Why Barefoot?

I’ve been asked quite a few time why I decided to run barefoot.  After all, I don’t know anyone else who does and I live in Florida, land of creepy things to step on.

Well, last November I somehow hurt my hip and couldn’t run anymore. Heck, I could barely walk.  I don’t even know how I hurt it. Maybe it was running, maybe it was driving over 90 minutes each way to work or the combination of the two.  Maybe I was abducted by aliens, but whatever it was it was bad enough that I went to the doctors about it and that’s something I avoid probably a bit more than the average grown up.

While I was unable to run for a few endless weeks I started reading a lot more about running. I scoured the internet and even picked up a few books.  What causes hip injuries? How do I get rid of it? How do I not do whatever I did again?

I kept coming back to barefoot running. I picked up Ken Bob Saxton’s book, Barefoot Running Step by Step.  Really it didn’t sound all that different from how I already ran.  I knew not to heal strike and the rest just didn’t sound  like it would make that big of a difference. But the big thing that I read everywhere is that if you are running with bad form AND running barefoot you will feel it right away and adjust – not feel it after something was really hurt.

I had been unable to run more than about three steps without doing some serious injury, even after going off running and on some meds the doctor had given me for a while. I decided to give it an honest go, the right way. I started running just a quarter mile the first week.  It hurt.  Not my feet, my hips.  But not as much as before. and here is the kicker – after about my third quarter mile run it started hurting LESS. My hip actually started heeling after I started running again. Best of all? Although I have had a problem with my hips being sore for years, well before I even started running, they rarely bother me now. I think this also has to do with switching to a job that is half the drive.

Do I think running barefoot is for everyone? Maybe. I don’t think it is good for everyone to do exclusively. It does require the ability to set very small goals because jumping into it full steam is a recipe for disaster for most people.  It can heal one injury and cause another if you aren’t careful. The amount of people who toss off their shoes, go for a 5 mile run, and end up really injuring their achilles tendon is fairly high.

Since trying it out the first time (which was nothing like perfect) I’ve run very few times with shoes. It just works for me.

Have you ever tried barefoot running? Would you consider it as a supplemental ‘training’ portion of your regular runs?