Saturday, May 21, 2011

So...you run barefoot?

I get asked that question sometimes. When I first started running barefoot, I wrote often about it on Facebook and on my blog. So I figured it's time to set the record straight.

At this point, I'm not a barefoot runner. I'm a minimalist runner. I don't know why, but the balls of my feet have started hurting after I run barefoot--like I have stone bruises or something. One foot gets pretty bad pretty quickly. And somehow, the ultra-thin soles of my Vibram Five Fingers KSOs (a.k.a. "itty bitty gorilla feet") are enough to protect my feet so that when I do feel that discomfort, it's minimal.

When I'm chatting online with other barefoot runners, I'm a little embarrassed to admit...I'm wearing shoes. Barefoot runners and minimalist runners usually congregate together, since both groups are committed to running with a gentle form, and to feeling the ground (whether on bare feet or through very thin-soled shoes.) Even the Barefoot Runners Society, a group that has helped me a whole lot, states on their site that they want "To offer resources that unite barefoot and minimalist runners from around the world."

But sometimes there's this attitude within the barefoot/minimalist community, that barefoot running is the only really pure way to run. That minimalist runners are kinda...I don't know...weak or ignorant or something. And minimalist runners can have the same attitude toward those who wear traditional, heavily-structured running shoes. I hate to admit it, but I've even had that attitude.

And that's just plain silly. Do I even need a prefix like "barefoot" or "minimalist" or "shod" before the truly important word..."runner"? I don't want to only identify with a small segment of the running populace. Sure, it's fun to talk about minimalist shoes with others at races when I see them wearing Vibrams or Merrell Pace Gloves. But the most important thing to me is being surrounded by other runners, whatever they wear or don't wear on their feet. We're all one group, joined by our love of running.

Yes, I believe in the ideas behind barefoot and minimalist running. But when it comes down to it, I run in minimalist shoes because it works for me and because I like it. I love the light feel on my feet, and I think I run with a gentler form than I did with heavily cushioned shoes.

If you run, you should do the same. Run however it works for you, whether you're barefoot, or in minimalist shoes, or in thick-soled Nikes, or in combat boots.

And we'll all be joined, not by what's on our feet, but by our passion for getting out there and moving those feet.

10 comments:

Eternal Lizdom said...

AMEN!

Barga said...

Is it odd that I am a minimalist in every aspect except running? I love walking barefoot, swimming au natural, and I even do my backbacking/hiking/mountain climbing without shoes... But when it comes to running, I seem to like those thick-soled shoes...

C. Beth said...

That's interesting, Barga. I wonder if your feet are just more sensitive than the rest of you? Hmm.

Mellodee said...

In the extremely unlikely event that I ever find myself deciding to run for "fun" (???), I can be absolutely sure I wouldn't be one of the barefoot or minimalist contingent!

Our driveway is made of concrete and small stones (pebbles, really). I cannot make it to the mailbox at the street if I am barefoot! I limp and hobble and hop along, moaning ow, ow, ow the whole way and back.

No, thanks, I'll just keep my shoes on. Trust me, it is in the best interests of everyone anywhere near me that I do!

LOL!

TiffanyAnn said...

Good perspective :o)

Sandra said...

This is a really interesting post. And it doesn't surprise me at all that your attitude is inclusive rather than exclusive. I don't run any more, but I do go to the gym and I agree that it feels really good to keep moving, whatever the method (or footwear). :)

Call Me Cate said...

Great post, Beth. I wish more people could apply this approach to other areas. For example, I don't like sci-fi. Or country. Or slapstick comedies. Or sweet wines. But that's why there are so many varieties of books, music, movies, foods, etc. It's sort of similar with barefoot vs minimalist vs traditional shoe running. Options for everyone so we can all find something we enjoy or that works for us. No good being all judgy of those with different preferences. (Though you're still not going to convince me that sci-fi is cool.)

LEstes65 said...

And yet you're close friends with a couch potato like ME . . . Go figure!

SurvivorBlessing said...

I don't like the phrase "heavily cushioned shoes"! I mean I love shoes and will always wear them, even in my backyard. And when I grew up, I had to wear house shoes as well (and my parents still do!). So I love shoes and I run with shoes. I don't think of them as that heavy... really. But lately I have wondered if I could be a tit bit faster without the "heavy" shoes....
What's your thought?

Steph said...

Great post! Did you read that blog post by Katie about the most important thing to wear while running: a smile. I see a smile on you face on all your race pictures so what's on your feet (or not) doesn't matter.
I love running barefoot but it is not always convenient, depending on the terrain or temperature. When my muscles will remember my barefoot form well enough I hope to graduate successfully to minimalist shoes.