Ask Me Anything: Barefooting

An example of a barefoot runner in a 5K race.

An example of a barefoot runner in a 5K race. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time to address another question that came up from the “Ask Me Anything” post!

Hope asked: “After reading about it on your blog, I’ve taken to doing a teeny-tiny bit of “barefoot”/instep-strike running. I don’t normally don’t care for running. After running this way a bit, I’m coming to quite enjoy it – I don’t feel like I’m taking a beating :) Have you come across any more interesting articles or research into instep-strike or barefoot running?”

Why yes… yes I have! I am a super-nerd that loves to read about running. So I’m always on the hunt for new info! Here are a few items relative to the naked foot that I’ve seen recently!

On April 8th there is a whole “One Day Without Shoes” event, where people all over are encouraged to go the day (or even just a part of the day) barefoot. However, the purpose of this event is not a running-related thing or even advocacy for barefooting… it’s to bring awareness to how difficult it can be to go without shoes and to raise money for people who don’t have access to shoes. It even outlines a bunch of the problems that can come from living an entire life without proper protection on the feet. It’s kind of an interesting counterpoint to all the arguments in favor of going barefoot (to the extreme of being barefoot ALL THE TIME) and how the very cultures that are pinpointed as being superior runners due to their lack of shoes are also susceptible to foot troubles that we in shoe-societies avoid.

There is a great article on Competitor.com called “A Shoe Guy’s Take on Minimalism” and it kind of sums up my feelings in regard to barefoot running right now. In fact, I’ll just quote a few segments of that article to sum up how I feel:

“In the long run – pun intended – most every runner will benefit from sprinkling small doses of barefoot or almost-barefoot running into his training… That’s not to bash running shoes, but the fact of the matter is that our longstanding reliance on artificial protection leads to a reduction in range of motion and to muscles, ligaments and tendons that don’t have to work as hard to propel the body forward.

The minimalist movement, while I don’t think it’s a fad, is wildly and widely misunderstood… The combination of a properly fitting pair of shoes and some supplementary strengthening work in the form of barefoot running or training in a less-structured shoe, will keep your hooves happy and the risk of injury minimal.”

Another article I came across recently called “Are running shoes making your feet soft?” is pretty balanced and guarded in saying that neither shoes nor barefooting are good or bad. The best part of that article is:

“No one knows your feet better than you do, so when it comes to running shoes, the best choice is the one tested in your own lab.”

That’s a truth that goes back to one of the core fundamentals in running that we all need to learn, listen to your body and do what works for you. It’s fine to take advice from others and to gather feedback from peers, that’s often a great way to find out things to test in your own ‘experiment of one’ lab… but you can’t take what anyone says as gospel until you’ve determined how it works for you as a unique individual.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey Jill–good info. I tried to email you earlier but it didn’t go through. Anyhow, as to my peppermint oil tabs, I take one before heading out the door for my run or race (after eating, using the bathroom). Give it a go and see what happens!

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