Over the last few years I have been doing more and more running, and a large portion of that I have been doing without any shoes on. Down country lanes, across fields and through the forest with my bare feet.
As you might expect, I get some funny looks and some funny comments, ranging to from amusement to curiosity to plain old disgust depending on how stuck up they are. It is clear that some people think I have gone a little bit mad. “Have you seen that crazy guy that runs around without ay shoes on?”. “Yeah, I think is must have something missing upstairs. Either that or he can’t afford running shoes”.
It is a fact of life that most people have a fairly narrow view of the world and how things should be done, and they don’t like it when people step outside that view and do things differently. To many people, “new” ideas are guilty until proven innocent, even if they are not new ideas at all. And so it is that the only person running in a way that is “normal” in nature is the person that has to justify their “strange” behaviour.
Barefoot running should really need no explanation, no justification and certainly no scientific research (which by the way has demonstrated that it is much better than running in sports shoes). But apparently I do need to explain it, so here goes:
Firstly, I never set out to become a “barefoot runner”. I am not trying to be awkward or make a point. I discovered by accident, and kept doing it because it was so damn good.
I was in the park one day and my wife was enjoying walking around without any shoes on. I apparently gave her a bit of a snobby look when she suggested that I relax and do the same (yes, I was one of those people!), but she persisted and I eventually agreed.
It felt good.
I walked around, then we started running around and it was such good fun that we wanted to do it more.
So we started doing it regularly and short runs around the park became proper runs. As the distances got longer and our fitness improved, we realised something strange – our knees didn’t hurt!
I had previously given up running following constant knee injuries, and Vinu had struggled with knee problems following a motorbike accident years before. But here we were running on concrete near our apartment with no shoes on, and our knees felt great.
A few years have past since the and we are doing more running than we have ever done in our lives, without suffering from any of the injuries that plague other runners and had previously plagued us.
What we had discovered was injury free, joyful running – something that you can’t buy from Nike and Adidas.
Having taken up running barefoot as a regular pass time, I looked it up online to see if there was any information about other people finding the same benefits as us. And it turns out that there are loads of people around the world enjoying the benefits of barefoot running.
1. Feet are awesome
Your feet are one of the most sophisticated parts of the body, packed with hundreds of muscles, bones and ligaments, not to mention the huge array of nerve endings on your soles. Nature has given you the most advanced running shoe imaginable, and if you let it free, it runs like a dream, just as it was meant to. Running with shoes is like wearing really chunky gloves, and lets be honest, it is really hard to do normal things with your hands when wearing gloves. YOur feet are no different.
2. Feet are your foundation
Your feet are your physical foundation and provide the basis for good posture and good mechanical health. If you don’t let you feet work the way they are supposed to, they rot away, your arches collapse and your posture deteriorates. Walking and running with bare feet gives you a full body work out the way nature intended and helps you build good posture.
3. Feel the excitement
All those nerve endings in your feet are there to sense the earth beneath you, not to sense the inside to a sweaty shoe. When you take your shoes off, the nerves get stimulated, which in turn wakes up both your body and your mind, giving barefooters strange feelings of joy hat often cause them to grin inanely.It is like getting a free foot massage while you are exercising.
4. Air doesn’t rub
You can’t get the blackened toe nails and shoe blisters common amongst runners, or for that matter infections like athletes foot, if you are not wearing any shoes. Sure, there are naturally some other hazards that you need to be aware of, but your body is pretty well adapted to these so long as you take a bit of care.
5. Room to grow
If you have ever looked at a typical shoe and a foot side by side, they are not the same shape. Fashion dictates that most shoes have rounded or pointy ends, which squeezes the foot inwards. This not only impairs the movement and correct functioning of the foot while you are walking and running, but it actually impairs the growth of the foot aswell, since we spend so much of our time in footwear. When you start spending a lot of time barefoot, you feet start to change to their natural shape and as they have the freedom to grow correctly.
6. You get plugged in
Electrical circuits are earthed by sticking a conductive rod into the ground. Your body is an electrical appliance that builds up static charge when you live in an artificial environment full of man made items and electrical fields. When you connect to the earth with your bare skin, your body can discharge and soak up electrons to help neutralise those pesky free radicals.
7. Feet are free
It doesn’t matter what special offer they had in Sweat Shop, running shoes will always be more expensive than no shoes.
Do you need more reasons? Feet are the best running shoes ever invented and you already have a pair.
Maybe, but I don’t think it is necessary. People should be free to do whatever feels right for them and gives them the greatest level of health and happiness. Even I run in minimalist shoes a lot of the time, when I am not confident about the terrain and weather conditions.
But if you are one of those people that finds it strange that some people like to run without shoes on, the it might just be time that you take a look in the mirror at the monkey with the foam blocks strapped to its feet. Now who is strange?