Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Barefoot running revisited

I taught COM 1200 over the second summer session - Foundations of Human Communication.  We used Cass Sunstein's book " 2.0" for class discussion. The premise of his book is that the Internet has led many citizens to filter news to suit their personal preferences, which leads to polarization.  Instead of clustering out at the far left or far right, Sunstein suggests that we need "town square" style public debate, where unplanned encounters with various points of view occur.

So in that ilk, I'm going to revisit the barefoot running debate here within the master competitor forum, where debate is open and discourse runs rampant.  A regular reader, Susan Kilroy, from, contacted me. She'd like to throw the door open with so I said what the hay, let's do it!

This piece comes with ample advice on how to slam your feet against the pavement without protection (do I sound unreceptive here?).  Here's one gem I want to address:

Don’t let other people’s ignorance set you back: Running barefoot is still a new concept in the Western world, and some critics — including your friends and family — might think it’s gross, obscene, stupid, dangerous or just too granola. Don’t let their prejudices and ignorance intimidate you. Explain to friends why you choose to run barefoot, and ignore everyone else.

I wouldn't consider my position on barefoot running a prejudice, or originating in ignorance.  I don't think it's obscene or stupid.  Yes, if you choose to attempt a technical ultradistance race on rough trail while barefoot, it may be dangerous.  And I happen to like granola, so I don't know what that has to do with trashing your barefoot feet.

Hey, like most everything else in life, it's a choice.  I also realize I'm not a cutting edge dude who's onto each new trend.  I know what works and I repeat it, again and again.  In that case of endurance sport I've been repeating most of the same stuff for 27 years. It's me and my feet wrapped in Brooks shoes and away we go.

So I'm fine with throwing open the door to discussion.  Let's all be good citizens and examine every viewpoint.  If you're out there and have found barefoot running to be the answer-all in your life, drop a comment.  If you've exposed your tender little piggies and smashed them to a bloody pulp, let us know that also.  Barefoot ultrarunner and social cause fundraiser Matt Jenkins found barefoot running exhilarating - until a copperhead nicked him.  Maybe we should add that encounter to the "everything you need to know" arsenal.

1 comment:

  1. I took a ride on the barefoot bandwagon last fall. I bought two pair of VFF, and went on several runs with naked feet - even a 5-miler on a trail. While I appreciated the "being free" aspect of it, I still wanted more protection for my feet. My trails are rocky and rooty, and I like to run them fast and hard (I couldn't do this barefoot). The paved trails near me are splashed with loose gravel and all sorts of debris.

    But I did notice that my footstrike changed to more of a mid-foot/fore-foot strike than my previous heel strike. And my feet and lower legs gained noticeable strength in just a few weeks. And when I did run in shoes (which was still at least half of my training runs each week) I now knew what if felt like to have a more efficient footstrike, and I was able to duplicate it better.

    So while I knew I wanted more protection for my feet, I didn't want TOO much protection - I'd definitely saw benefits of more minimal running. So I've thrown out my Adrenalines and now I train only in lightweight, less "supportive" shoes: Racer ST 4 and Green Silence. And I generally only wear my Cascadias on the more gnarly trails. (2 of my trail ultras this year were done in Racer ST 4s.)

    But I haven't gotten rid of barefoot running completely, either. Mondays are my easy days, and I try to make it a barefoot or VFF day - but only in the park and only on 100% grass. I run 3-5 miles on these days, nice and easy, as a gentle reminder of the stride I want to run with.

    Scott Jurek mentioned after the WR 50 a couple weekends ago that Brooks is (finally) starting to work on a lighter weight trail shoe. I'm looking forward to this.