Ken Saxton, center, of Huntington Beach is not alone in his belief that going barefoot is the most comfortable way to run. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Disciple of Sole – Los Angeles Times

Ken Saxton, center, of Huntington Beach is not alone in his belief that going barefoot is the most comfortable way to run. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Ken Saxton, center, of Huntington Beach is not alone in his belief that going barefoot is the most comfortable way to run. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Bare Fact for Runner Saxton: No Shoes Means No Problem

By Dan Arrit
Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition

The way Ken Saxton sees it, everybody else is missing something

Saxton, a 44-year-old Huntington Beach resident, took off his shoes for good this year, opting to bare his soles at work, weddings, restaurants, jury duty . . . and the Paczhe Shorelme Marathon Sunday Huntington Beach.

“You don’t insulate yourself from the earth,” Saxton explained. “Even in the Bible, Jesus told his apostles to go without shoes. God wouldn’t let people approach him unless they took their shoes off. It was just a matter of respect.”

The path that led to Saxton’s barefoot hfestyle didn’t begm with an archaic upbringing, but rather a painful experience while running the Long Beach Marathon in 1987. Saxton had purchased a pair of running shoes before his first marathon, but during the race he developed blisters and was forced to walk the last few miles.

“I did it with shoes on because I was like everyone else, I thought you have to race with shoes,” Saxton said. “And then I got these nasty blisters and for the next couple of weeks I couldn’t put my shoes on comfortably.”

Saxton began jogging barefoot on the beach, enjoying it so much that he began to run home from his job as a computer technician at Long Beach State, taking along a pair of shoes and busjare just in case his legs tired during the 11-mile trek.

He also began researching other barefoot runners, including South Africa’s Zola Budd and Ethiopian policeman Abehe Bikila, who won consecutive Olympic marathons in the 1960s. Saxton’s detailed research helped him polish his running technique and lessen the pounding on is heels.

Saxton ran his first road race without shoes three years ago, then completed the Pacific Shoreline Marathon last year, his first barfoot [road] race at that distance. Saxton finished three other 26-mile runs in 1999, including the all-downhill St. George (Utah) Marathon in3 hours 20 minutes.

“The first time I saw him I thought he was a novelty act,” said Al Valdez, a self described “shoe guy” who joins Saxton for an occasional beach run. “But it didn’t take long to discover that he’s actually good.”

Ken Saxton's bare feet have taken him to personal bests of 37:02 in the 10K, 1:25 in the half marathon. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Ken Saxton's bare feet have taken him to personal bests of 37:02 in the 10K, 1:25 in the half marathon. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Saxton, whose personal-best barefoot times include 17:45 in the 5K, 37:02 in the 10K and 1:25 in the half-marathon, hopes to improve on his 4:12 clocking from a year ago.

“I like marathons better because they’re a little more relaxed, which is maybe why I haven’t done them as well” Saxton said. “I’m looking to do under three hours someday soon.”

Saxton said he had to wear shoes maybe three times in 1999, but doesn’t see a reason to pull them on this year.

“I wore them to the junkyard, landfills and places like that,” Saxton said. “But I’ve got my garage cleaned out now, so hopefully won’t have to go to the landfill”

Saxton attended a wedding on Coronado Island without shoes two years ago, and even convinced the Orange County Municipal Court to allow him to serve juy duty barefoot.

He had gone to the courthouse as a possible witness last year and was denied access to the building. When he received the notice to report for jury duty, Saxton responded with a letter to the court, explaining his beliefs and his experience at the courthouse a month earlier.

“I let them know what happened and that I didn’t want to be kicked out of court and have that held against me,” Saxton said. “They called me up and assured me the guard at the front door would have no problem with me coming into the courthouse barefoot.”

Saxton is a member of the [Society for Barefoot Living], a network of barefoot enthusiasts who share their passion on the Internet. In addition to providing interaction among barefooters, it also helps spell out legalities, such as the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” policy of many businesses.

“The Dirty Sole Seeiety has not found any laws against going barefoot anywhere,” Saxton said. “We’ve called the Health Department and have letters from the Health Department saying there is no such law against patrons of a restaurant going barefoot.”

Ken Saxton says he began competing barefoot after a new pair of running shoes gave him blisters during the Long Beach Marathon in 1987. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Ken Saxton says he began competing barefoot after a new pair of running shoes gave him blisters during the Long Beach Marathon in 1987. (David Kawashima for the Times)

Saxton is also a member of the Orange County-based Snail’s Pace Running Club and has encouraged some of its members to try Running Barefoot.

“It’s something different and it’s along the sand, which is nice,” said Karen McCaker of Long Beach, who was joining Saxton for her second barefoot run on the beach. “But I still wear shoes during the week.”

Robert Geller of Belmont Shore was experiencing his first barefoot run with Saxton.

“Ken is the barefoot lifestyle recruiter,” Geller said. “He’s the spokesman, certainly on this coast anyway.”

Saxton estimates he will run between 1,700 and 2,000 miles this year. He is often asked if running barefoot is painful for his feet.

“Actually, the biggest strain is not in the feet but in the leg muscles” he said. “People [say to] me after a race, “I get so many blisters from shoes, if I run barefoot, it’s going to be worse.” And I say, “Well that’s why I stopped wearing shoes because I got tired of getting blisters.”

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