Maybe I drank the Kool-Aid or hopped the bandwagon when it comes to barefoot running after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. There is a lengthy and interesting discussion of why to run barefoot over the science behind those high priced Nike, Asiacs, Brooks and other running shoes people cram their feet into. I found the words very interesting and looked at how I could incorporate barefoot running or almost barefoot running into my regime.
As I found out the hard way, it takes time to transition from high dollar running shoes to barefoot running. After a 5 mile run a few weeks back I decided to take my shoes and socks off and jog home, the distance was less than a mile. I didn’t take into consider the temperature of the sidewalk and street. By the time I got home I had 6 blisters on my feet. Stupid!
I continued to read about barefoot running and the Tarahumara of the northwestern Mexico and found a few companies who sold huaraches similar to what theses native American used. While I couldn’t justify the price, which was actually quite affordable, I wondered what material I had at home I could use to make my own. After a few weeks of playing around I decided to purchase my first pair of Xero Shoes.
My sandals arrived on Wednesday, sat down and removed my flip flops and got ready to lace and tie my new Xero Shoes. I ordered the Do-It-Yourself Xero Shoes Kit that came complete with sole, laces and a hole punch. I decided on black soles with black laces and the only hole you were required to punch was between the toes depending on how your foot fit. Thankfully I did not have to trim my soles, they fit my foot nearly perfect.
Next it was to push the laces through the out heel hole in preparation to tie the shoes around the foot. Thanks to the You Tube videos on how to accomplish this, it took me about 5 minutes to get the right sandal tied onto my foot. I quickly followed with the left foot and was ready to run…almost barefoot. There are numerous ways to accomplish the tying, I went with a minimalist style that remains on the foot and doesn’t climb the ankle.
It would be another day before I ran in the sandals. I did however take a quick run up and down the street, but it really didn’t prepare for my first run. I wore the sandals the rest of the day in order for my feet to comfortable on these 6mm thick rubber soles. Overall they felt good, but the rubbing was causing some pre-existing blisters to hurt.
Thursday came and I was anxious to get out the run…almost barefoot. Then again getting out and running anytime is always enjoyable. Today was going to be something special or so I thought. I walked out the front door was was planning on 5 miles, but settled on 2 miles in the end. These sandals require a transition period. I had started working around the house in flip flops and barefeet in order to toughen my feet for just this day. Unfortunately it was not enough. I started off at an 8 min/mile pace, the temperature was in the high 80s and we had a breeze blowing east.
It’s a completely different feeling running almost barefoot, I didn’t know what to expect. During a previous reading session I read about trying to land on your forefoot instead of your heal because of all the pressure put on your knees. Having 2 knee surgeries I hoped to avoid any further complications. So one day I took off at a moderate pace running on my toes (or forefoot). The next day I could hardly walk. My calves were burning and in pain from the shock treatment they had undergone for 3 miles. Yesterday was a similar experience, although I did not expect this sort of pain. I figured I was past this pain stage as I favor running on forefoot and had not experienced any since the first week I ran this way, which was a few months ago.
I will have another period in which to break in the sandals and acclimate my feet to running almost barefoot. I won’t be able to break out and do 10 miles on the weekend. The calf pain I can deal with, but its the blisters I must work to keep under control. Right now I will cover them with a band-aid or pad in order to prevent them further irritation. Not sure I will have much luck as these blisters are on the lower pads of my toes (2 on each foot). These were originally caused by my $120 pair of Brooks Ghost 5 I bought as my first pair of running shoes. They have never gone away.
I received quite a few comments on Facebook about my “new shoes” from friends and family. The comments varied from “Those are awesome!” to “Why is Steve wearing girl shoes???” Not to mention comments about Jesus (if I would have kept the long hair) and parting the Red Sea. Sure it’s unique maybe really out there, especially if you don’t run to see an individual with sandals laced up running. While I can’t swear by it…yet…I plan on running with these sandals instead of investing in another pair of running shoes. Hopefully over the next few months I am strengthen my legs and feet and get to a point where I reap the rewards of running almost barefoot.