Running Barefoot

Posted: September 10, 2010 in Posts

After the skin peels off the bottom of your big toes for the second time, it starts to get a lot better.

I was part of a brief aside on a discussion of sprints on the Dan John Q&A forum. Another of the members mention that he swears his feet have changed shape since he started running barefoot. It’s something I hadn’t mentioned, because it sounds a little crazier than usual, but I also feel my feet are much different now that I’ve run, and almost lived, barefoot for several months.

I’d like to define something here. Barefoot means as close to it as possible. If I walked around literally barefoot there are a number of establishments I’d be unwelcome in. Steel toed boots are required at my work. Barefoot means vibram five fingers in most cases, or converse all stars. It means those boots come off every chance I get and are laced and tied as loose as possible. It means my foot is allowed to flex and work naturally.

Speaking of those boots. I used to love a pair of snug fitting, well padded, supportive boots laced down nice and tight. Now, that feels like hell. My feet cramp, pressure points get rubbed in odd places and I can’t seem to get them broken in. My latest pair of running shoes, laced with bungie cord, feel a little too tight even with the spring of the bungie.

I’m a classic over-pronator, flat footed as you can get. However, I swear I’m developing an arch. My foot is wider through the arch than it used to be, but less of it seems to touch the ground. It seems to push the material in the arch area of my shoe out more than it used to. Literally, my foot is a different shape than it used to be. The last time I bought shoes I had to by a half size bigger. It could be the brand, or it could be a bigger foot.

There were bad times for me. After the first two weeks, I had really overloaded my feet. I should have taken a break (See my last post on lifter lazy for information about rest). For a few weeks I really thought I had traded my knee pain for foot pain. Yes, the skin has peeled off my toes a couple of times. It’s all dead callused skin. The calluses on my hands tend to peel too. Yours may not. Getting used to running barefoot is a process and four months into it I think I’m still in the middle.

But my feet are both healthier and fitter today than they were four months ago. I feel they can bear more weight in the weight room and handle greater impact in other activities. I have no numbers to prove it, but I feel my vertical jump has picked up some.

Go to the store, buy some chucks or a pair of aqua socks for less than you’d spend at the bar on Saturday night and run in them for a while. Stay up on the balls of you feet. See what happens. It might be crazy, but it also might work.


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