I don’t mind people running in whatever kind of footwear they like, but it is deceptively misleading – to call running in minimalist shoes, “Barefoot” – it is, sadly, leading many people to serious injury.
I suppose some of you are getting tired of hearing me tell you, again, and again, and again that “running in minimalist footwear is NOT running barefoot!” But, I have been, for much longer, sick and tired of hearing people call running in minimalist footwear, running “BARE” foot!
Running with footwear is NOT running “bare” foot.
More importantly, it’s not merely the semantics that bother me. It is deceptively misleading – and, sadly, the deception is leading people to seriously injuring themselves!
While you should be thankful that I don’t post articles like this EVERY time I find a blog, or advertisement, claiming that running in minimalist footwear “IS BARE” foot running!
However, I do keep telling people this, because many people, those who have listened, have thanked me for the advice.
If you really want to learn how to run “Barefoot”, take off the footwear!
The problem is, with these “crutches”, people are not getting one of the most important benefits of barefoot running – the feedback from the multitude of nerve endings in our bare soles. Yes, I know it hurts to go barefoot at first – that IS the point! It is these very pains that teach us to stand, walk, and run, differently than we learned in foot-numbing footwear, to learn to move and stand in ways that reduce the pain in the first place.
Yes, running barefoot will strengthen the feet, in time. But, it isn’t just about strengthening the feet to endure running badly. It is about being able to feel when we are running badly, so we can learn to run better, more gracefully, without causing pain. Then our feet will grow tough enough, to run gently. More toughness than that which is not necessary.
Without the feedback from our sensitive bare soles, people are, running longer, and landing harder than their feet, body, and minds are ready for on their beginning barefoot outings (and they don’t have the support of their old stiff running shoes to protect their feet from this abuse).
A friend of mine, and a running coach, recently called me, and said he has been seeing this same phenomenon for a couple of years, since about the time Vibram started marketing their Five Finger shoes (yes, they are shoes!) as a “Barefoot” running shoe… and people are getting hurt, without the benefit of their sensitive bare soles, they still don’t feel how badly they are running, or when they have run too much.
I know I’m repeating myself, even within this post – but I will continue to repeat myself as long as people are getting hurt, from wearing footwear, which is deceiving them into believing they are running just fine!
I can understand the desire to start out, running barefoot, gradually, carefully, with baby steps. And you certainly should start out gradually, carefully, with baby steps – but no infant I have ever met, was born with tough feet, or shoes to deceive their sense of balance or amount of impact and friction!
In bare soles, we are like infants, with the benefit of sensitive feet, that, like an infant’s bare soles, have rarely touched the earth, TEACHING us HOW to interact with the earth, naturally, gently, efficiently, and gracefully, and yes, telling us after a few steps that we should rest for a bit now. No infant is ready to run a marathon a few days after their first steps. So why do so many people believe that their feet, recently delivered from the over-protective womb of their shoes, would be ready to go any significant distance from the beginning, even with the “benefit” of minimalist footwear?
First, learn to run, with the full benefit of the precise, and yes, sometimes painful, feedback from your BARE soles, and allow them some time to teach you HOW to run gently, gracefully, efficiently and more safely. Not coincidentally, the running technique which causes the least amount of pain to your bare soles, even on rough terrain, just happens to also be the running technique that puts the least amount of stress and strain on the body. That means that not only are you producing less stress and strain to injure your body, but you will also be running more efficiently (with less stress and strain) … and that means, applying the same amount of energy to good running technique, that your friends may be wasting with injurious running technique, you may be able to run further and faster! NOTE: If you get injured less often, you’ll certainly be able to run more often!
Second, if you want to run on extreme surfaces, and have already mastered true barefoot running, then wear the minimalist footwear if you like (just don’t blame me, if you injure yourself). But, if you have truly mastered running barefoot, you’ll find that the added protection is almost always unnecessary, and more often, gets in the way of your ability to actually enjoy barefoot running to it’s fullest.
Minimalist footwear give us just enough protection to encourage us to run more stupidly![/caption]
Third, I have occasionally been offered the chance to “test drive” minimalist footwear, and the sense that they make my feet feel like Superman’s feet, is exhilarating, and that’s when the real danger comes – just when we begin believing that we’re invulnerable! That’s when we do really stupid stuff that only Superman could do without injury!
Finally, while few of us actually are invulnerable, think of it … if you take a bit of time to learn how to run gently, your feet will only need to toughen up a small amount, and that won’t take so long as you might think. You’ll be able to run further, sooner, and on more challenging terrain, than if you inhibit your bare soles’ ability to teach you how to run more gently. Imagine how impressed your ignorant friends will be, because they actually believe that your feet “must be made of steel” to “endure” the “pain” of “pounding” your bare soles on the rough terrain!
And you don’t need to tell your friends that the secret is, “don’t pound” … unless of course, you actually do like your friends, and do want to help them learn how to run more gracefully!