After that, my soles were yelling at me to stop. I was carrying a pair of shoes and I slipped them on and made my way home.
It was a very humble beginning but for the rest of the day, I could feel the tingle in my feet. I was excited and couldn’t wait to go again. I had become a barefoot runner and my life had changed for the better.
That feeling is there for everyone. I am nothing special. I am not an urban caveman or bio mechanical genius. I am just a simple runner trying to find a way to run in a sustainable way that will last well into old age. I believe that I have found it.
It is my belief that most people can begin to run barefoot without problems as long as they start small and build gradually. Everyone is different but I believe that it is realistic for most people to go from 0 to 5k in around 12 weeks if they are willing to ditch the shoes for that period and start at the beginning.
I am suggesting that you do just that.
There are many variables that will make this individual to just you. Don’t try and ram yourself into a hole that doesn’t fit. Generalisations are useful to test ourselves against but we should not be slaves to them. You are an individual and need to experiment and find your own way. On Barefoot Beginner, I plan to help you do just that.
There are many things that will make your first run unique to you however, for this first run, we are only going to look at just 3 of them:
- The surface you choose for your first run
- The length of your first run
- The speed that you choose to run
There is a lot of debate over the best surface to start on. The common guidance is to start on a surface that flat, consistent and debris free. This might be a good quality tarmac road or path. The principle of a smooth, firm surface is that it gives you good feedback through your soles and helps you to develop an efficient technique.
That makes sense to me but I know many stories of people starting out on grass, sand and woodland trails. I even know of people who started out on rough man-made trails. Use what you you have at hand and don’t worry about it.
Don’t be that runner who never begins because they are always searching for the perfect surface. Put that excuse to one side.
I am also often asked how far the first barefoot run should be. This will also be individual to you. I had no idea how long my first was going to be when I set off. I turned out to be 40 seconds. The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as you are honest with yourself about it and accept it for what it is. A beginning.
The Barefoot Beginner philopsophy is that the soles of your feet will prevent you from doing to much, too soon and hurting yourself. They will be your guide and savior.
How will you know when your soles have reached their limit for the day? It is a fair question and one that you will learn to answer for yourself. My soles were burning more quickly than I expected and I felt like I couldn’t go any further and so stopped. You will need to be honest with yourself. It is perfectly possible to switch off the feedback from your feet, plough on and get blisters.
During my first 12 weeks of barefoot running, I respected the messages coming from my soles, gradually ran further and didn’t have one blister. If you do get blisters, it is not the end of the world. It is all part of the learning process. Don’t be hard on yourself, just adjust your thresholds and work out how to read the feedback from your soles.
Carry a shoe in each hand and set off. When your soles are singing and you have had enough, stop. Slip your shoes on and make your way home.
This will also be individual to you. I only mention it so that you are aware and think about it. Most people will tell you to forget about speed for now. The principle is that you first concentrate your running technique then add distance and finally the speed will come.
The Barefoot Beginner approach does the first two by default. We are improving our form by running barefoot and then are gradually increasing our distance. The speed you run is up to you. Do what feels comfortable and natural. I started out by pitter-pattering along quite slowly.
My cadence was higher than previously but my overall speed was slower. Take it easy and enjoy it. There is no rush. You have the rest of your life to be a runner. It doesn’t matter if you slow down a bit in order to become a runner for the long term.
There are plenty of other variables to think about such as your cadence, how you land, how you lift off, your arm swing etc. However for now, we are not going to worry about any of them. We are going to relax about the whole thing and get going.
Stop reading and start running
The time has come. Stop reading, take off your shoes and run. It doesn’t really matter what the surface is like or how far or fast you go. You will learn more from 40 seconds of barefoot running than any number of hours of reading can teach you.
When you get back, write down how you feel. How far did you get? How do your feet feel? What about the rest of you? Are you smiling? Are you looking forward to going again?
Dump it all on paper and then put it to one side. Better still, tell us all about it. We have a thread on our forum for you to tell us about your first barefoot run. It doesn’t matter if it was a humble beginning. In fact, the more humble the better.
After your first run, don’t run the following day and then go again. Dump your ideas on paper again. How did they compare with your first run? What similarities and differences can you see?
You are a barefoot runner and your running life will never quite feel the same again.
Tell us about your first run at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/forums/topic/what-was-you-first-barefoot-run-like/ – You can read some excellent examples from members of the Barefoot Beginner community.
The time has come. Today is the day. Give it a go!