This blog sure has been all about the bare foot lately. Thanks to the commenters in my previous post who’ve read the story already. For those of you who haven’t, here you go:
Next, some interview highlights from my awesome sources that didn’t make it into the story:
Josh Stevenson, adventure racer from Christchurch, New Zealand
Q. What’s the worst barefooting injury or situation you’ve been in?
A. Stepping on dog poo would have to be the worst problem.
Q. What do your feet look like?
A. My feet are in the best shape they have ever been as you wear the dead skin off, and one of the important parts of bare foot running is looking after your feet … using products like glycerol bp to stop the feet from cracking and using medicated methylated spirits for drying certain parts out as to harden them up as required.
Q. Why should non-barefoot runners give barefooting a try?
A. Once you have run without shoes you will find freedom and enjoy running. … I now think that running is shoes is crazy and that it causes more damage than good. I am a strong believer that placing developing children’s feet in shoes is mad; I let my son wear bare feet all the time. … By running barefoot or in a shoe like Vibram FiveFingers, you fix the problems that some runners have by strengthening your feet and ankles. You also learn how to run properly, more efficiently and with less impact on your body, where if you use orthotics and a different shoe to correct the problem, you are treating the symptom and not the problem.
On why he started barefoot running to begin with:
“Well, the short story is: It was coming up to the time when you need to start thinking about weather or not to enter the Coast to Coast … I had done the race loads of time before and in every possible way, and felt [like,] why just do it for the sake of doing it.
“I had slipped back into living life too much in my comfort zone and was just cruising, entering races just for the sake of it and doing less training to make them harder and more challenging. So I spent a few weeks soul searching the whole thing and the answer hit me as I was going out for a run … I thought to my self we are not designed to run with shoes, the people in some African countries don’t wear shoes and they run every were. So I thought to myself if they can do it so can I that was when I decided to challenge myself to do Coast to Coast barefoot.”
On training for the 243-kilometer Speight’s Coast to Coast:
“I did use Nike Frees as part of my transition from shoes to barefoot running, but they were not ideal. After I completed Coast to Coast, I was given a pair of Vibram FiveFingers to try and I swear by them now. I wish I had found them before the race.”
On doing the race with completely bare feet:
“As I walked down to the start line I was thinking, I am mad? What the hell am I doing! … As I climbed down to the beach to the start line I stubbed my toe for the first time. At this point I really started to question what the hell am I trying to do.
“The race was enjoyable — the run of the beach, the first bike ride, even the majority of the run, and it was pretty straightforward until I hit the downhill sections. The hardest part was the last 8K of the run leg and the start of Day 2, [the] run down to the river. These sections were very challenging, to say the least. After eight-odd hours covering rough terrain, the feet were starting to feel very tender and each step was a challenge.
“The one thing that kept going through my mind was my belief that if you start a race you should finish the race and I have never not finished a race. … My coping mechanisms were simple: I have never not finished a race and I am not going to start now. And the other big one was I knew that my 3-year-old son was waiting for me at the end. This was a good motivator and a bad one because when things got hard and painful, I would picture myself running down the finish chute with my son. This would give me the focus to continue. However if I thought about it too much my eyes would well up and I could not see wear I was going. I only let myself stop once which was at the Goat pass check point which is situated at the highest point of the race, a little over halfway. I just made myself keep going. I thought, If I stop, it would be too hard to get going again.”
How did his feet fare?
“My feet were not too bad; a small cut. Other than that, they were just a bit swollen and one broken toe, which I stubbed about three times during the race … the day after, the feet and ankles were very swollen — now I know how pregnant woman feels with swollen feet. I was back out running five days later. They recovered well.”
• Keep up with Josh on his blog, joshuastevenson.blogspot.com.
Josué Stephens of Austin, ultra runner and director of the Fuego y Agua Ultra in Nicaragua
On how he became a barefoot/minimalist runner:
“[In early 2007,] my dad sent me a link from the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon and I decided to train for the 2008 event.
“I started running in a pair of Nike 360 super padded shoes and then realized they were hurting my feet and hips. … I had grown up in sandals and playing soccer barefoot, it only made sense that I also go running barefoot. That was the reawakening of my feet. A week later I was taking my shoes off and running around completely barefoot, my hips and feet felt great, and I was running faster and farther by the day.
“I began researching barefoot and minimalist running more and more and bought myself a pair of FiveFingers Classics. By early October 2007, I was running over 75 miles a week on trails, 90% of my running was barefoot or in minimal footwear. For much longer and rougher trails, I even started cutting down shoes to make them what I called “minimalist trail flats.” I signed up for the 2007 Arkansas Traveller 100 miler. This was to be my first race ever, of any kind. I had not even done a 5K at this point and my furthest run was 30 miles. … I was hooked on ultras after that.”
Q. Do you ever get stares when you’re running barefoot or minimalist?
A. Yes, yes and yes. But honestly, most of the time I get curious and eager questions. The only place I ever felt I got crazy stares was in Louisiana; they thought the barefoot runner tearing through their bike/walk paths in nothing but a pair of shorts was completely insane. I do not mind the staring.
On his time with the Tarahumari Indians as a child, then running alongside them as an adult:
“I was about 6 when we first traveled down into the Copper Canyons. I remember seeing the Raramuri [which is what the Indians call themselves] caves in the sides of the cliffs and wishing I could go visit them. … My dad worked with the Mennonites on a ministry that reached out to Tarahumaras.
“I ran Copper Canyon 2008 in a pair of cut-down LaSportiva Crosslite shoes. Most of the Raramuri wore the traditional clothing and huaraches – the women wear long dresses, even when they are running long distances! I ran that entire race feeling like I was in a completely different world. It was a surreal experience to run this race with such an amazing group of people. The Raramuri possess such grace and are such a calm people.
“The Copper Canyon Ultramarathon has the potential to become one of the main forces in bringing awareness to the Raramuri and their plight. It will be extremely important, especially after Born to Run, to find a middle ground between commercializing and squelching the potential. I love what Caballo Blanco has done, and I will continue to be a solid supporter of his work. Caballo and some of us Club mas Loco runners have formed www.norawas.org, a nonprofit focused on assisting the Raramuri in maintaining their way of life.”
• Keep up with Josué on this blog, www.josuecorre.com.
Hamlin Jones of Frisco, marathon coach at Luke’s Locker in Plano
Q. What are the benefits of running barefoot/minimalist?
A. The benefits are feet, ankle, and lower leg … calf and anterior tibialis [shin] strength. This type of running also keeps your feet under your body or core for quicker foot turnover.
Q. What do people say about you running this way?
A. People that do not run do not understand and never will. People that are casual runners think I’m crazy. Understandable. People I run with either a) are still learning about running and themselves, or b) are running next to me or cheering me on — and think I’m crazy too.
Q. What do you think of the book Born to Run?
A. I have not read Born to Run yet but many of my running friends have and will not stop talking about it on our runs. If anything it has made people more aware of barefoot running and I have seen more Vibrams out on the road lately.
Ted McDonald, aka “Barefoot Ted,” ultra runner, barefoot enthusiast, public speaker, coach
“Barefoot running is about reconnecting with the experience and listening to your own body.”
“I was always under the assumption that whoever did these longer distance things were able to endure more pain, in the end, that’s not the way it works at all.”
“Heel-striking is only as old as the first padded shoe.”
“It’s way better to begin on hard surfaces. Just like a dancer on a stage doesn’t rely on footwear.”
Q. What did running barefoot do for you than running in shoes did not?
A. Confidence-building, a realization that you can do something barefoot and do it well. It’s an elegant solution that works. All kinds of connections begin, which is what Born to Run spells out so eloquently. We have, in fact, inherited a capacity to do it. It’s hubris [to think] that we can over-engineer something that we can already do so well.
• Keep up with Barefoot Ted on his blog at barefootted.com.