Reading ‘Born to run’ from Christopher MacDougall sparked the strong desire in me to run 100 miles, barefoot, through scrub land. The further I read, the more I could see myself running through desert, forest, farmland, with bare feet and only a tiny water bottle in my hand. Unfortunately at that point I made only 10 miles, shoed, through New York City. After which a week-long recovery was necessary.
But you’ve got to start somewhere, I thought and ran down a block on 11th Street, barefoot, just to see how it goes. And, felt quite weird. Is everybody looking at me? What if I hit my toes, step in dog poo/pee, glass, get arrested, break my leg? The surface of the side walk felt kind of nice though. Rough, but warm, dusty, but smooth. Memories of 6th grade summer vacation flooded over me.
So I got some Vibram FiveFingers to train forefoot running. They looked like frog feet, which made me feel weird as well, and they do not have any cushion like regular sneakers. A totally untrained motion sequence was suddenly going on and my legs responded with the worst muscle soreness that lasted for weeks. Lesson learned: Don’t go crazy in the beginning.
But eventually I taught my muscles what a forefoot stride is and extended my training with FiveFingers and barefoot slowly over the next few month. The barefoot parts were the biggest fun! A so far undiscovered layer of New York City opened up for me. Cold, glossy floor tiles of World Financial Center; tender, well-worn timber surface of Brooklyn Bridge; lawn of Central Park and my home trail on Williamsburg Bridge. A new connection between me and the City, which I thought I’d known in and out already.
Yes! Many people looked quite surprised. Some even pointed out that I didn’t wear shoes. Thanks for letting me know, guys! Many pictures were taken of my feet as I was running with a big smile across Brooklyn Bridge. I felt weird often because I was the only weird person running around in the big city without shoes. At least it felt like I’m the only one. Until I found the Barefoot Runner Group on meetup.com with more than 700 barefoot running members.
And No! I never stepped into poo/pee, glass because running barefoot requires attention for every step. I was not arrested nor broke a leg or anything else and didn’t hit my toes.
A great book for the start and later is Barefoot Running written by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee.
It’s not really barefoot running, but consider Vibram FiveFingers for your initial forefoot stride training. You can train the muscles without having the unfamiliar surface on your bare soles. They offer many different types. Important is that the size is right. Try them in a store to make sure they fit perfectly. There are also toe socks available.
Start slowly. Have fun! 🙂