One of the best things about blogging is meeting other people with similar interests and making new friends. Jessica has been reading RowdyKittens for a while and I'm thrilled she agreed to write a guest post about her barefoot running adventures. Jessica is a writer, photographer and blogs at chesapeake.
I used to think that some people were made to run more than others. That marathons were for super-humans with a penchant for pain. Besides, I always looked funny running. I thus left the task of traveling great distances by foot to those better equipped for it.
At least I thought that until my mom, also a non-runner, gave me Born to Run, a book written by Chris McDougall. Chris is a journalist and amateur runner who was interested in answering the question of why he was constantly getting injured while running. He found the answer in the form of history: all of us were literally born to run as we are. And we were born to run barefoot.
I was skeptical at first. Running shoes are made for running, how can they be bad? Everyone wears them! But by the end of the book, I was convinced: our feet are magnificent works of engineering evolution. Did you know that the running shoe industry is one of the only industries in history that created a product we “needed?” The product and the market is completely manufactured by the man who invented the product. And that there are zero scientific studies to show that running shoes enhance athletic performance and decrease injury? It's true. But there are many studies showing that running shoes make our bodies work unnecessarily harder and make us exponentially more prone to injury.
Not only was barefoot running supposed to be more efficient, it was supposed to be more fun. I knew that if any one could disprove the “fun” theory, it would be me. It turns out, I didn’t. A quarter of a mile into my maiden barefoot voyage, I realized that my face felt odd. I was smiling. Smiling while running. I can say, without a doubt, that it was the first time that I had ever smiled while doing exercise of any kind. My breathing was easy, my form was upright, and I was having fun. By the end of my first week, I was running eight tenths of a mile at a time. It may not sound like much, but for someone who never exercises, it was.
There was one glitch: I ran so much, so soon, that I injured myself. The great thing about barefoot running is that it allows you to be highly attuned to the signals of your body. The bad thing about a life spent ignoring said pain while exercising means that I wasn’t used to listening to my body. The best advice I have is start slow. Take off your shoes and walk around the house barefoot for a few weeks. Mix it up by walking in grass, gravel, and over concrete to get your feet used to different surfaces. Let your foot muscles build up over time.
Patience is absolutely key. Once you are ready to run, study up on proper form. There is one site in particular with great information on this, or if you live in the Seattle area, look up Barefoot Ted for a coaching session. Remember not to increase your running mileage too quickly, either. Listen to your body. If it hurts, stop and adjust your form. Take rest days. It’s like learning to walk again.
Push past the fear, toss the shoes, and do it. You were made for it.