The Embarassing State Of Barefoot/Minimal Running

By Barefoot Dawsy

I’ve been running barefoot now for four years, and blogging about it for two. I admit that I started out, alongside many others, after reading the now famous book ‘Born To Run’.

At that time, the barefoot running resurgence was just starting out, amid criticism of the large shoe companies. The majority of this criticism was centred on the question of whether or not they were misleading the public as to the safety that their shoes provided.

There was an interesting study that came out of Newcastle University[1], in Australia, which basically stated that despite a huge and time-consuming search, there was no evidence that the pronation and motion control features of modern running shoes had any benefit at all.

This questioning of a hitherto nearly universally accepted truth was one of the fundamental drivers for the barefoot/minimal revolution, which saw the exponential rise of the minimal shoe, and the unprecedented uptake of barefoot/minimal running.

Here was our chance. There was a vacuum of useful, relevant data and proper studies, which was damning in its absence. The shoe companies were lying to us, and we were all being played for fools.

I, like many others, embraced the new style of running, and waited impatiently for the inevitable mountain of studies and evidence demonstrating the superiority of barefoot running.

It never came.

In fact, just recently a new study did come out[2], and it was woefully reminiscent of the Newcastle study. This one, however, tells the story of a lack of evidence that barefoot running has any benefits at all. It points to the few studies that exist, most (all?) of which are poorly crafted, and even unscientific.

Barefoot had a chance to become something more than a fad, and become the next big thing in running. Instead, its legacy is more overpriced shoes with questionable usefulness in injury prevention.

So, what do we do now? We can’t sit back and hope that somebody, somewhere manages to get the funding together to put together a clever, well-crafted study. Or hope that someone publishes one that proves conclusively, one way or the other, which style is better. 

What we can do is to take responsibility for our own testing and assessment of whichever style of shoe, or lack thereof that, we choose. We need to stop looking to major corporations to hand us the magic pill that will stop us getting injured. We need to take the time to learn how our own bodies want to move, and what style of running feels right, whether shod or unshod.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in running. Each of us has slightly different styles, preferences, pain thresholds, etc, so it’s on us as individuals to intelligently weigh up the options and make the best choice for ourselves.

What brought you to try barefoot running? Have you got any views on how the scientific community or running shoe industry are handling things? Let us know in the comments!


[1] C E Richards, P J Magin and R Callister. 2008. Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?, Br J Sports Med 2009 43: 159-162 originally published online April 18, 2008 (doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.046680)

[2] Hall JP, Barton C, Jones PR, Morrissey D., 2013. The biomechanical differences between barefoot and shod distance running: a systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2013 Dec;43(12):1335-53. (doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0084-3)(Pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23996137)

Micro-runs…A Better Way To Transition To Barefoot?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Arguably the hardest part of transitioning from shod to barefoot running is not the discomfort, or form changes, or any of the usual worries that new runners have. No, the hardest part is keeping your mileage low and easing into it. It is so hard to keep to a low-mileage regime, since barefoot running just feels so good and right, and makes you want to keep going!

The trouble with overdoing it is that if your body’s not used to barefoot running, you can run into some trouble, and in some cases may even get injured. There are a lot of tips and tricks out there on how to ease into it gently, but we all know that the reality is most people will just get out there and run too far too soon. It’s human nature.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and having recently recovered from a trampoline-related stress fracture, I’ve had a unique opportunity to re-transition to barefoot running from scratch. After a bit of experimentation, I think I’ve come up with the ultimate solution to the problem.

I call them Micro-runs.

Micro-runs are very short, very easy runs that you do wearing your everyday clothes. All you need to do is take off your shoes and run 50-200m. You don’t need to sprint or break any records. Just do a quick out-and-back at a leisurely pace, staying nice and relaxed, and listening to your body.

It’s that simple.

Don’t get into your workout gear, don’t worry about planning routes, and don’t worry about time or pace, or any of the usual distractions that tend to come with most running programs. Just do this once or twice every day for a few weeks, and reap the benefits.

There are several reasons why the micro-run approach is different to most other transitioning techniques, and why this makes them so much more effective while reducing the chance of injuries from doing too much too soon.

The first is that very few people feel comfortable sweating a lot in their non-workout clothes. Going out in your regular clothes will help you keep your sessions short and relaxed, which is exactly what you want to do when transitioning.

The second is that you can literally do them anywhere: on your commute home, on the way to the shops. Even on the way to the car (my favourite). Just nip up to the end of the block and back again before you head out!

Lastly, it lets you fit in more exercises than you probably otherwise would, since you don’t have the time overhead of getting your running gear together, or the pressure to stay out longer once you are fully dressed. You can even do more than one a day if your feet are up to it!

Micro-runs are a great way to supplement your existing training, and can give you a great indication of how well your feet are acclimating to being barefoot. After each run, pay attention to how your feet feel. At first they may feel a bit raw or tender. Wait for this feeling to subside before doing another micro-run.

I found that doing these, in conjunction with being barefoot at home, and elsewhere as often as possible, made the transition nearly painless and a lot more comfortable. Within a few weeks, I was ready to start running a kilometre or two a couple times per week, and have built up from there.

I’d highly recommend giving micro-runs a go if you’re new to barefoot running, or if you suspect you might be susceptible to overdoing it. I’d love to hear how you go, so if you try it, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you’ve found it!

Happy running!

Review: Merrell Trail Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell1As far as I’m concerned, 2013 is the year of trail running. Trails offer such a great opportunity to improve your technique and become a better, stronger runner.

One thing I have discovered along the way, however, is that some trails are better tackled with some footwear. Where I live, there are a lot of trails, and many of them are barefoot-friendly. However, there are certain tracks that, unless I want to pick my way slowly and painfully, I prefer to do in minimal footwear.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to try out a pair of Merrell’s Trail Glove.

Merrell2The Trail Glove is part of the Barefoot series of shoes that Merrell have become famous for over the past couple of years. Unlike some of the other shoes in the line however, the Trail Glove includes several features that make trail running a little bit easier on the soles, even if they do sacrifice some of the barefoot feel that the other shoes offer.

 

Looks

Merrell3One thing that I noticed straight out of the box is that these are some nice-looking shoes. They have a well-put-together appearance, and there’s no question that the design team spent a lot of time thinking about this aspect of the shoes.

Merrell4

 

 

What I really liked is that despite having a large toe box, the shoes don’t have the ‘clown shoe’ appearance of some other shoes I’ve tried out with the same feature. This is a real plus.

 

 

 

Construction

Merrell5The Trail Glove’s uppers are made of a very lightweight, breathable mesh, which is attractive and functional. It is one of my favourite features of the shoe as it is very comfortable and allows ample air to flow in and out of the shoe (a necessity when going sockless).

Merrell6The soles of these shoes are a little bit thicker, creeping in towards the 10mm mark. This is the upper end of thickness that I prefer in a shoe, but it is a huge help on the tough trails. Made by Vibram, they feature a reasonably aggressive tread, and a contoured design.

Merrell10Merrell9With the thicker sole usually comes rigidity, however these soles have been designed in such a way as to allow a fair bit of flexibility. This flexibility is mainly uni-directional however. I could lift my toes up without any trouble, though bending downwards meets a bit of resistance. For a road shoe, this is not normally a problem, however I did find it a little bit restrictive on some trails.

The shoe does not contain any insole. Instead, the interior of the shoe is seamless and very foot-friendly. This was a nice surprise, and is typically a sign of good design and construction.

Performance

We’ve had some pretty variable weather here in Sydney lately, so my poor Trail Gloves have been through a bit of everything. On the whole, I was very pleased with their performance.

Merrell7Where the Trail Glove shone, in my opinion, is wet weather. The tread pattern is medium-aggressive, and held on well, even in slick conditions. The mesh uppers allow water to flow in and out without much trouble, allowing my feet to dry out pretty well.

I found that I needed to take them off ever half hour or so to let me feet dry out a bit, but I never got any blisters from them, which is a good sign.

The wide toe box was a pleasure and went a long way to providing a comfortable ride.

Merrell8If there was one aspect of the shoe that I didn’t like, it was the sole’s built-in arch. It’s quite rigid, and I was aware of it the whole time I was running. I felt that it was a bit too long for my foot, and caused a little bit of discomfort. I’d love to see this feature removed in future versions of the shoe, as it did detract from the overall enjoyment of wearing these shoes.

That being said, I did have a good time testing these shoes out, and it’s always a big plus when a pair of minimal shoes is socially acceptable in the looks department. I’ve had several strangers comment on them, and they have been included in my ‘going-out’ pile of shoes, as well as having a place in my trail running kit.

It’s great to see high-quality minimal shoes finally start to take off in Australia, and I look forward to seeing what Merrell will be coming up with down the track.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing a pair of Trail Gloves for review. To find out more, visit the Merrell website, download the Barefoot Challenge app, and/or visit your local retailer!

Join Us On #BareChat Tonight (Plus Earth Runners Giveaway!)

#BareChatOn Wednesday, January 9th, at 7pm Mountain Time (GMT-6) BeginningBarefoot.com will be hosting #BareChat!

What’s #BareChat you ask? Well, it’s a chance for barefoot twitterers to connect with one another, share experiences, answer some questio

So how does it work?

At 7pm (MST) on the 9th of January (tonight!) head onto your favourite Twitter client and search for hashtag #BareChat.

@BarefootDawsy will be asking a series of questions about your experiences in barefoot running. To join the conversation, just add #BareChat to any of your tweets, and they’ll show up as part of the search results.

EarthRunners_logoTo kick off the first #BareChat of 2013, we’re giving away a unique prize – a pair of EartherRunners sandals. These sandals are specifically designed to allow a runner to remain connected to the earth via conductive materials. If you’re at all interested in ‘Earthing‘ then these are the perfect shoes for you. If you’ve never heard of Earthing before, then come along to #BareChat where we’ll be talking about what it is, what the skeptics say, and how it fits in with barefoot running.

Earth-Runners4

All you need to do to enter is to participate in the #BareChat conversation tonight!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or hit me up on Twitter (@BarefootDawsy).

See you there!

We’re always looking for new questions to ask during #BareChat, and for sponsors for our giveaways. Please email me if you you think you can help!

Thanks For A Great Year!

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

It was a year ago today that I hit Submit on the first ever Beginning Barefoot post. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredible people, try out some awesome gear, and learn more about barefoot running then I could have imagined.

So, to celebrate Beginning Barefoot’s birthday, it seemed fitting to say a big THANK YOU to all the people who have helped make this year a great one.

First off, I’d like to thank all of those companies and individuals that were generous enough to offer their time and provide samples to review on this site.

Of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without all of you out there reading the articles and following Beginning Barefoot on Facebook and Twitter.

To all of you wonderful people, thank you!

 

Join Beginning Barefoot and Sockwa Tonight on #BareChat!

#BareChatOn Wednesday, November 21st, at 8pm Mountain Time (GMT-6) BeginningBarefoot.com will be hosting #BareChat! What’s #BareChat you ask? Well, it’s a chance for barefoot twitterers to connect with one another, share experiences, answer some questions, and win some prizes! #BareChat will be held every second Wednesday night at 8pm Mountain Time (GMT – 6 hours), starting October 24th 2012. So how does it work? At 8pm on the 21st of November, head onto your favourite Twitter client and search for hashtag #BareChat. @BarefootDawsy will be asking a series of questions about your experiences in barefoot running. To join the conversation, just add #BareChat to any of your tweets, and they’ll show up as part of the search results. Sockwa LogoWe’ve teamed up with Sockwa and will be giving away a fabulous outdoor activity pack! The pack contains a pair of Sockwa G2 or G3s, a Sockwa hat, sunscreen and stickers! All you need to do to enter is to participate in the #BareChat conversation on November 21st! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here, or hit me up on Twitter (@BarefootDawsy). See you there! We’re always looking for new questions to ask during #BareChat, and for sponsors for our giveaways. Please email me if you you think you can help!

Is It Time To Start Running In A Sport Kilt?

Written by BarefootDawsy

Sport KiltIf you’re like most people, then chances are you’ve never had the opportunity, nor the inclination, to run without pants on. I was in the same boat only a few short weeks ago, before the opportunity presented itself, and I was able to try it for myself.

Luckily for the general public, this came in the form of a pleated length of plaid fabric, otherwise know as a kilt! Or, in my case, a Sport Kilt.

When I first heard about kilted running, I thought that the idea was a bit
crazy. I’ve worn kilts before, and the idea of running around with a couple kilos of
heavy wool around my waist was far from appealing. But when I heard that a
US company was making lightweight, sweat-wicking kilts as activewear, I knew
I had to try one out.

The Works Sport KiltAs a barefoot runner, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a bit different to most people. I take my running very seriously and came to barefooting as a way to improve performance and stay healthy.

It took a bit of a leap to make the transition to barefoot running, but in the end, it has been rewarding and exhilarating. I’m finding the same thing with wearing a kilt.

I live in Australia, where the summers are hot, and winter is only a mild improvement. Finding ways to stay cool is a constant challenge, especially when coupled with the need to stay protected from UV rays, etc. Sport Kilt has given me a great new tool in my arsenal to help with this.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to review 2 different styles of kilt: A Hiking kilt and a ‘The Works’ kilt.

Sport Kilt - Hiking KiltThe Hiking kilt is a lightweight, athletic kilt that’s as minimal as a kilt can be. It’s essentially a piece of pleated fabric that wraps around you and is secured with thick velcro around the waist. The velcro makes it really easy to get on and off, and will come in handy when I have to let it out over the holidays!

Sport Kilt - The WorksThe Works kilt is a slightly thicker, dressier version of the hiking kilt. It has sewn-down pleats which improve the way the kilt hangs, and lend it a more fancy feel. It has lovely leather straps and metal buckles, as well as the hidden velcro fasteners, that make it look more authentic and dressy. On top of all this, it even has nice hidden pocket! I would wear my Works kilt to a wedding or formal occasion just as easily as I’d go hiking in it.

For testing, I’ve worn both, mainly for trail hiking and running, and usually in warm weather.

I found that performance-wise, the hiking kilt was much better for trail running. It’s very lightweight and super comfortable. The only real drawback I’ve found is that I’m reluctant to sit down in it, as I don’t want to get it dirty…though this makes me run more, so may not be a bad thing.

The Works Sport Kilt BucklesThe Works kilt is a more formal, yet still rugged kilt, that would be well suited to tournaments and spectator sports. I can see highland gamers wearing these, for example. As the weather cools off, I can see myself wearing my Works kilt more and more for hikes as it sits a bit nicer and is slightly heavier than the Hiking kilt.

Running in a kilt is to running in pants what running barefoot is to wearing shoes. It’s cool, and airy and makes you feel alive and in touch with the elements. I’ve yet to try it in the cold, so I can’t comment on the inverse conditions, but for the heat, it’s been a godsend.

There is a perception that wearing a kilt comes with a lot of baggage that may put you off. What if you’re not Scottish, or want to wear something underneath?

The truth is that this stuff is only an issue if you choose to make it one. If you’re Scottish and want to show off your heritage, then go for it, if not, there’s nothing stopping you from picking a pattern you like and running with it. You don’t even need to go plaid, as Sport Kilt also have a bunch of camouflage kilts too. As for what to wear underneath, that’s up to you, and regardless of what you do or don’t wear, it won’t stop people from trying to guess!

The thing is, a Sport Kilt is just like any other piece of running gear. You put it on, and go do your thing. It doesn’t matter if you want to wear compression tights underneath, or if you don’t have a family tartan. If it feels good and you like how it looks, then just wear it!

Sport Kilt Tartan Black Stewart

Altogether, I was really surprised at how well the Sport Kilts felt. They were light and airy, and did the job of keeping me cool beautifully.

Despite being made of high-tech materials, these kilts come in at a fraction of the cost of a traditional kilt (starting from ~$80). If you’re a barefoot runner, the money you’re saving on shoes would be well spent on one of these.

Will I wear it for every training run? Probably not, but it’s become one of my go-to trail running outfits, and will certainly feature prominently in future races!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Sport Kilt for providing sample kilts for review. If you’re interested in trying one out yourself, head over to SportKilt.com and check them out! 

All photos taken by Sam Dumworth