Hammersmith for its MOT I ran home for 5.3 miles on tarmac. Sore again. I also ran in the snow and ice one evening – that’s the top image – when I got home I thought my toes were dirty but they were in fact numb and blue! Not doing that again.

I have had advice from some sprinting experts at school – thank you Myles and Johan – where we discussed my gait and my foot strike to determine the cause of some tightness in my right calf muscles. Interestingly they have researched the impact of thick-soled trainers on pro basketball players and the many injuries that followed their introduction over converse shoes in 1974 – haven’t got any links though.

I’ve written this post because a few people have asked me about it. Today I ran for an hour straight for the first time in my life, through rain and mud. At five miles I felt I could just keep going, and going. Around the hour mark, my upper legs/hips started to get sore so I stopped at 63 minutes. My right ankle has pain on the inside this morning and my legs are a bit stiff but otherwise I’m ok. So, I’m going barefoot. I can’t imagine putting my shoes back on. But it is still early days. I plan to keep it up for the remainder of 2013 and see what it feels like then.

Going barefoot without breaking the bank?

Cheap huarache sandals: http://www.invisibleshoe.com/ available in the UK 13/2/13 at: http://www.feetus.co.uk/.

FiveFngers are not cheap – I would not have bought these – they were a present.

Vivobarefoot have some a bit cheaper. But I recommend ebay – remember to click on auction only, and there are some BuyItNow for £3x.00.

Barefoot running coaching app £1.99 – not tried it yet but I might give it a go.

Barefoot running coaches in the UK. I’m not sure this is for me. Hard to tell if it’s a waste of money. Also, I might go on a training day to help improve my technique but it all looks a bit new age primal. You can sign up for a free trial first.