Apr 18

Is barefoot running really that difficult?

Is barefoot runing really that difficult or do we make it seem harder than it really is?

Recently, I asked over a thousand barefoot runners what they thought were the barriers to barefoot running. What things prevent people from actually taking off their shoes and giving it a go?

We sometimes make barefoot running seem more difficult than it really is.

Why do we do that?

If barefoot running is such a pure and simple thing, why do we talk about and intellectualise it so much?

We certainly don’t do it on purpose and maybe if we can understand a few of our reasons then we can remove some of the mystique and help new runners find their way.

We talk about all sorts of stuff, often in great detail.

I have been asked more than once why barefoot runners talk so much  about shoes. My theory is that it is because barefoot is so simple. If we didn’t talk about shoes then we wouldn’t have anything else to talk about.

XerosYou also need to remember that as an online community, we are spread all over the globe and we come together for the camaraderie. When we do that online, we chat because there isn’t much else to do. Pretty soon we start getting into the minutia of the subject and it can all end up feeling more complicated than it really is.

Awakening

Many of us have been searching for a solution to our injury problems and experience a kind of awakening when we discover barefooting. We just have to share. That was certainly the case with me and it can lead to an unintended evangelical tone to some discussions that can seem a little daunting or overbearing to the beginner.

We discuss barefoot running thoroughly because many of us are questioned about our barefootedness repeatedly. We find ourselves defending our position and want to have well formed arguments ready in case of derrogatory or disparaging comments. We don’t want to do something just because it may be the latest fad. We want to make sure that what we do is backed up and has some substance.

Risk

We feel the need to reduce risk. In today’s society, we have a tendency to believe that we should reduce all risk and educate ourselves thoroughly before embarking on something new. Forums and discussion groups spring up and we talk about every single aspect of a pursuit in great detail. I am sure that is not restricted to barefoot running.

Forums are great places to make our learning curve less steep but can leave our heads spinning with contadictory advice. We don’t know who to believe and so end up reading more and more. We get what is known as ‘analysis paralysis’. We can’t begin until we have read just one more article.

And unfortunately, there is a feeling that some runners can come across as a bit grandiose about barefoot running. I have read discussions were some barefooters have been disparaging and elitest with anyone who disagrees with their point of view.

Simple

No specific group own barefoot running. It is for everyone but I know that when I first started reading some forum discussions, I came away with a feeling that it was for other people and not me. That was simply not the case.

Barefoot running is an inherently simple pursuit. You take off your shoes and run. We can treat it a simply as that and learn the detail as we go or we can study to the nth degree before we begin.

My advice is to learn as much about barefooting as you feel you need to. Don’t be put off by some of the detailed discussions out there. They are perfectly valid but you don’t need to know everything in order to begin.

Download the Barefoot Beginner Guide and start today.

Think about it, but don’t over think it. You will learn more in 40 seconds of actual running than in a year of reading about someone else doing it. It really can be as simple as that.

Come and join in the chat in our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. We are a warm and friendly bunch, you will be made very welcome.

We run, we chat and we smile.

 

Apr 14

Training Log wb 14th April 2014

Monday 14th April 14

Ran 2.1 miles with my son this morning. He is 11 years old and decided that he would like to run to keep up his fitness for football. He chose a local resevior and off we went. He put in a huge spurt near the end and tried to lose me. So much fun. I was in Vivobarefoot Evos. He was in a pair of his old football trainers and I felt that he was a little stiff legged. He used to run in Vivos but he feet finally grew out of them. He may need some more. A much more useful Easter gift than chocolate.

Wednesday 16th April 14

Ran 2.3 miles with my son again. We ran around the Entwistle resevoir. The weather was perfect and the location beautiful. We ran a mile, paused a minute, ran a mile paused then sprinted the last part. I couldn’t help but remember that it was exactly the thing that I used to do with my dad in exactly the same place. he is a bit younger than I was but it certainly made me feel old. I was in Evos again and I can tell that i haven’t been barefoot for a little while. Looking forward to our next outing the day after tomorrow. Life is good today.

Apr 12

Training Log wb 7th April 2014

Saturday 12th April 14

My first run for about 10 days today. I had a bit of an accident with a large industrial gate which I shut too quickly. My rught achilles stopped the full weight of the gate as my foot dig into the ground and stayed put. It left me with a big triangular chunk out of the back of my lower leg and some nasty swelling. So..I thought I would do a Park run this morning to get back into the swing of things.

I have been walking a little funnily and that had led to my right calf tensing up and it felt tight. I was a little worruied if I am really honest.

It was my 11 year old son’s idea to parkrun. he usually plays football on Saturdays but has a week off so he said he fancied a run.

I said that I would set off with him but didn’t know how far I would make it before my tense calf forced me to stop. I wore my Vivobarefoot Evos and ended up being fine. I really enjoyed it. Had a coffee afterwards.

I like parkruns, they feel like community events. I have the same feeling when I go and give blood (something I must go and do again soon). I like all the giving out of t-shirts and applauding the volunteers before the start. A really nice way to start the weekend together with my boy.

Apr 12

Barefoot and minimalist runners needed for study – Get involved

Hi everyone – I received an email from Zach Robbiano about a some research going on that you might want to be involved in. The details are below:

The Spaulding National Running Center (SNRC), located in Boston, MA, is currently looking for habitual barefoot and minimalist runners to participate in a couple of studies they’re running.

The first study, open to barefooters and minimalists, deals with investigating the biomechanics of runners using motion capture devices, similar to the type of technology you may have seen used for creating CGI in movies and video games, thats allows us to track your movements in 3 dimensions.

This study requires one session that will take up to 2 hours to complete and approximately 20 minutes of jogging. Participants will get a free running shirt and a running video showing 4 steps on a treadmill with a vertical force and a lateral/medial force “live” graph. This is a really good tool to evaluate how you run and can be used to improve your running form.

You can check out an example of a video below:

The second study, using the same technology, is investigating the role of mechanical proprioception of the foot in running. This study is only open to habitual barefoot runners.

In this study participants will run with their feet wrapped to a normalized level of prioceptive inhibition, a very minor level. Then the wrap will be removed and the running will be repeated and the results compared. This study will take up to one hour to complete with approximately 10 minutes of jogging.

Participants of this study will be compensated with a very cool SNRC running tech-tshirt.  We highly encourage barefoot participants to participate in both studies, which can be combined and will take up to 3 hours to complete.

Those interested or have questions are welcome to email:

SNRCresearch+norm@gmail.com

or call 617-758-5516617-758-5516 to schedule a date to come in!

You can also visit facebook.com/runSNRC or twitter.com/runSNRC to see what other cool running related things are going on at the lab.

Thank you so much for your help in our recruiting efforts!

 

Regards,

Zach Robbiano

Recruitment Flyer-page-001Click on the flyer for full size.

Apr 08

Barefoot Running -14 assumptions we should challenge.

I am currently involved at Manchester Metropolitan University on some work on coaching and mentoring in organisations.

It resonates greatly with barefoot running. I was looking at the way groups have what is known as a ‘prevailing discourse’ woven into their fabric.

A prevailing discourse is made up of the unspoken rules that everyone lives by and takes for granted. Rules that are often not helpful but sit hidden in the background.

No-one ever speaks them out loud or challenges them.

The running community operates in exactly the same way. We have a set of unspoken rules so deeply embedded in our beings that very few of us ever challenge the assumptions they are built on.

We take certain things as given and assume that the laws of running must be true because so many people abide by them. We might get injured but we abide by them all the same.

They are the things that maintain the status quo and keep everyone in line.

I was feeling pretty smug at first. I am a barefoot runner and by definition someone who questions those rules that everyone simply accepts.

But……… Am I guilty of doing exactly the same when it comes to barefooting?

Does our barefoot community have its own prevailing discourse with unspoken rules that need to be challenged?

So…the question is:

What rules of barefoot running do you think should be challenged first? I sent out a quick email to find out what the members of our community thought.

img_7319-640x480Almost immediately Thea Gavin replied:

I love Thea’s blog (Barefoot Wandering and Writing). When the day is cold and grey, I look at Thea’s writing and remember that at least the sun is shining in some parts of the world.

Hi Chris


I love your thoughtfulness . . . yes . . . this is a worthwhile topic to pursue.

My barefoot running assumption that needs challenging is the whole notion that it’s so difficult to be out on trails without shoes on.

My transition to barefooting four years ago started with very tentative steps on a level, fairly smooth two-mile loop near my work (carrying sandals in a bag in case I needed them. I didn’t.).

Being barefoot on dirt and mud and dust and rocks is such a transformative experience . . . I started out walking a lot (I was rehabbing from running injuries, surprise surprise), and slowly, as the years have passed, have been able to run more and more. I am now to the point where I was able to run/walk ten miles last month (2800 feet of elevation gain) with such a smile on my face the whole 2.25 hours I was on the trail.

This is a long-winded answer to a simple request:

Let me boil it down:

Being barefoot on trails is just plain fun, whether walking or running. There is nothing to be afraid of (if something is on trail that you don’t want to step in/on, then don’t).

 I learned the hard way during my first summer of barefooting that it’s not a good idea to be barefoot on the trail in the middle of a hot, sunny day. Big blisters . . . but not since. We are smart creatures that learn from our (and sometimes others’) mistakes. Which brings me back to why I enjoy Barefoot Beginner so much: It’s a place to share and learn.

Thanks Chris!

Thea

A great starting point for discussion and many thanks to Thea for jumping in straight away. Make sure you check out Barefoot Wandering and Writing here.

So……What assumptions about barefoot running do you think need to be challenged first?

We continued the discussion in our facebook group’s Tuesday chat:

Other assumptions that we think need challenging are:

  • The idea that everyone is better off barefoot.
  • The idea that some people actually do need supportive shoes.
  • The idea that it is harder to train really hard or fast barefoot.
  • The idea that you can expect plenty of problems on your barefoot journey.
  • The idea that once you have become a barefooter, you should not go back to running in conventional shoes.
  • The idea that we should learn to run like Kenyans.
  • The idea that Kenyans run fast because of their great form.
  • The idea that Kenyan’s have great form because they learnt to run barefoot.
  • The idea that barefoot runners have better form than non-barefooters
  • The idea that a cadence of about 180 bpm is best.
  • The idea that fast runners make the best coaches.
  • The idea that we need to increase our miles gradually. About 10% a week seems to work best.
  • The idea that the thinner the sole on a shoe, the better your form will be.
  • The idea that heel striking is bad and forefoot/midfoot striking is good for everyone.
  • All cushioning is bad for you.

Remember that these are assumptions to be challenged and not advice. My response to each would be:

‘Really?…. What makes you think that?….. Are you sure?’.

The more we engage in the conversation and challenge the unspoken things we take as given, the more we find out what we truly believe and what we stand for.

You can see this Tuesday chat here. Come and join in. We are a warm and friendly group. You will be made very welcome.

img_7638-480x640

Thea on the trail!

Apr 07

Barefoot Running Magazine – Free Download

You can download Barefoot Running Magazine – Issue 11 (Spring 2014) here

Mag 2

Look out for lots of input from Barefoot Beginner group members and I have a roving reporter article on page 54 for you to laugh at. That lake was freezing!!!!

mag

Apr 04

Is age a barrier to barefoot running?

So…you would like to begin barefooting but you think that you are just too old. It sounds fantastic but you think that ship sailed a good while ago.

So the question is:

After a lifetime in shoes, is age a barrier to barefoot running?

There a a couple of things to consider here. We will come to he physical aspects of age and running in a few moments but first let’s consider how age might affect our view of barefooting as a pursuit in general.

Young people like to think that they are only free and liberated souls on the planet and that their elders are simply old and set in their ways. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

I was once running past an elderly gentleman as he went for a stroll one sunny afternoon in the countryside. As I pulled alongside him, he looked down and asked me why I was barefoot. He listened carefully and took in everything I said. He told me that he felt exactly the same about swimming. If he wasn’t skinny dipping, he felt like he was cheating.

He was well over 80 years of age and more open to the idea of barefooting than many people a quarter of his age.

So…if the mind is willing, is there any physical reason why getting older should get in the way?

There are a few things to think about:

One of our Barefoot Beginner group members, Kathryn Priest, is currently doing a dissertation in the use of barefooting in the rehab for falls patients. During our online discussion she brought up 3 things:

  1. Bone Density – Do our bones become less strong?
  2. Muscle status – Have we beome so malaligned over our lives that it is impossible?
  3. Plantar sensitivity – Does the ability of our feet to feel the ground decrease as we get older?

The following is my own take on the theme.

Bone Density

We know that bone density in many women can decrease following the menopause. This need not be a barrier but may well be something to consider. Exercise and diet are the commonly advised ways to combat this. It is easy to get sucked into scientific claim and counter claim here but it would seem pretty universally accepted that exercise can improve bone density over time. Proceed with caution but do proceed seems pretty sensible here. It certainly should not be a barrier.

Muscle Status

Of course, the older we are, the longer we have had to really mess about with our proper alignment. We may have had a lifetime of poor posture and little activity. We could go into great detail on how many things we do on a daily basis can mess us up. Suffice to say, that the longer we have been doing them, the more remedial work we may need to do.

This is not a barrier to barefooting. It is a reason to begin! We may need to adjust our expectations and time scales but we might as well start and get on with it.

Plantar Sensitivity

Plantar sensitivity is fascinating. We know that our neural density decreases as we get older. On the face of it, this should mean that our ability to feel the ground should be less and this should decrease our ability to barefoot successfully. Does this mean that we should not begin?

No!

It simply means that it might take a little longer for our ability to feel the ground to develop…but it will. If anything, this again is a reason to begin barefooting rather than a barrier.

If your feet feel the ground less through your shoes, the best thing to do is take them off. You will be able to feel the ground so much more.

A few little success stories:

A couple more of our group members chipped in. John Richmond has just started to barefoot at the age of 62 and John Lupton at the age of 65. They are loving it.

Age is no barrier to barefooting. You may need to adjust the timeframe but the benefits will be worth it.

A few more real barefooters:

Peter G Smith: After years of running, transitioned to VFF at age 52, Luna’s at 53, Ultramarathons at 54 age is just a number.

Felicia Brownlee: You gotta go easy!! Barefoot a few minutes a day, and ease into it. Just like lifting weights….you don’t curl 100lbs your first day at the gym, it takes time!! After years of wearing shoes, the foot/ankle full range of motion is inhibited and those muscles begin to weaken at the least utilized point so it’s almost like starting over, literally learning how to walk again with ALL of the muscles and ligaments at their full potential. , IT IS TOTALLY WORTH the baby steps to BF. Its beautiful, fullfilling, and liberating! Ice and rest and go easy!

Rene Borg (Champions Everywhere): We’ve retrained people over here over the age of 70 – it’s never to late to learn something new, it just generally get’s a bit harder.

You can follow the discussion on age and barefooting in our facebook group here. We are a warm and friendly group. You will be made very welcome. 

Mar 30

Run for the Animal Half marathon – Barefoot Review

 

Untitled

This is a review of the Run for the Animals Half marathon by our group member Barefoot Runner.

The HM is a lollipop course with an ~3 mile stem and an ~7 mile loop. The 10K is simply out and back on the stem. The course is basically about 50% smooth blacktop (Easy) and 50% chip seal (Moderate). An experienced barefooter should have no concerns with the course, but a beginner might have to slow down on the chip seal especially if a section is newly gravelled or if the soles start getting sensitive towards the end. So overall, I’d rate this course a BB (Moderate) for its barefoot sole friendliness.

On the loop portion, there are a couple long curved banked sections about which some shod runners have complained as too hard on the ankles. There’s also a quarter mile section on the 6-foot wide chip seal shoulder of a 2-lane highway which could have broken glass, mainly the safety glass of windshields, etc. but possibly broken bottles too, so you might have to watch your step or maybe chance running either on the grass with its hidden dangers or even on the white stripe of the highway. In more than 6 years of barefoot running I’ve only gotten 2 tiny pieces of glass in my feet. In contrast, I’ve gotten lots of sand burrs in my feet by running in the grass, although now my feet are so tough that burrs are only a nuisance. Since the race is in the spring, burrs should not be hidden in the grass.

I’ve run this race a couple years but did not do so last year because I had sprained my ankle then gotten a stress fracture in the same foot. Alas, the weather was perfect for running last year but the year before when I ran this race, it was dry, very hot and extremely windy and I was a full minute slower off my pace.

Everyone gets a finishing medal and the better runners (not me yet) get hand made trophies (overall, age, sex). The after party has a band, lots of beer, excellent food and home cooked deserts. Just be sure to not gain back all the weight you just finished running off!

 

Thanks Barefoot RunnerYou can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefoot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

Mar 30

Barefoot running is impossible for me, isn’t it?

So…what do you do when you hear about other people being successful barefooting but can’t see how it could be possible for you?

You want to give it a go (You are reading these words after all) but the whole thing just feels impossible.

Well, the first thing to realise is that you are not alone. I speak to people who feel like that all the time. Some have never really done any running and some have a lifetime of running behind them.

My dad is one of them. He is now over 70 and has been a runner all his life. He looks at my barefoot exploits and shakes his head. He is determined that he couldn’t do it. For him,he says, it is impossible.

He has no real injury worries and runs with beautiful form and so he has no motivation for even trying it out. He will continue to believe that he can’t possibly do it even though I know full well he could if he needed to.

I think that is the point.

Many of us come to a point where we can no longer continue doing the same thing we have been doing for years.

It isn’t working for us anymore.

For me, I feel like running in conventional running shoes is impossible rather than barefoot running. I think that my point of view is more reasonable. I was designed to run barefoot rather than in built up shoes. But…..My dad will never accept it.

Unless…something or other means that he needs to.

There is a reason that you are reading this. You can see that there are plenty of  runners successfully adding barefoot running to their lives. However, you may also have heard tales of barefooters breaking down injured and are convinced that you would be just the same.

It happens but…..It doesn’t have to be like that.

It is perfectly possible to find a simple and safe way to make barefoot running a reality for you.

Here are few things to consider:

  1. Why are you reading this? What is your story so far?  Is running the way you do working well and allowing you to run safely and relatively free of injury?
  2. If the answer to the last question is Yes….. you are fine and running really well…… then good luck to you. You are one of those rare souls who is just like my dad. If not then consider why you are continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different outcome. I have heard that described as the definition of madness. It may be time to look for a new approach. Barefooting might just work.
  3. What is the specific thing or things about barefoot running that you think is impossible? Tough question. It can be hard to single out a particular reason especially for an activity that feels so alien to you. Have a look at our list of 33 barriers to barefoot running. Do any resonate with you? Sometimes it is good just to acknowledge those worries and say them out loud.
  4. Read a few success stories. You could start by having a look at our Real Barefooters page and joining our facebook group.
  5. If you have still think it is impossible, post your thoughts in our group. We have a family friendly community and there will be people who thought exactly the same and overcame it.
  6. Find a safe way of beginning that starts where you are at. Downloading the Barefoot Beginner guide (In the sidebar to the right) is a good place to start. It will guide you through your first steps at your pace.
  7. Let us know how you go on. My first barefoot run was 40 seconds. Think about that. I didn’t begin by taking off my shoes and running a half marathon. I managed 40 seconds on a smooth road before I had to slip on my shoes and walk home.
  8. Finally, remember that barefoot running is not superhuman, it is very, very human. If you are human (make up your own jokes) then running is the thing you were designed for and we don’t arrive in the world with Nikes attached to our feet. We arrive barefoot. As I heard Matt Wallden (Primal Lifestyle) once say. He comes from a long line of barefooters. He was born barefoot and so was his mother before him. You are just the same. Why on earth do you think that you are not?

Still thinking that it impossible for you? A few more things to consider:

So…If we know that going barefoot is as human and natural as breathing, why have some people got to the point where they just think it is impossible for them?

We live in a modern world, where we have lost touch with the fact that we are animals just as much as all the other species that inhabit the earth. In the hurly burly of everyday life, it is easy to forget that we too were made to survive on this earth we inhabit.

Shoes can be used very well to protect our feet so we assume that they are a universally good invention.

This is not the case.

They can protect our feet but also be the cause of so many problems. We can learn a lot here from the treatment for horses. If a horse is lame, one of the first things to do is remove its shoes. Shoes are often the cause of the problem.

We became adapted and our feet are one of the most amazing structures in the animal kingdom. They are part of a system that allowed us to move around quickly with minimum body contact with the floor.

It must stand to reason that the part that is designed to touch the floor is superbly adapted to provide feedback to our brains that allow us to move around quickly and safely.

But….only if we let them actually touch the floor. T

The foot is designed to work in a complex way. It needs to be able to splay when it touches the floor, the toes need to spread. We need those nerve endings to feel the ground beneath them.

At school, we learn about our ears being responsible for our balance and of course they play an important part.

But..they are not the only part.

The soles of our feet also play a vital role. The way the foot moves fires muscles in our legs and lower back at just the right time. Those who say they can’t barefoot because of a muscle problem or back problem are exactly the people who should give it a go.

It is a belief thing.

Sometimes we just can’t see ourselves doing something because it seems so far from our normal experience.

So…..challenge your assumptions and make sure that what you think is the case is actually true

Choose one barrier at a time, overcome it and get out there. It might just be the best thing you ever do.

I asked the Barefoot Beginner community what they would say if they had a minute with someone who said, ‘Barefoot Running is for other people. It is impossible for me.’

We had lots of responses and the final word goes to Nichola

I’m so lucky. I’ve gone barefoot most of my life and I’m almost 60 now. I only wear shoes to work or when going out and even then I’ll often slip them off. My early school photos show many of the class in bare feet.Now I wouldn’t class myself as a barefoot runner because I definitely don’t run as much as I should. My feet are bare more often than not. I don’t have leathery soles or cracked heals.What I’m saying is Take your shoes off wherever possible. Get used to being barefoot more than shod and then it won’t seem so unnatural when you go out to run barefoot.

It really is possible if you take it one step at a time.

Happy Running

Chris

 

Mar 28

Bath Half Race Report – Ian Hicks

I had been keeping my eye on the weather forecast, in the vain hope that I would see warm, dry weather for the 2014 Bath Half on Sunday 2nd March! Unfortunately my prayers went unanswered and I was left with the prospect of running the race on a cold and wet day. I also had the fear that I had not done enoughbarefoot training over the winter. This was mainly because I had been reviewing three separate minimal shoes for Barefoot Running Magazine. Were my feet ready to cope with 13 miles of wet, cold tarmac?


UntitledFinally, the day arrived and I awoke to a wet and cold Sunday morning. I arrived with plenty of time to spare to have a look round the “Runners Village”, which unfortunately because of the wet conditions there were just a few baggage tents and Portaloos! I had decided before-hand to start running with my Sockwas on if the race was going to be wet. So wearing my Sockwas …… I took my position at the start line. I took the opportunity while waiting for the start to check out the tarmac!  I’m sure I was probably the only runner there who was taking photos of the tarmac. I’m still waiting for a reply from Bath City Council about my complaint on the condition of the roads around Bath. They are wholly unsuitable for barefoot runners!

 

Untitled112,000 runners lined up for a cold and wet race, but this did not stop the spectators coming out in there thousands to do a fantastic job of cheering us on. The course is on a loop, generally flat with only a couple of slight gradients. Water bottle stations and two Lucozade stations were spread over on the route. The organizers did a very good job of marshalling 12,000 runners around Bath.

The last few miles were hard going for me, as my energy had gone. I realised that I had not done enough training over the winter. I made it over the finish line in a time of 2:10, which I was pleased with as I was barefoot for the majority of the race.

Untitled2I will give this a BB-Blue-Moderate rating. No real problem for the moderate barefooter who is up to half marathon distance.

Thanks Ian – You can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

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