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!

Advertisements

Did Humans Evolve To Run On Pavement?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

One of the major barriers to the uptake of barefoot running is the perception that humans weren’t meant to run on flat, hard surfaces, such as paved streets. I’ve been asked this question countless times, and though I know it not to be true from personal experience, it’s often hard to convince people otherwise.

I spent a bit of time this weekend researching the subject, and discovered, that like all thing barefoot, there is precious little research on the matter. I did, however unearth a small study from 2000[1] that examined this question for shod heel-to-toe runners.

What it found was that there was no significant increase in the forces applied to the body due to the change in terrain. Interestingly, however, it also found that on harder surfaces, such as asphalt, that there is a reduction in loading rate.

Basically what this means is that as the surface becomes harder, the body adapts its form to compensate for it, allowing the knees to absorb the shock a little bit more gradually.

What I fiind fascinating about this is not only that the body can, and does, adapt to its surroundings, but that it also still manages to do this in shoes. The loading rate reduction is very reminiscent of Daniel Lieberban’s study[2] from 2010 that found a similar reflex in barefoot runners.

Of course these studies are very small and I would LOVE to see some proper, large-scale studies into some of the more common barefoot running questions, but at this point, all signs seem to be pointing towards us being evolved running machines that are well and truly able to adapt to all kinds of terrain (barefoot or otherwise).

References

1. Dixon SJ, Collop AC, Batt ME, (2000) Surface effects on ground reaction forces and lower extremity kinematics in running. Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Exeter, United Kingdom http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11079523

2. Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D’Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang’eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. (2010) Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463: 531-5. http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/Nature2010_FootStrikePatternsandCollisionForces.pdf

Have you checked us out on Facebook yet?