Big barefoot questions…6 months in

I took a shot at this after three months of foray into the crazy world of barefoot running and it’s time for an update at the 6 month mark.

Why?
Cause it’s fun is what I said from the outset and I’m still there. That’s my bottom line. Some of my barefoot colleagues are about a barefoot lifestyle. Barefoot Jason just dumped his TV and started wearing kilts. For me it’s about running and being able to continue doing so as long as possible (although I admit being pleased with myself for not once putting on a shoe the last two weekends at the Cape…and without trying by the way; it just happened that way.)

Don’t your feet hurt?
Three months in, I had concluded that barefoot running, while delightful on smooth asphalt, did not lend itself to trail running and rougher roads. A clinic with Barefoot Ken Bob has lead me to reconsider to say the least. If you do it right you can run on most anything. Right means bending getting low and bending the knees more than I previously thought necessary when the road gets rough. He really amazed me and had a profound impact on the way I think about running.

Does it hurt? I may write a longer blog on this, but for now suffice it to say, I think you get so you perceive the sensation differently. You know that you are stepping on uneven surfaces but it doesn’t bother you so much. Here’s a secret: I find it harder to walk barefoot on the rough stuff than to run; I think it’s a function of the feet spending less time on the ground when running.

What about broken glass?
I maintain my position that there’s not a lot of glass out there in the world. I’ve run hundreds of barefoot miles, mostly on streets, and I occasionally see any glass. The trick is don’t step on it. And this from a guy who, twenty five years ago while trail running and not paying attention, put a broken bottle through my shoe and into my foot. Had to pull the glass out before I could get the shoe off.

Does barefoot mean barefoot?
I’m not down on Vibram Five Fingers by any means and think my Bikilas are very cool, but I don’t wear them often, recently only a couple times when the streets were very hot. I agree with most of the pundits who suggest starting with nothing on the feet and adding VFFs as necessary. Your bare soles do help guide you to better form.

What about cold weather?
No change to the following that I penned 3 months ago, but I’ll add that I’ve found midday hot asphalt to be every bit as rough as the cold.

On a sunny 40 degree day my feet are not at all cold. At 14 degrees (yes, Fahrenheit) I’ve had trouble going more than a mile. Snow and slush between the toes can be uncomfortable. It will be interesting to see if my feet are more cold resistant after a year, but my guess is I will opt for VFFs when it’s under 20 and when running through snow.

How prevalent is barefoot running?
I’m still surprised at what a small world it remains. I’ve been in direct contact with virtually all the big names in barefoot running: Dan Lieberman, Ken Bob Saxton, Jason Robillard, Barefoot Ted. It’s clear that Born to Run is the single biggest thing that’s ever happened to the sport and there are an amazing number of articles on almost a daily basis inspired by the book. Things go slow, but I’m sure that they population continues to grow. I’ve been particularly pleased at having more than half a dozen friends in the last three months tell me I’ve inspired them to give it a go. How’s it going guys?

The Bottom Line- Is it good for you or bad?
The research remains quite inconclusive. I’ve not seen much new in the last few months, really since Dan Lieberman’s work was published.

For me it works great. My knees and hips hardly bother me and both had been a concern. I can absolutely tell the I’ve substantially strengthened my foot muscles, and I think I continue to do so. My damned Achilles tendons continue to give me a hard time, which is surprising, but I’m hopeful they’ll come around. My hypothesis is that they got pretty set in their ways after almost a decade of regular shod running and that old tendons just take a while to come around.

Bottom bottom line
It’s still really is fun. Gotta say I was tickled when a guy I’d seen before on my regular run drove by and yelled, “You are the toughest mother f$(&%* I know, you know that?”

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7 Comments on “Big barefoot questions…6 months in”

  1. Uncle Rick Says:

    Still tougher than diamonds!


    • Hi

      I have been running barefoot for close to 10 months now and your views are matching mine very closely. I am from India so running barefoot is not a big deal here. I have been running for close to 2 years now and was down with ITBS twice during the period. After switching to barefoot, I have not got injured once although I have to increase my mileage from the present 30km/week to more to really see if it is because of barefoot. it has been quite encouraging to see views of other barefoot runners

  2. Ivan Says:

    It is encouraging to read your posts. I have started blogging about my experiences as well (I am even trying to start a forum). I chuckled at something you wrote. I also find it harder to walk on some surfaces than to run. This makes me feel silly sometimes as I walk over a surface “ooh ahhing”. I am going to try to bend my knees more on my next run. One tip I picked up from Ken’s site is the letting your hips “fall” forward thing. I does seem to to work. I am not counting my cadence yet as I am not working on speed, but I should probably start in order to make it a habit. Anyway, keep posting

    • Phil Odence Says:

      Thanks, Ivan. I’ve been suffering some writers block, but you’re inspiring me. Yes, Ken Bob showed me the hip forward thing. Post a link to you site and I’ll check it out sometime.

  3. Gary White Says:

    Hey Phil,
    If you’re ever on Cape Cod, let me know–would like to run with you and “pick your brain” about some of the things you’ve learned from BKB. I’m about a year into VFF running and have been going barefoot more recently, but have found the transition difficult–I got very comfortable with the Vibrams and found my running form/speed was great with them, but now feel like I’m starting all over again…I keep hearing that it works better if you go barefoot 1st and now I know why

  4. Just Dance 3 Says:

    i wish i was always barefoot but my mum never lets me. oh how i wish i could go barefoot!!!!


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