Many people call me a zealot, and I wouldn’t disagree. I run barefoot: BARE FOOT, not in so-called “barefoot shoes”!
In 2005, Nike gave me a pair of Nike Frees to evaluate, and ran in them for less than a mile, wore them once to a restaurant, then I gave them away. I have little need for footwear, especially for running! But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about putting some protection on my soles.
When I could see worn spots on the balls of my feet in the weeks before my first barefoot road marathon in January 1999 (I had completed one road marathon in shoes a decade before, and another marathon and a 50K, both barefoot on trails in 1998), the idea of painting rubber cement on the balls of my feet – did cross my mind. But, I am also a procrastinator. Instead of trying to repair my feet, I simply ran even more gently, which got me through the marathon in personal record time, and with no apparent damage to my soles.
But, I do live in Southern California where it rarely gets below the 40s (Farenheit).
Dave Wright, a New Orleans architect, started running at age thirty-three in 1998, built up quickly, and completed a couple of marathons. But by 2003, wracked by a painful iliotibial band, he started doing some research. “I saw that the fast guys were using racing flats,” he says, “so I dumped my big cushions, did New York pain free that fall, and qualified for Boston at Chicago at 3:14 in 2004.
“But by then I developed a bad case of plantar fasciitis. That was the last straw. I decided to go full-time barefoot.” Trouble is, Dave was living in North Carolina, where it gets to 24ºF (-4ºC) in winter.
I came across Plasti-Dip, a flexible, waterproof polyurethane paint used for coating metal
To get a proper shape, he had to paint it on the sock while wearing the socks and sitting
outside for 45 minutes, trying not to breathe the fumes. He experimented with different types—
cotton, nylon, polyester—before settling on a super-thin, skin-tight model that didn’t shift around on his foot. He made four pairs of gray socks with black Plasti-Dip, all washable and re-coatable.
“It wasn’t exactly barefoot, but still way thinner than Vibrams,” he says. “And the reaction from other runners was almost the same as being barefoot.”
He used the sock runners until the weather warmed, then switched to barefoot.