Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why I run barefoot, and a bit of info

My View

I'm a barefoot runner. Here's why, and a little bit of how.

I've been wanting to make a post like this all summer, but I've been too busy enjoying running. Now that the weather is getting crappier, and tonight it's all stormy and cold, I've got some time.  This post is to explain to my Facebook friends "why." Also, so that maybe some of you will stop telling me I'm so awesome for running barefoot, as if I'm doing something the hard way. It might be unconventional, but it's definitely taking the easier road!

Recently, someone asked about minimalist shoes on my favorite mommy forum,  I anwered with a basic answer, and then some others replied "I like my asics." So, I wrote this lengthy explanation of minimalist running, and now I figure I can post it here, as long as it's already written. (This is a combo of my 2 posts, edited to make sense to people not on the mommy forums)

I'm no expert. Do your own research. This is just my take on things.

I'm into minimalist running. You don't need VFF's to do it. It's not the shoes that are awesome, it's the effects of running with bare or almost bare feet. 

I've been running completely barefoot all summer and have never run better in my life. As my mileage gets higher than my feet can handle, I've been experimenting with cheap alternatives to VFF's. $8 water shoes from Walmart work great, and I just picked up a pair of isotoner slippers with suede bottoms at goodwill that are really awesome too. 

Check out the reviews of lots of minimalist footwear on 

In April, a ton of new VFF models as well as minimalist shoes by a ton of other companies are coming out. Some will be well marketed crap, and some will be really awesome. 

Softstar shoes sells Robeez type shoes for adults, but you are in Hawaii, so probably can just go barefoot. I'm looking at those moccasins for winter. 

My hubby has VFF's. We both bought Barefoot Ted's Luna Sandals Kits, and even got enough material for our kids to have some. We haven't made the kids' yet, but ours are good. I got the suede laces and wish I had gotten the hemp.  Hubby loves his Lunas with hemp laces so much that he hasn't worn his VFF's since they got here. He doesn't run completely bare, ever. is another site like Barefoot Ted's, with colorful, synthetic laces. 

Terra Plana has "vivobarefoot" line of shoes that look like sneakers or dress shoes (kindof) but are super flexible and well respected in minimalist circles. 

If you want to chat with minimalist runners, from beginners like me to the experienced Ultra Runners who totally kick butt, this google group is really great. I once read one of them compare themselves to a bunch of 16 y/o girls the way they discuss shoes.  

So, in summary, you have lots of options other than the well-marketed Nikes and VFF's, and more coming in April.

>>insert people recommending normal Asics<<

Those of you answering the question about VFF's with "asics" must not understand the question, so here's a little more info:
These are Vibram Five Fingers:

Jen says she's currently running in Nike Frees.  They claim to be like running barefoot, but most real barefooters call them "transitional footwear" meaning they are a step between "marshmallow shoes" (the traditional running shoe you all are talking about) and true barefoot, VFF's, or huaraches.

Here's a picture of one of the Huarache running sandals out there, from Barefoot Ted's Website:

Here's a picture of a couple guys finishing a high-altitude, mountain terrain  100 MILE RACE in their Huaraches:
(Ok, I called them a couple of guys, but really, they are pretty much the biggest dogs in the pound. The bald guy is Barefoot Ted, and the other guy is Christopher McDougall, author of Born To Run)

If you're wondering WHY anyone (or just I) would want to run without all that pillowy goodness of marketing genius under their feet, it's because Nike's lead scientist, the US Army, and some British researchers have all done studies that showed "motion control" "stability" and all those other awesome marketable shoe terms are a bunch of bologne and do nothing to prevent injuries. In fact, wearing those shoes causes many of the problems that keep podiatrists in business. (Big Thanks to Gretchen Reynolds' NY Times blog for leads to this info)

You know how all the major awesome marathon winners are Kenyan? They grow up running barefoot and don't start wearing shoes until the sponsorship offers start rolling in and wearing shoes makes money for them. All the years of running barefoot (miles and miles to and from school, etc) teaches them the right 'form" for good running. People who grow up in shoes run with a "heel-strike" where their feet hit the ground heel first. "experts" even coach people to "heel-strike."

Evolutionarily speaking, humans evolved to run with a flat foot or toe strike. That's why our feet have all those tiny bones that can move independently. (If you only believe in God, and not Evolution, then you have to believe that if God wanted us to have shoes, he'd have given us all club feet).

If you haven't heard of Persistence Hunting, here's what wikipedia has to say, and it kind of brings everything into focus:

Persistence hunting is a hunting technique in which hunters use a combination of running and tracking to pursue prey to exhaustion. Today, it is very rare and seen only in a few groups such as Kalahari bushmen and the Tarahumara or Raramuri people of Northern Mexico. Persistence hunting requires endurance running – running many miles for extended periods of time. Among primates, endurance running is only seen in humans, and persistence hunting is thought to have been one of the earliest forms of human hunting, having evolved 2 million years ago.
The persistence hunt may well have been the first form of hunting practised by hominids. It is likely that this method of hunting evolved before humans invented projectile weapons, such as darts, spears, or slings. Since they could not kill their prey from a distance and were not fast enough to catch the animal, the only reliable way to kill it would have been to run it down over a long distance.
In this regard one has to bear in mind that, as hominids adapted to bipedalism they would have lost some speed, becoming less able to catch prey with short, fast charges. They would, however, have gained endurance and become better adapted to persistence hunting.[1] The evolution of the distinctively human sweating apparatus and relative hairlessness would have given hunters an additional advantage by keeping their bodies cool in the midday heat.
During the persistence hunt an antelope, such as a kudu, is not shot or speared from a distance, but simply run down in the midday heat. Depending on the specific conditions, hunters of the central Kalahari will chase a kudu for about two to five hours over 25 to 35 km (16 to 22 mi) in temperatures of about 40 to 42 °C (104 to 108 °F). The hunter chases the kudu, which then runs away out of sight. By tracking it down at a fast running pace the hunter catches up with it before it has had enough time to rest in the shade. The animal is repeatedly chased and tracked down until it is too exhausted to continue running. The hunter then kills it at close range with a spear.
The persistence hunt is still practised by hunter-gatherers in the central Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, and David Attenborough's documentary The Life of Mammals (program 10, "Food For Thought") showed a bushman hunting a kudu antelope until it collapsed.[2] It is thought that the Tarahumara natives of northwestern Mexico in the Copper Canyon area may have also practised persistence hunting.[3][/quote]

If your interest is now piqued, and you like to read, go get Born to Run.

It's a totally enthralling book that will have you tossing your Asics into the closet in no time.  Honestly, I read it a year before I started running barefoot, but I was pregnant, then it was winter and I had a newborn, but first chance I got, I did the barefoot thing, and I don't see myself ever looking back.

As soon as my new SoftStar Moccasins get here, I'll be doing a post on my current collection of running "shoes."

I'm a recreational runner. I'm not fast, and I don't go too far, but I enjoy it now more than ever.

What do you think about Barefoot Running? Has this post changed your feelings at all? Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Do you worry about slicing your foot open with something on the ground or picking up some type of infection? Just curious!

PegHead said...

As far as slicing, no, I mean, I watch where I'm going and avoid broken glass and sharp sticks, but feet are pretty good at feeling the beginning of a sharp thing and then not stepping fully. Not sure how to describe it.

Really, if you've ever been hiking in shorts and t-shirt, did you worry about gettng scratched when you walk by a berry bush? yes, it's a possibility, but it didn't scare you into not hiking, right?

Infection? well, I don't worry about getting drug-resistant staph every time I go to the doctor, even though it's a possibility, because going to the doctor (usually) is worth the risk.

thanks for the reminder that I should get a tetanus booster though.


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