Hot-footing It: How I Finally Learned How To Run Barefoot

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

As a change from the usual advice and reviews, I thought it would be nice to tell you a story. Most people that you talk to who took up barefoot running later in life will tell you about a ‘eureka’ moment, when the whole thing finally clicked into place, and running barefoot became fun, pleasurable, ad something they would strive to keep up forever. What follows is how the penny finally dropped for me, after a couple of months of full barefoot running.

When I was first learning to run barefoot, it was hot. Really hot. Australia hot.
Normally I would do my running in the very early morning, when the ground would still
be wet from the previous night’s end-of-hot-day storm. The coolness of the ground was
lovely, and made running a pleasure.

Then I decided to go for an afternoon run.

It was about 30 degrees Celsius out (~85F), and the ground had been hammered by the hot sun all morning. As soon as I stepped out my front door, I knew that this run would be
a short one.

I started to run, and as I stepped, I swear I could feel the blisters starting to form
on my feet. After only a few metres, I was already thinking about turning around and
heading home.

Then something strange happened.

I started stepping really quickly. I don’t think I was consciously doing it, rather my
body had overridden my mind and was running on its own. With each step, I only touched the ground for a fraction of a second, then whipped it up so that it wouldn’t linger on the hot pavement. I was taking a lot of very short, very quick steps.

Then the strangest thing happened. It stopped hurting. The blistering sensation went
away, replaced by a cooling breeze under my feet, caused by the action of my stride. I
was moving quickly and lightly, and it felt like everything just clicked into place.

I ran a lot more afternoon runs that summer, and even did my first barefoot 10k race in 34 degree heat. I’ve never blistered since, and my form improved dramatically, even on the colder days.

The funny thing with barefoot running is that it’s often the discomfort that makes us better runners. It’s tempting to do every run in shoes (minimal or otherwise), but if you really want to learn how to run better, there’s no substitute for taking off your shoes.

How about you? did you have a ‘eureka’ moment? Still looking for yours? Leave a comment!

Running Shouldn’t Hurt

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

If I had a nickel for every article I’ve seen or every quote I’ve heard that talks about how running is “all about conquering pain”, I’d be able to buy a pair of minimal shoes in Australia.

Running should be a pleasant and fun experience. Sure, there will be times when you want to push through fatigue or need to walk off a stitch, but on the whole, you shouldn’t be hurting when you run.

I think that this perception of overcoming pain contributes greatly to the incredibly high injury rates we see among runners (30-80%, almost the rates of the current Xarelto class actions lawsuit info about injured people). Rather than stepping back and asking themselves why they hurt, in many cases runners will try to push through it, often with disastrous effects.

This marginalising of your body’s response to injury is present across the board, and can even be found in some barefoot running circles (albeit on a much smaller scale).

The fact is that pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. More often than not, if you listen to what your body is trying to tell you, you can correct the problem before it gets any worse, and it will stop being a problem for you going forward.

As with everything, there are edge-cases, such as Olympic performances, where overdoing it may get you that little bit closer to the podium. Sure, this will work, but it will ultimately catch up to the runner, and may even end in an unecessarily early retirement due to injury.

Barefoot running is all about getting in touch with your body and learning what it tries to teach you. We all have inside us the tools and instincts required to be phenomenal runners. All we need to do is pay attention!

A Simple Way To Ease Sore Calves And Achilles’ Pain

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

When I was first learning to run in Vibrams, I, like nearly every other minimalist runner I’ve met, was plagued with sore calves and mild Achilles tendonitis. I knew I should have started slowly and not tried to do too much too soon, but I just couldn’t resist.  Though it was a painful endeavour, I did manage to learn about a great exercise at that time that really helped.

So, if you’ve found yourself in this situation or want to avoid going through the pain, I’ve got the workout for you, and it’s as simple as anything!

To start off, remove your shoes (of course) and find a step of some sort. You’ll want something a good few inches off the ground and sturdy enough to hold your weight. Stairs are ideal.

Place your feet on the step so that your forefeet are resting at the edge of the step and your heels are hanging off.

Now, keeping your knees locked and your body nice and straight, slowly dip your heels as low as they can go. You should feel a nice stretch in your Achilles tendons. Try not to bounce, and ensure that your descent is nice and controlled. It should take about 3 seconds for your heels to reach their lowest point.

Pause at the bottom for a couple of seconds, then lift your heels slowly up again, and keep lifting until your heels are as high as they’ll go. You should now feel your calves starting to kick in. Again, this should take about 3 seconds.

Pause again at the top and lower your heels back down. Repeat this 10 times for a pre-run stretch (this is the only stretch I recommend before a run).And another 10 times when you get back.

You can also use this exercise as a great lower leg strengthener, as it uses muscles from your toes up to your knees. Before you do your first barefoot run, I’d recommend doing 4-5 sets of 10 reps of these daily for a week or two. By doing this, you’ll have much stronger feet when you start running than you would if you didn’t do it, which could save you a lot of discomfort.

Remember, this exercise is no substitute for slow transition or learning proper form, but it will give you a little bit of an edge in preventing some serious discomfort.

Have you tried this before? How did you like it? Did it make any difference for you? Leave a comment!