Justifying Barefoot Running
This isn’t about seeking approval from or trying to defend Barefoot Running to it’s critics.
The whole reason I began The Running Barefoot website (1997) was because people were curious about barefoot running. Some seemed amazed that I was able to run barefoot over terrain that bruised their feet through their shoes! But more on that in a moment…
History My Running
I ran happily barefoot for several decades barefoot, without any approval from anyone. In fact my biggest advantage in running may have come from the fact that I was not socializing with other runners for several decades. Which is probably part of why I didn’t see any need for running shoes most of the time.
But, we don’t live in a vacuum… and eventually I began running with others, even joined a running club or two or three. When I began racing barefoot, I became noticed by more people, and some began asking me questions about barefoot running. Many people do want to know about barefoot running. Like many things that seem obvious to those of us who enjoy them, there’s a lot of people out there asking, “Why didn’t I hear about Barefoot Running before I banged my knees up pounding the pavement in shoes?”
History of Running Information
Over the past few decades, most of the information about running has been provided by the manufacturers of running shoes, or magazines whose major sponsors were running shoe manufacturers. So, it’s not that surprising they weren’t “advertising” the benefits of NOT wearing shoes. And it shouldn’t be so surprising that most people accept running shoes as a necessary tool for running today.
But people were asking me questions every time I raced barefoot, questions like:
- “Why do your feet look so good?”
- “Why are my feet bruised running over gravel in shoes, and your feet are fine running barefoot on the same trails?”
- “How come your knees are fine despite not having the cushioning in modern shoes?”
- “Why don’t you have blisters or thick hard calluses?”
- “Why aren’t your bare feet all bloody from running miles and miles over all sorts of terrain?”
So in 1997 I started a website to help answer those and many more questions. Then, through the website, I began getting feedback from others, and I discovered that most shod runners are injured from running quite frequently, so much so that they can’t run for a great deal of the time (several months of each year).
This may be one of the reasons so many people were curious about barefoot running, After all in my first “real” barefoot race, on gravel trails for 10 miles, some of my fellow running club members were amazed, because their feet were bruised through their shoes! Imagine with how much more impact they must be landing, when I ran the same trails, faster than most, barefoot, with no bruises.
Sharing information is part of being a community. The internet is our “global campfire” where we can share our stories and learn from each other. The internet has become one of the most (if not THE most) popular channels of communication because this kind of sharing is in our nature.
This sharing of information leads to further testing (playing), questioning, debating, etc., but ultimately, there is a huge potential for all of us to become a little bit more intelligent and better at questioning (intelligently) the world around us … or perhaps the becoming more intelligent and questioning intelligently are actually the same thing?
I Think We’re mostly All Wimps on This Bus
Of course many of those who didn’t simply think I was some insane goofball (which I cannot deny), would just as likely write me off as being a “super” man. the reality is that I run barefoot because it is more comfortable, not because I am tough. Thanks to many more people sharing their experiences, this misconception is falling by the wayside. …people are beginning to realize that barefoot runners are mostly wimps…
The Secret of Barefoot Running
Obviously we do know something (whether we are aware that we do or not) that might help others. After all, if barefoot running allows wimps to run more safely, what can it do for those people who are tougher, but still getting injured frequently in shoes?
Certainly, we could be a bit less dogmatic (as could those pushing shoes as a “cure-all”)… On the other hand, if we see someone with a headache banging their head against a wall, should we not let them know that if they banged their heads a bit more gently, the headache might just go away? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to share the importance of NOT banging their heads against a wall? We just need to learn to do it without being condescending, insulting, etc… After all, some of us used to bang our heads too…