Why Aren’t You Running Barefoot?

by Owen Marcus on May 11, 2010


Image via Wikipedia

Are you running barefoot? Why not? Animals do it.

In this video from his Google appearance, Barefoot Ted McDonald outlines how he discovered running barefoot. Like any geek who majored in Rhetoric, he did all the research before even trying it. He wanted to learn all he could before he did something as crazy as take off his shoes to run outside. But the more he read, the more he was inspired to just do it.

His presentation is an excellent introduction to barefoot running. Like many of the barefoot runners, he talks about landing on the forefoot, but that’s only part of the story. The real story is that you are leaning forward from the ankle, stretching your calves, and your stride is behind you and not in front of you. How the foot lands is secondary; it shouldn’t be the focus if you want the best results. Your foot lands correctly when you are leaning forward, which you do naturally when barefoot. You can’t lean back, or stand straight, and run barefoot. Your heels will slam into the ground so hard, it’ll make your head pound in about three or four strides.

I agree fully with his comment that being present and mindful when you run is the key to running your best and to fully enjoying running. Proprioception is a forgotten sense. We have learned to shut down our internal awareness from the thousands of points of awareness within our body. Not only does this lack of awareness make you more vulnerable to injuries, it also takes the innate fun out of running.

“Good running is not about how well you can endure pain. It is about how long you can remain relaxed.”

Ted speaks about how “the better the footwear” the worse it is for you. From his own experience and from researchers, he exclaims that shoes don’t make a runner better–and they may even make you worse, and they can produce injuries.

“I am not a dogmatic barefoot runner…. I want it to be in the pallet of choices…. We have a generation to whom something is broken [the foot].”

Ted mentions how the podiatrist approach is to immobilize the foot when there is a problem.  Hold it steady, don’t let it move… and it’s supposed to magically heal? How’s that work?

Ted explains how a flat-footed person running barefoot will develop an arch. I have seen it with clients who learn the natural walk (or the natural running from). The foot and lower leg relax, stretch and strengthen from being used how they are meant to be used.

Barefoot running, when done correctly, is running naturally, running in the flow.

Ted also mentions a desire to compete in our local Coeur d’Alene Ironman. We will see.

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