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Thursday, January 28, 2010

In which I try barefoot running and end up with holes in my feet.

On my way home from work yesterday I heard a story on NPR about barefoot running. I've heard a lot about barefoot running lately: how it protects your knees, makes you land on your toes, etc. I figured I'd try it for a short run. This was really stupid. I get paid to stand on my feet for 8 hours a day...and I'm running a 30k race on Sunday! It is never a good idea to makes holes in your feet, but it's a really bad idea to experiment right before a race. Silly me. I slipped on some old socks and hit the road.
I only went about 3.5 miles, but here's my summary:
- It does feel good on your joints. It's a very cushioned, springy way to run.
- You use the backs of your calves more this way: I actually felt it in my muscles, and I generally never feel sore after running (even long races, although my joints will hurt).
- You can increase your speed quite a bit unknowingly, which I did. I was so surprised at my time because I thought I was keeping it slow to try the new technique. I was about 45 seconds faster per mile than I thought.
- It hurts like hell. Even with socks on I have ... holes in my feet. I got a few blisters and some red spongy spots on the tips of my toes (see graphic image above!) and on the balls of my feet I actually wore through my skin and have little red spots where blood is oozing out. Disgusting and monumentally painful.
- If I did this again I'd have to find a better way to protect my feet! New Orleans streets are rough!

The funny thing is that I was stopped halfway through by this guy in Vibram five finger "shoes" who wanted to know who made my barefoot shoes and what they were called. I responded, "Dollar Tree socks???" and he thought I was joking. No, friend, I was really running in socks from Dollar Tree. Got a problem with that?

How about you: Have you tried barefoot running? If you haven't, what do you think of it? Do you think it does protect your body - or is it actually going to cause an injury in the long run?


  1. I haven't tried barefoot running but when I ran the Stennis half marathon, I saw a guy running in completely bare feet. I felt sorry for his feet b/c we were running on paved roads but also across a couple of small rail road tracks and I'm pretty sure it was in the 40's that morning.
    I also saw a girl running just in socks on the treadmill next to me at the gym. I didn't notice that she wasn't wearing shoes until a gym employee told her she had to wear shoes to use the treadmill, which seemed a little unreasonable to me.
    I think if I were to try it, I would try it on grass- but I really hate running on grass, so I probably wouldn't try it.

  2. You know, I thought about running on the side of the track at Audubon park or running on the streetcar tracks, but I agree with you - I like a paved surface! Plus at least on pavement I could see the big rock I was about to step on; in grass I can imagine all these sharp little acorns hiding out. Yikes.

  3. I have always been interested in barefoot running but due to a preference of running trails and not wanting to step on all the thistles, etc. I stick to flip flops. Teva makes the best that I have found - lightweight, stay in place and don't get sweaty or weird... I also enjoy being able to run through streams instead of having to try to hop across or around them. I wear these - the extra straps help keep them in place so they don't "flop" everywhere.

  4. I never thought of running in sandals - that's impressive! Do you feel a difference in your joints?

  5. The first thing I learned as a barefoot runner in the Marigny is to listen to my feet which is hard because I'm use to pushing myself. The moment they begin to feel tender, even a little, I stop. Also, don't be afraid of stepping on things.The streets of NO are not as scary as you think. Start off walking barefoot to get use to it. People may look at you a little funny, but who cares. Different surfaces are best. Gravel, grass, blacktop. Try it all. And have fun. And above all, take it sloooow.