Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm Ending My Barefoot Running Experiment Until Next Year

As many of you may know, I've been experimenting with barefoot running this past summer. I'm stopping for now because it is impossible for me to run during day light hours. However, I intend to experiment with barefoot running again next Spring and Summer. Below is summary of my experiences and what I learned.

Progress was quick despite limited barefoot training time
I was only able to do a couple of barefoot runs per week. However, running barefoot just twice as week, I was still able to make a lot progress while running on some fairly challenging surfaces. My technique was already pretty good, so I was immediately comfortable running on smooth hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt roads. Because of this, I purposely trained on more challenging surfaces. One of them was a rubber coated asphalt running track. The rubber coating was very rough compared to regular asphalt. The second place I trained was on a gravel track. It was actually a circular path covered with pebbles on top of a dirt surface, and was a very difficult surface to adapt to.

I had to start with intermittent running and walking on these rough surfaces. At the point I couldn't run comfortably, I would start walking until I could no longer walk comfortably.  Doing this, I was quickly able to jog up to 2 miles on these surfaces and within 2 months I was able to run and event sprint on these surfaces.

What gave me the most problem
I never went much more than 3 miles barefoot. When running at a good clip, at about 3 miles, I was still subject to getting blisters, especially if I was running on the rubber coated track. I think my problem with blisters had a lot to do with the fact that I was only able to train barefoot a maximum of twice a week. The problem was getting better over time, and I think if I continued, it would eventually have disappeared.

Another problem I had was I that I never was fully comfortable when running barefoot, because I never got past the feeling of being very vulnerable without shoes on my feet. I don't know if this would have subsided over time or not, but It did interfere with my training.

Starting with good technique made going barefoot much easier
I don't buy the idea that going barefoot forces you to use good technique. I've seen too many barefoot runners with bad technique, who claim that they are not beginners. Some people will pickup good technique through trial and error, but most will just eventually get injured. In my case, since I already had good technique, my transition into barefoot running was relatively natural. It was more natural because I didn't have to fight with getting past the discomfort of running on rough surfaces and the hazard of running with poor technique on hard surfaces at the same time.

The barefoot books I read were good resources
I found that the information in the two barefoot running books I read was very helpful and accurate. I would highly recommend reading at least one of these books before starting barefoot running. Here are links to my reviews of these books.
My conclusions about barefoot running so far
  • I believe that most people, who are so inclined, can become barefoot runners. It is not difficult if you are willing to do a little homework and go about it methodically. Don't just jump into it without preparation.
  • It is better to start out with good technique. My advice, which is contrary to the advice in the barefoot running books, is to first learn to run with good technique and then start running barefoot.
  • Always bring your shoes with you in case you need them.
  • Never run barefoot in the dark. This is no brainer right? I don't care what you may have read; there are sharp objects and glass out there that you can step on.
  • I'm more convinced than ever that running shoes are not a necessity for running. The modern running shoe was invented in the early 1970's, and people were running very well prior to their invention.
  • Barefoot running on rough surfaces is a great way to test your technique 


    1. whats with this barefoot shoes, a lot of my office mates keep on telling me that i should get one of it. maybe i will.barefootrunningshoes

    2. I encourage you to try them if you already have good running technique. Otherwise focus on your technique first.

    3. i already read a lot of this barefoot running shoes, maybe its really time for me for me to get one of running shoes

    4. Just do your homework first. If you don't adjust your technique, you could get injured. Don't expect the shoe to magically fix your technique.