Going Barefoot

me at the end of a barefoot run on snow and ice

Late last year I visited the doctor to see what he thought about some foot pain I was getting after playing football. He told me I had flat feet; no arches apparently, and recommended orthopaedic props to wear in my shoes. I checked online to see what others said were the best ones to use etc. and found articles saying they are useless because, whereas they do change the shape of your foot in your shoe, they do not build the necessary muscle structure to support the arch so it collapses again without the support. Instead they pointed the way to barefoot running and barefoot everything else as well. So, after more reading and watching YT videos (there are many, start here maybe inc. a free ebook), I decided to give it a go. A couple of years earlier, my family had bought me some five finger shoes for fathers day. I thought they were funky summer shoes. But I realised I would be able to try barefoot running without expense. First I started with thick socks (winter) around the house for a couple of weeks and wearing the five fingers as shoes whenever I went outside except for work.

NB: fivefingers are not the only barefoot shoe. There are many. The key criteria is no heel drop and a thin enough sole to be able to feel the ground on different parts of your feet. To be honest, I am gripped. It all made great sense to me; fitted into place. I love the outdoors and have no idea why I’ve ended up in London since I spent my childhood up trees, swinging on ropes and falling in streams. I’m an occasional runner. I do play five-a-side football once a week. So, my first run was interesting. I could run further and faster. No pain and not much tiring. But pain did come after a while. I managed four to five miles – more than I normally do before shin splints or knee pain start or my lungs stop working. But this was a mistake. If you’re new to barefoot running you have to take it easy at first. Short regular runs. I dived in at the deep end and was very sore the next day (read: limping like a lame man). I continued to go barefoot as often as possible. Running was kept to two miles twice a week. Shoes were only worn when necessary.

running in the mud and wet is awesome!
running in the mud and wet is awesome!

Barefoot technique takes time to develop. There are drills and exercises recommended by the experts that help you align your posture so you run correctly, without striking your heel on the floor. The free ebook from the vivobarefoot training clinic is useful. For Christmas, my brothers and sister-in-law-to-be gave me a pair of Vivobarefoot Gobi boots. These 4mm soled shoes with wide toe area are acceptable at school with my suit and tie, so, since 25/12/12, I have not worn a normal shoe except to play football. My feet are stronger than they have ever been. I exercise my natural shock absorbers in funny ways like writing the alphabet with my toes before going to sleep and rolling around from outside to inside of my foot and bouncing 180 times in a minute. I am not obsessive about it but do it if I remember. I run when I can. If I need to go to Ealing I run there and back. When I dropped the car off in Hammersmith for its MOT I ran home for 5.3 miles on tarmac. Sore again. I also ran in the snow and ice one evening – that’s the top image – when I got home I thought my toes were dirty but they were in fact numb and blue! Not doing that again.

I have had advice from some sprinting experts at school – thank you Myles and Johan – where we discussed my gait and my foot strike to determine the cause of some tightness in my right calf muscles. Interestingly they have researched the impact of thick-soled trainers on pro basketball players and the many injuries that followed their introduction over converse shoes in 1974 – haven’t got any links though.

I’ve written this post because a few people have asked me about it. Today I ran for an hour straight for the first time in my life, through rain and mud. At five miles I felt I could just keep going, and going. Around the hour mark, my upper legs/hips started to get sore so I stopped at 63 minutes. My right ankle has pain on the inside this morning and my legs are a bit stiff but otherwise I’m ok. So, I’m going barefoot. I can’t imagine putting my shoes back on. But it is still early days. I plan to keep it up for the remainder of 2013 and see what it feels like then.

Going barefoot without breaking the bank?

Cheap huarache sandals: http://www.invisibleshoe.com/ available in the UK 13/2/13 at: http://www.feetus.co.uk/.

FiveFngers are not cheap – I would not have bought these – they were a present.

Vivobarefoot have some a bit cheaper. But I recommend ebay – remember to click on auction only, and there are some BuyItNow for £3x.00.

Barefoot running coaching app £1.99 – not tried it yet but I might give it a go.

Barefoot running coaches in the UK. I’m not sure this is for me. Hard to tell if it’s a waste of money. Also, I might go on a training day to help improve my technique but it all looks a bit new age primal. You can sign up for a free trial first.

Going Barefoot