Saturday, March 27, 2010

Running Barefoot on Sandpaper

I just returned from a 2.45 mile barefoot run on concrete sidewides and pedestrian paths. I had intended to go three miles but at 1.25 miles I thought to take a peek at the bottoms of my feet. The bottom of my big toe had a red raw area about twice the size of a pencil eraser head so with a mile and a quarter still to go I thought I better turn around. I made it back without doing too much additional damage. Once I was home and washed my feet I discovered that the skin of the big toes looked rather like fish scales; If I brushed the shreds all in one direction there was still skin everywhere. If I rubbed it the other way it was like opening the window blinds to reveal wet red velvet wallpaper.

What information can I take away from this? If you were to look at the bottom of any pair of running shoes I've had for any length of time you would see the sole worn down at the big toe, significantly more on the left foot, but there is wear on both. There are probably several ways I could interpret this. I could assume it is normal; my big toe gets the biggest bite at the ground and it needs to toughen up slowly or on kinder surfaces. (After all, concrete is rather like running on sandpaper.) I could continue to use running shoes and let them wear down instead. I could be overpronating; maybe allowing my foot to roll that far over is a sign of weakness. It certainly took added effort to keep them from getting more shredded on the way back. Would continued barefoot running and a desire to not shred my big toes train me to not allow my foot to roll so far over that the big toes get chewed up?

I was just going to say that I'll continue to do what comes naturally, but that may be a poor choice of words. I think it better to say I am going to continue to run barefoot and let myself learn. I just read an article about a research project and the researcher was talking about telling shod people to just run however is natural for them. So to extend that thinking a little further, what if I were to put people in high heels and tell them to just run naturally. I hope someone would admit that they couldn't. So if I were to keep changing the shoes to less and less high heel-like, at what point does someone say he or she can run naturally? I speculate that most people in US society don't truly know what running "naturally" is. Even if I were to include running barefoot I would say people don't know. I think I can find out what a natural gait or stride barefoot is for me but it will take time. I need to build up to doing it and allow my body and mind learn what works better for it.


  1. Did you take my comment down?? No, I know you didn't. I'm not sure why it doesn't show sometimes. I think I said, "I did read it after all. Sounded fairly sane!"

  2. It's odd that your comment is often a comment about your comment not posting. Maybe do whatever you do the second time when it works.