2 years of barefoot and minimalist running

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August 7, 2015 by scratchtype1

It was a little over 2 years ago when I finally put a new entry into the running log I keep at RunningAhead.com. I had basically quit running after 2010, save for a few runs here and there, with in fact an attempt to begin running again in April 2013 brought to a halt by a cold. Then came the strange hike in early June 2013 where my boots and socks got thoroughly soaked, and there and then, I hiked maybe a mile or so barefoot. And made a decision because of that to begin to live more barefoot.

Some people have strong reactions to the idea of being barefoot, of running barefoot. Some are strongly in favor of it, others look at barefooters as being completely mad and bonkers. I have suspicions this is caused by the fact there are so many nerves bundled down in the soles of the human foot, our feet are intimately connected into our brains, we can’t help having strong reactions about them, just like if we think about things that can happen to our eyes or to our tongues or to our genitals. Our feet are sensitive, even if nowadays most of us keep them tucked inside shoes. Sensitive body parts inspire sensitive and primal reactions.

I do think it was some good fortune that I was not then a runner when I began the transition to barefoot and minimalist running. In the 2 months of increased barefootedness before that first long enough barefoot run to merit a log entry, it was mostly walking and hiking barefoot, building strength in the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. I listened to what signals the soles of the feet sent to me. And I also began slowly mixing in some short stretches of running.

If you are anything like I was, transitioning to a barefoot lifestyle and barefoot running has to be done with consideration and care. But if done well enough, with enough good fortune maybe too, the results can be wonderful. I’ve now run almost 2900 miles in the last 2 years. I’ve only had one serious running injury, the bad left hip flexor of last year, and you’d be hard-pressed to make any sort of convincing case that that was caused by barefoot running. The strongest evidence to make that sort of case is that maybe barefoot and minimalist running can be strongly addictive to some of us. I came to like or love running so much that I did more than the left hip flexors could withstand at the time.

But on the other hand, it’s maybe worth pointing out that perhaps that left hip flexor problem was caused by form issues stemming from the years I was in shoes. In my life, I had never learned to run the way that evolution built our bodies to learn it — barefoot, as a child. I never learned the touch of the bare sole to the ground to send signals to the brain that it is time to flex the glute muscles. Furthermore, in this modern lifestyle, I sat so much. Another strike against running with the muscles that should be the heart of the human running engine.

When I began running again last year after the left hip was good again, I did drills to help the glutes. Hill sprints, skipping, hundred ups. Now I have a 10 month streak where I’ve run at least 125 miles every month. A 46 week streak of 20 or more miles. I’ve now run 117 straight days with at least 1 mile each day. All those miles barefoot or in a pair of Xero Connects. My feet are stronger, with more substantial arches. Although they’ll never be as strong of feet that I could have had, if I had grown up more barefoot. But they are the best shoes I’ve ever had.

They are shoes that I don’t need to pay money for. They don’t wear out and grow stronger if I take care of them and run with them. I feel good about where the birthday shoes have taken me, and where I hope to go with them.

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