Barefoot in the park
Tim Hines is a barefoot runner from Sale near Manchester. He is a founder member of the Northest Barefooters and will be giving us his thoughts each month. Thanks Tim and welcome.
I am a runner. Of late I have been doing much of my running barefoot. A good few years ago I was a broken runner. I had foot pain, knee pain, a foot flaring out at about 70 degrees off straight and back pain. If you are reading barefoot beginner then I am sure there is a strong chance that you have suffered with some of these problems too and that is what has brought you to minimalist running.
My doctor told me to stop running and go to see the chiropractor. The chiro told me not to run anymore and that I would need orthotics from now on. I explained that I would run again. He told me I was crazy. I agreed.
With my new orthotics I found a whole new pleasure in running. I was feeling strong and enjoying some pain free miles. For a while at least. After a couple of years I found that I was falling apart again, as were my orthotics.
I needed a new plan.
After much internet research I purchased some Newtons. I switched to a forefoot strike and a decent running form and everything changed. Suddenly I could run again. I could run faster. I could smile when I ran.
In time the Newtons were replaced with VFFs, Trail Gloves and Lunas, along with several generations of homemade sandals. The sandal making culminated in my crazy conveyor belt huaraches, which are my favourite form of footwear and are now being used by a couple of other members of our Northwest Barefooters group.
Natural progression took over and I ditched the shoes. Now I would say that I’m predominantly barefoot with sandals and Merrells available when needed.
One of the things that I have been enjoying the most about running barefoot is the social aspect. In the past when I have run with groups, it has generally been about times, places and rivalries. Conversation always seems to revolve around performance. The Northwest Barefooters group as well as the other online groups (mostly centred around Facebook) are much more concerned with enjoying a run and running than with beating each other. Maybe it is because there is such a wide range of abilities that a race would be silly, but I prefer to believe that it is because we have come together through a love of the act of running. For many of us it was a love which we thought had been taken from us and has only been given back to us by barefoot.
I used to run along thinking about the different niggles that I had and whether or not they were getting worse. The biggest concern I have right now is how I will get hold of more conveyor belt for more sandals.
This coming weekend is the Great Manchester Run. I will be there. I will be bare. I look forward to hearing the exclamations that always accompany a barefoot run in public, something which I’ve started to track as a separate category on my blog, barefootedcheek.com, as they seem to be getting more regular and more amusing. My favourite one from the last couple of weeks was the kind lady who stopped next to me near the Mersey as I was putting my sandals on. She had a concerned look on her face as she asked, “are you ok?” I believe that she was referring to my mental state, as I don’t think there was anything about me that suggested I was anything other than fine physically.
Right now, after two years of running properly, well over a year committed to minimalism and a growing number of months building up my barefoot mileage, I now finally feel like I can run barefoot. I’m not trying to anymore. I’m not struggling anymore. I’m not wincing with every step. I’m just running and enjoying it. Thanks to Chris, I am now enjoying it every day.
Chris challenged me to sign up to do a barefoot runstreak. It turns out that he was not aware of the dual meaning of streak. He is not challenging me to run naked. We, along with others, are trying to run every day. You don’t have to run miles, just run. The motivation to get out and not break the streak is enormous. The satisfaction of another day done is brilliant. The annoyance that Chris is 31 days ahead of me is something I will have to learn to deal with. Right now I am only up to day 7, hopefully when I write my next update for Barefoot Beginner I will be at a significantly higher number, 35 ish I think.
Next month I also hope to give an update on the state of my soles. I have always been over eager. I push too hard too soon. I am often damaged as a result. Right now the soles of my feet look like I let my kids loose on them with some black and red marker pens. I have blisters, blood blisters and dead skin all over them. It doesn’t hurt, not now anyway. It is entirely my own fault. I ran too fast on a BBB (See the Barefoot Beginner barefoot route ratings guide) route a couple of weeks ago on my way to a 20:44 parkrun. It was great fun and I’m happy with the time, but my feet suffered. I’m hoping that a more sensible approach and daily runs will help me to toughen my feet and that they will look more like feet again soon. The Great Manchester Run may well set me back to square one though!
As for my soul, I think that’s in considerably better shape.
We have a fantastic community of barefoot runners contributing on our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. We are a mix of barefooters, minimalist and shod runners with a common interest. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in.