• Going Barefoot (1 of 3)

    Part 1: An Athlete Runs Barefoot

    Barefoot running, or training in minimalist shoes, is popular. Athletes who run barefoot love it. People who are considering barefoot or minimalist shoes are intrigued by it. Others find barefoot strange, but want to know why it’s such a growing craze.

    I always test a training technique before writing about or recommending it. This meant I had to hit the road—despite my enormous passion for distance runs. (By the way, 5k is a distance run for this former track & field horizontal jumper.) So last week I completed a one-mile run in Vibram’s FiveFingers and a second one-mile run barefoot, with a day recovery between runs. 

    A few people, including my wife, didn’t understand that when I said barefoot I meant completely unshod. But I did it because I wanted to experience the difference between running completely unshod vs. doing so in minimalist shoes.

    FiveFingers weren’t around 12 years ago when I completed warm ups, strides and various drills barefoot on grass, sand and track during training for the triple jump. I knew then that it strengthens my feet—especially after experiencing deep soreness after the first two days of training.  I also realized a few years later, after retiring from track & field competition, that barefoot training really did contribute to certain skills. I wasn’t maintaining my balance and posture as well as when I was completing barefoot warm ups even though I continued full-body strength training.  As a result, I always included barefoot drills for the athletes I coach. 

    This, however, was my first barefoot run.

    I have to admit: I like barefoot running. I feel more connected to the earth and empowered as I move gracefully (efficiently) over it in my bare feet. Running barefoot has made “distance” running more enjoyable for me, and I don’t plan to go back to running in traditional running shoes.

    I don’t know why people become barefoot running aficionados.  I guess partially for the same reason that kids like to wiggle their toes. Nike captures the feeling well in the name of their limited support trainers, “Free.”

    Part 2 of this series looks at the growing body of evidence supporting barefoot running. Part 3 looks at some big benefits to you, your training, and your performance.


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