When I run, I enjoy the fresh air, the wind in my face, and the ground beneath my feet. Back in December, I ran my first barefoot race—a 5K in sub-freezing temperatures. On Saturday, I kicked it up a notch and ran a solid 8 miles sans the feet-protecting injury-inducing coverings.
Now, before you pass judgment and consider me an idiot (not that I would argue to the contrary) you should understand that running without pain is more important (to me) than running with shoes.
A week prior to my Saturday run, I slapped on my $130 Mizunos and went for the same 8-mile run with one exception, I didn’t enjoy the run. Four miles in, at a mild 8:30 pace, my right shin began to throb. The pain was awful. “How bad was it?” you ask. When doctors ask patients to rank the pain of their ailment, they ask them to do so on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is nothing and 10 is a scene from Hostel. I’ve broken my ankle (3 out of 10), fractured my hip (4 out of 10), closed my finger in the car door (5 out of 10), split my face open (6 out of 10), lost my two front teeth to a baseball (7 out of 10) and passed two kidney stones (8 out of 10). The shin splint that lit up my right leg was easily a 5 out of 10. If I had continued to run, that number would’ve increase to a 6, maybe even a 7. Long story longer, after a solid 4 mi in my fancy shoes, I had to jog/walk my way back to my car.
Doctors will tell you there’s not a whole lot you can do for shin splints. Rest, ice, heat, stretching, and more rest. Since I once read a book on running injuries, I diagnosed my condition and gave myself advice. I loaded up on ibuprofen, used ice and heat on the leg, and hit the gym mid-week alternating between the treadmill and the bike. I had managed to get my shin to throttle down to a 2 on the pain scale. As a non-member of the medical field, I allowed myself to return to running a week later. In fact, I told myself, “Eff it. Run without shoes and you’ll be fine.” And so it went. I ran without issue for the entire 8 miles. My legs (and feet) felt so good I could have run for much longer.
So here I am again, recommending that people take off their shoes and go for a run. But, before you don’t lace up, you need to understand that running without shoes isn’t without problems: the elements, sharp objects, blisters and blood. Lest not forget a higher susceptibility to lower calf strain and plantar fasciitis. And you need to build up your barefoot mileage since the soles of your feet won’t be as tough as the rubber on the bottom of your shoes.
In my most recent run I had to deal with the cold ground (morning temp was ~30 degrees Fahrenheit). After about a mile my feet became numb, and things went swimmingly. The occasional rock, lug nut, and piece of glass caused me to cringe (and bleed). Around mile 6 I felt something wet against the side of my right foot. When I looked down I saw blood. Evidently, the blister that had formed on my left foot exploded, pushing its contents onto my right. Sounds gross, but it wasn’t that bad. Still, even with these minor annoyances, I’d rather run barefoot than not.
So, if you’re up for the challenge, look me up and let’s GOFAR barefoot together.