Barefoot running has become very popular in recent years. Much thanks to Christopher McDougall and his book “Born To Run“. Many consider this to be very extreme. As much as I like experimenting with new ideas, and the benefits of this theory, I do not see myself running barefoot on the streets. Specialist shoes have been invented to resemble the shape of the foot,
like Vibram 5 Fingers shoes but even the best barefoot running shoes cannot replaces the sensation of the bare foot touching the ground.
Finding a Safe Place
Having a benefit of owning a house in the country, with a long grass path, I was able to try barefoot running for myself. I wish I had a chance to do this earlier. The sensation is great. Each step is unique. I wish I could run like this everyday but I am still at a stage where I would not trust any other surface to do so. Some say that running on tarmac is great for finding really good form, as each wrong step will be punished, but unless you have your own piece of road, you run the danger of stepping on something sharp that could harm your foot. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to give it a shot even if the stretch of land that you can safely run on is small.
How does barefoot running compare to running with shoes? At the start, the main thing I noticed was the speed. It was much slower. There is less confidence in each stride, hence the decrease in speed. It takes time to learn to put trust in each step. I also found my strides to be slightly shorter. In general, my strides have been short since I started running on my forefeet, yet barefooted strides were even shorter. The sensation, on the other hand, was amazing. The short grass gave amazing cushioning and the dampness of the morning dew was very refreshing. In all, I managed to get 4 barefoot runs in a row. By the fourth run, I got my speed back to normal (same average pace as in shoes).
The other element I noticed, was that it is much easier to hold proper posture when running barefoot. It simply feels easier to maintain it. I don’t know how it would feel if I were a heal striker. I presume, barefoot running would alter my style, as striking with the heal with no shoes on would likely lead to falls (remember, running shoes are slanted, hence the heal is raised – if they were flat, heal strikers would face more slips on wet surfaces).
Next day after my barefoot running stints, I went for a run, this time wearing shoes. The most noticeable change was the increased speed. I’m not talking about a huge difference, but nevertheless, a noticeable one. The other noticeable element was the run was smoother. I believe that was due to better posture. Remember, the best barefoot running shoes are your feet themselves.
No matter what you think about barefoot running or what you have heard, if you get a chance to try for yourself, in a safe environment, take the opportunity. Very quickly you will learn what you are doing right and what you need to work on. It’s an amazing feeling and something I hope to do more of in the future!