I have only witnessed a dozen or so foot races. That is – since high school, but in nine (at least) of those races did one of the participants remove their shoes.
I was raised in the south of Georgia and in our once small town there wasn’t much asphalt. I am fortunate to remember walking everywhere possible barefoot, even in the grocery store. Wore shoes for school, church, trips to “town”, & scout meets – that’s about it. With my personality, that has held strong throughout my adult life by shunning shoes as much as possible.
I got to wondering earlier, about barefoot running and then of natural gait/stride.
- I wonder about natural gait. How is the way you run with a shoe ever natural? Try running like you have shoes as barefoot; that’s not gonna last long
If I were to begin running at all, it will be barefoot or at worst in thick socks or moccasins or vibram toe shoes. My last experience of training for running has been around 13 years and I only made it to 3 miles in a half hour. Shin splints deter me. There is so much impact in running with shoes. When barefoot, the whole step sequence changes. The ankle, knee, all the bones in between, and the toes all act as a team to soften the blow. My stride is short and fast in my skin instead of long and slow with bounding leaps. As bare, I don’t really get much air at a normal pace due to short step and watchful placement of foot on ground instead of the runner’s view of a fixed point on the horizon – wouldn’t want to step on glass — or dog poo.
Looking back on this I failed to say how I know that anyone and especially myself- having never attempted running regularly- would have to work up their actual natural gait and bounce as a barefoot runner.
For all the soft soled folks I knew growing up, they couldn’t wrap their minds around how I could step on a week old green pine cone while barefoot without grimacing –Much less an acorn. Anything over the roughness of pinestraw or old leaves hurt. They had their whole foot-life gently wrapped in a cozy, fluffy sock and encased with a hardened shell, tough enough to keep out all elements except sweat and odor.
For these poor soles, if they happen to already have an established running mode, let’s assume they have a baseline of agility, stamina, etc for a 10k runner. They would have to cut way way back and learn to run on the toes instead of landing on the heel. The stride –chopped in half, their posture changed, the standard used muscles change to resist shock at all costs versus absorbtion of shock. The eye level changes to watch your step more. Especially in the beginning with low agile feet. The bare foot is an agile creature that has ability to dodge obstacles as it steps on them. But as untrained, it catches every pebble in its path. The pad of the foot will need to be built up and the runner will have to build resistance to pain. They need calusses and individual toe muscles that never got used. There will need to be a good training of self-foot massage and adding extra flexibility.
I would love to assist a runner with the transition one day. I really don’t know how well barefeet would fair on a long road race on asphalt. Perhaps by using several pairs of socks that get trashed throughout the race. Or mainstream toe shoes–who knows?