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July 10, 2013 by scratchtype1

I’ve previously written some   about why I got a DIY huaraches kit from Xero Shoes and they have been quite useful. But along with using them to help me walk comfortably on the road along where I live, I’ve also been practicing improving my tolerance of the gravelly, pebbly areas on the road edge and the uncomfortable texture of the tarred-and-chipped surface. That surface has some variability to it, some places can be fairly smooth, but there are significant stretches where it’s basically like walking on somewhat sharp pebbles that are fixed into the surface of the road.  You really can’t just take off shoes from feet that have been mostly shod for 40 years and walk on that comfortably.

But pretty much every day I would walk down to the end of the driveway and take some steps on the loose pebble areas and the fixed pebble areas. It was last evening when I noticed that it was feeling very much easier. I still felt everything, but I could tolerate it. Did my longest short walk ever up and down the road, and then went inside to watch the start of the Phillies game on tv. This morning, I got up, put the huaraches on and walked down about a 1/4 mile to where there’s a gravel driveway. I lifted up first my left foot, removed that sandal, then the right foot and removed that one. Then I walked across the road surface and onto the gravel driveway. And walked on it. It went well. 2 weeks ago, I know that it would have hurt. I would look at it when walking by and shudder some at the idea of someday walking on it. I walked around on it for a bit and then turned to go home and get ready for work.

The only slight problem I would have is that I’ve discovered it’s very important to keep a relaxed throughout the body. Whenever I noticed that somehow things felt sharper and more uncomfortable, I would also find that the muscles up in the upper back,  shoulders and neck were getting tense. If I relaxed them, it all felt good again down on the bottom of my feet.

I still can’t quite grasp the idea yet of running on gravel, but I can see now that it will be possible to run on the road barefoot someday. Just need to keep practicing, letting the soles get a bit tougher, and I’ll be there.

I do think that along with the barefoot practice, the huaraches maybe helped some too. I would often use them on gravelly type areas, and could feel that gravel underneath. It probably provided some stimulus, maybe not a full stimulus, but still some additional sensory input that encouraged the soles to grow tougher. I may now be reaching a point where it would only work on the worst sorts of gravel, but it’s something to keep in mind for anyone who is thinking about becoming more shoeless in their life. Work with stimuli that you can tolerate and just gradually push on the envelope.

And suddenly now, I feel a lot more confident that I will one day begin walking sections the Appalachian Trail barefoot.

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