I love running shoes. Wait! Let me try this again. What I meant to say is I loooooooooooooooove, love, love my running shoes—all of them! I am to the running shoe what Carrie Bradshaw is to the stiletto. I love everything about them–their cushy, softness on the inside, their breathable fabric and vibrant colors on the outside. I love that new running shoe smell when I first take them out of the box. I love how a new pair inspires me to run when my training is lagging. I love that after all the wear and tear of training for and running races and marathons my shoes are the perfect smelly souvenir of my devotion and hard work. I will even admit that I have created a multi-pair rotation strategy in the hopes that this will help prevent runners’ “niggles” and injuries.
That said, after twenty plus years of full out, passionate running shoe love and running, I’ve been sidelined (therefore very cranky) a LOT because of injuries and have the piles of receipts from doctors and physical therapist to prove it. So when I heard that “Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth” a new book by Michael Sandler, explains how running barefoot helps not only in preventing injuries but is actually better for your body, I was intrigued and eager to try it out. Luckily Michael, his co-author Jessica Lee, and their team of enthusiastic barefoot runners came to our office and picked up some of BBL’s staff and fans to hit the streets (or in our case grassy Central Park) for a barefoot running clinic.
After getting to the park, we ditched our shoes and Michael explained how he came to barefoot running. In April 2006, Michael had a horrible rollerblading accident while trying to avoid a baby who was in his path. The baby was fine but Michael was not. His body hit the pavement with enough force to shatter many bones in his body. After recovering from surgery and rehab, this one-time professional athlete and coach found that the only time he did not feel pain was while barefoot. He realized his feet needed strengthening but mother nature had already done a great job designing the foot for running without any manmade embellishments.
Seeing him standing in front of me looking strong, fit, and happy made me overlook my own niggles. I was ready to start barefoot running! He did explain that it is important to ease into running barefoot, and it’s very important to use the correct form. Check out what Michael himself has to say about running show and barefoot running form in the video above.
As you may have guessed that lovely shoe he’s picking on is mine! But I’m beginning to have second thoughts about it…
After trying various exercises and drills in the green grass, I was really enjoy myself and my feet felt so free! But what were other BBL-ers thinking? They were all smiling and laughing as they “tiger walked” and “chicken winged.” The next morning, I got the dirt.
“This is probably the first time I’ve run barefoot since I was about seven… I found it surprisingly easy and relaxing compared with running in shoes.”—Catherine
“Who would have ever thought a golf ball was actually a foot strengthening device? “—Keegan
“It was inspiring to see someone who had recovered from such devastating injuries and who was as strong as we are all meant to be–and could be– if we ran with proper form.”—Jennifer R.
All in all—we had a great time. And much of what Michael taught us (and is in the book) is great advice for every runner– shoeless or not –use good form, strengthen your core and feet, and above all make sure you smile, laugh, enjoy yourself. As for this running-shoed writer, will I totally ditch my beloved shoes? Maybe. Most likely I will integrate barefoot running into my current shoed training and see how it goes. Of course, I will do so taking one step…ahem…one barefoot step at a time.
For peek at what’s in the book check out these links:
- Read Michael Sandler’s inspiring story.
- Strengthen your feet with the golf ball exercise.
- Toss off your own shoes and try barefoot running yourself! Here is how you transition safely.