Today is the first "monthiversary" of the day I started barefoot running! That's right, I declared my independence from running shoes on the fourth of July. In the last month, I've logged 26 barefoot miles outside. That's a barefoot marathon...spread out over 31 days!
The bottoms of my feet are doing quite well. They are getting less sensitive, and I have yet to step on anything that has actually cut my foot. I keep my eyes open! I've got a couple little places with callouses that hurt if I run wrong, but overall, my soles are pretty happy.
I can feel that my feet, ankles, calves, and Achilles tendons are getting the strength and flexibility they need for barefoot running. I know they still need to develop further, but I can tell the difference between now and a month ago.
I'm enjoying running barefoot, but I'm going to be honest with you--it's also frustrating. I've cut my mileage back by a lot. To do otherwise would be to invite injury, and I sure don't want a stress fracture or tendonitis waylaying me! I have a detailed plan to help me hopefully run my first half marathon on December 5, four months from now. But the mileage increases are gradual. For now, my runs are shorter than two miles each, and I miss my long runs. It'll be several more weeks before my longest weekly run hits five miles. And I'll have to be flexible enough to reduce my training if my body tells me it's too much.
It's also hard, suddenly having lots of little aches and pains as my body adjusts to a new style of running. The good part is, they all go away quickly, so I think they're all just part of getting stronger and learning how to have a proper, relaxed running form. These aren't injuries; I'm just experiencing what athletes experience when they learn a new sport.
"A new sport"--I guess that's the frustration of it. After eight months of running with shoes on, I felt like I was really getting the hang of it. Sure, I was having some issues with IT band tightness, and my knees sometimes bothered me...but I was doing long runs and loving it, overall handling it well. Suddenly I'm a beginner again. I took my shoes off, and all the rules changed!
Are you asking by now, "Beth, why don't you just put your shoes back on?!"?
Well, the fact is, I really think barefoot running makes sense. Even as I have aches here and there, I can tell that my knees and upper legs--the parts that gave me the most trouble with shoes on--are so much happier with this lower-impact style of running. The "growing pains" I'm having now are things I'm pretty sure will subside before long, leaving me feeling better overall than I did when I wore running shoes.
To be honest, I also love the novelty of running barefoot. I don't want to do it just because it's different, but if something unique also makes sense to me, I want to embrace it! And the freedom of it is so appealing to me. Not having to put on shoes and socks is awesome. Depending on the feet God gave me to support me, instead of cushioned shoes--that's such an appealing concept to me!
It comes down to this--I think in the long run, this is going to be a good thing for me as a runner. It's worth the frustration of relearning my sport. But it is sometimes a difficult transition. I hope that, like so many things in life, the difficult climb up the mountain will be worth the view from the top!
P.S. I wrote the post above yesterday afternoon. Then in the evening I had a cool (though scary) barefoot running experience. For National Night Out we went to a picnic at the neighborhood park. I was trying to keep an eagle eye on my kids, especially Zoodle, who is in that "explorer" phase. Sure enough, I got distracted, and suddenly realized he wasn't on the playground. The Engineer ran one direction, and I ran the other, to try to find him. I had worn flip flops, and clearly they aren't the best for fast, urgent running, so I kicked them off and ran across grass, mulch, and sidewalks to find my boy. Thankfully I found him quickly...and I thought it was pretty cool that my barefoot running had prepared me to easily run after him even though I hadn't come to the park in running shoes!