Going Barefoot Pt. 2: Run (in the) Forest, Run!

Now is time for the fun part. After working your way through Barefoot pt 1, we get to start the sexy stuff!

You've been walking, working out, and doing some sprints either barefoot or in minimalist footwear. But the goal (for me anyway) was running through the wilderness barefoot, taking advantage of the improved balance, economy, and sensation of being shoeless. Not to mention the crazy looks on peoples faces when you run by "unprotected" from natures dangers.

Yes that mud is indeed frozen...

What I did.
I started with easy-ish 400 meter repeats. 2-3 the first time 3-4 the second and so on. I focused on foot speed and turnover, avoiding big strides, this had the biggest impact on my technique of all the drills i tried. Your feet should be under you, not in front or behind.
I stopped as soon as I felt hotspots on my feet, or got fatigued enough that my running form broke down. Check out Chi-running and Pose for more on running as a skill.
It works better to do repeats than to run steady. Steady gave me blisters quick, but the rest periods of intervals let the skin cool and changed the abrasion patterns, avoiding the blisters. I also went for hikes  as often as possible barefoot. The terrain isn't important, if its rough you just go slower.

I had a blast doing both of these things. It feels an awful lot like being a kid again, discovering a whole new world of sensations underfoot. Also, if you think you got funny looks working out barefoot at a park, wait until you run into someone 5 miles from the trail-head and ankle deep in mud!

Gooey goodness! mud feels AWESOME.

What I Learned.

Start on the roughest surface you can tolerate. 
I started by running in the street in front of my house. While it felt fine at the time, i ended up giving myself blisters that set progress back by weeks while they healed. Oddly enough the hard surface is not the problem, its consistent, flat, and repetitive nature is. I quickly developed hot spots that were not uncomfortable at the time but did the damage anyway. By starting on rough trails you add variety and limit the chance of blisters, as well as forcing yourself to pay attention and place your feet carefully.

Hiking Barefoot might be the most effective anti-stress activity I've ever found.
It leaves me so mellow after that we will stop for lunch and just sit and stare out the window without talking. SUPER chill. The combination of focus on placing your feet, nature, exercise and all the extra feelings from the ground is better than any drugs for de-stressing.

You wont get hurt.
I've spent 9 months now walking, hiking, sprinting, weightlifting, jumping and even using public restrooms barefoot. At this point the worst thing that's happened is a few blisters and one unseen pile of dog crap. No cuts, no infections, no injuries. It has been painful on occasion, sharp gravel, and frozen mud can be pretty damn uncomfortable, but they do no real damage and the pain stops as soon as your off that surface.
I'm sure it will happen someday. Glass or cactus or some other sharp item will get me, but if I go nine months between injuries I'm not worried.

It solves injuries.
A couple years back I hyper-extended my right knee and did some damage to the meniscus. It was something I struggled with often, working around the discomfort and re-learning some movements to avoid making it worse. It hasn't hurt for nearly 6 months. I attribute the improvement entirely to better mobility and going barefoot. My mechanics changed for the better and reduced the load on the injury. I have heard many stories just like mine with everything from back pain, to plantar fascitis.

It's just plain fun.
I have enjoyed every step (pun intended) along this journey. I recommend EVERYONE try it. No exceptions. You were designed to do it. No matter what the shoe companies say!


1 comment:

  1. On my firts barefoot hiking trip through the forest three years ago I thougt 'O my god, why haven't I done this before? And why is nobody else doing it?'