Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why I Started Running Barefoot



Many people have asked me about why I run barefoot or in very thin sandals or minimalist shoes. I actually discovered barefoot running by accident, and then later I read about the benefits and understood why highly-cushioned running shoes are bad for your feet and will likely lead to running injury.

I discovered barefoot running one day a couple of years ago when I was jumping rope for 20 minutes and wanted to segue directly into a run. I didn't want to stop and put my shoes on because I wanted to go straight into the running without taking a break, so I just took off running barefoot. I ended up running for an hour, which was longer than I had ever run before at that time. I noticed immediately that I could run faster and further when I was barefoot. However, I was doing too much too soon by running for an hour barefoot the first time out, so the bottoms of my feet were hurting when I finished the run.

Because my feet were not ready for that level of barefoot running yet, I went back to my running shoes. However, the more I ran, the more problems I had. First it was my knees, then it was my ankles, then it was my shins, then it was my calves. Finally, I just gave up on running for a while.

Then I read a few books about barefoot running that explained that the injuries I was suffering were due to the cushioned running shoes I was wearing that were causing me to run with bad form and ironically were increasing the impact on my joints. I started running again, rotating between running barefoot and running in minimalist footwear. This time I started out slowly and gave my feet and legs a chance to get used to running barefoot.

Since that time (5 months ago) I have been doing a lot of running and have had absolutely no injuries, knee problems, shin splints, etc. I have also been doing a lot of running on steep hills and slippery slopes at South Mountain in minimalist footwear without so much as a stumble or twisted ankle. I have run 8-10 miles barefoot multiple times and felt great. I have run for over 3 hours straight in minimalist shoes and felt great afterward.

This is my daughter, Rebecca (age 4), who has had absolutely no running training or instruction. Yet she naturally runs with perfect form in bare feet. Why? Because this is the way God designed us to run.

Becca loves running!
Notice her bent knees, foot flat on the ground, straight back, and slight forward lean.
Running in a skirt like a lady!
Here is another picture showing a different stage of her stride.

Because your feet are one of the most sensitive parts of your body, they are great at telling you immediately if you are doing something wrong. If you run barefoot, your body will instinctively change the way you run to minimize pain by minimizing impact. The biggest thing that will instantly change is that your stride will shorten (i.e. you will take smaller steps), and you will land with your forefoot first instead of your heel. After landing forefoot first, the rest of your foot, including your heel, will make light contact.

Shoes provide a false sense of security by cushioning your feet and making them comfortable. This causes you to come down much harder than you would in bare feet. Your feet don't feel the impact, but the impact is still there and shoots up your leg into your knees, hips, lower back, etc.

By cushioning and babying your feet in high-end running shoes, you are also making them weaker. Since they are being supported by the shoes in so many ways, they no longer need to support themselves. Therefore they become weak and lazy which leads to poor running.

Remember, running barefoot is much different than running in traditional running shoes. Therefore, you must start very slowly, even if you are an experienced runner. Running barefoot should be treated as a new activity and should be eased into. For example, if you are running 20 miles per week in running shoes, you can't just start running 20 miles per week barefoot. Start by walking barefoot and then graduate to running very short distances.

18 comments:

Rocky said...

I have followed this research for some time. I must say, I don't usually run barefoot or even minimalistic for very long, but just the understanding changed the way I run (form). P.S. when I ran my first 100 mile ultra marathon, a guy who goes by Barefoot Ted ran the whole thing barefoot (totally barefoot for the first half and 5 finger shoes for the last half)...on the road! Here is a link to a post from my blog that I wrote a long time ago:

Rocky said...

I think I forgot the link. If you edited it out that is fine, and I am sorry.
http://prairiesteps.blogspot.com/2008/03/running-barefoot.html

sanderson1611 said...

Thanks for the link to the article!

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Ellie Rae said...

Very interesting. What about pebbles on the sidewalk, though? That must hurt! Interesting point about barefoot, though. My son has horrific injuries from running (with packs) in basic training. (BTW, did a review of your piano book, it was great, and posted it on my 3 blogs and my FB. Thanks.)

Sarah said...

My husband has been running barefoot for the last several years and swears by it. I have yet to be brave enough to really incorporate it into my running. When he runs on rougher surface (like rocky trails) he uses his DIY Barefoot Ted sandals: https://www.lunasandals.com/products/5-diy-sandal-making-kit

He is such an enthusiast it cracks me up. He always gets yelled at when he's running in the neighborhood - "Hey, you forgot your shoes!" and other clever things. ;)

Matt Kwan said...

What about minimist shoes? Sure, God made everything but didn't he give man the ability to make minimalist shoes like the Vibram 5 Fingers? How can your feet alone provide protection against rocks, grass (yes) and other stuff? I understand that running bare feet can be more natural and lead to less injuries but what about injuries from shredding skin against sharp rocks or sticks with thorns?

Anonymous said...

I would love to start running barefoot, but I live in a place where it is legal to drink alcohol outside, and some stupid people will simply throw the glass bottles on the street. Sometimes there's broken glass around, and you can't even see the smaller pieces if you come running, our dog once got a nasty injury because of stepping into a piece.
How do you protect yourself from broken glass or other sharp objects?

sanderson1611 said...

Matt Kwan, I agree with you. In addition to running barefoot, I also run in Luna sandals, which I like very much. I am also experimenting with other minimalist solutions, but so far the Lunas are the best thing I've found besides barefoot. My wife just ordered me some soft-soled leather moccasins online that I will experiment with.

sanderson1611 said...

Anonymous, you just have to watch where you are going and stay away from places like that. If I lived in a place that was strewn everywhere with broken glass, I wouldn't run there barefoot. I would either go somewhere else to run, or run in minimalist footwear.

Anonymous said...

Sir, by reading the Bible, of all mentioned of foot ware. I found that the sandal of with laces were of the foot ware of those days in NT and also mention in OT of foot ware that they had when in the wilderness for forty years that the Lord kept their foot ware of new. Not sure of material made of, maybe of history will tell of the material the sandals were made of. And knowing by reading the Scriptures of the Bible that was there traveling tool (foot ware), besides of the horse , camel, and donkey. Just thinking , that mostly the people were bare footed, because of the constant foot washing of coming and going written in the Word of God.'' And during of traveling of further distant was wearing of foot ware. (Bare foot on the earth is really healthy for the whole body). Thank you for your blog, sir, which is your precious time. rosita

Anonymous said...

Running barefoot on concrete is very bad will cause flat feet very fast.

Paula said...

I was looking at your wifes blog and this title caught my attention. I have been in so much pain and wondering if I should just give up my daily walk/run in the woods. I am so encouraged. I cant wait to see if different shoes will solve the problem. I run in a trek shoe as it is very rocky where I live. Thank you so much. Have a blessed day with Jesus!

Anonymous said...

Pastor Anderson, had no where else to write you sir. I am so thankful to GOD, sir that you are not harmed by this accident of the drunken driver. My heart goes out to you , and to your entire family; your entire family and congregation of Faithful Word Baptist whom I know deeply love you. Please know praying without ceasing for you sir. ALMIGHTY GOD is not finished with you here on this earth, it is mot time for you to go home. I am not being selfish Pastor Anderson, the truth is you are needed here in this world; seriously. I am so very much thankful to God every day that HE blessed me sir with all you do for HIS GLORY! love, blessings ... Name of Jesus Christ Rosita Philippians 1:3--- ::: (praying)

Anonymous said...

Pastor Anderson , not sure if I written my name on the recent note I sent to you of concerning the accident of drunken driver, almost being killed. Apologize. love, blessings, Rosita ''Thank YOU LORD for protecting Pastor Anderson and from any harm>

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this post. I wanted to ask, could you preach a sermon about income, provision by God, rules and regulations in businness and being self-employed in contrast to being employed by a company?

HTS said...

Why does your daughter run in a dress?

sanderson1611 said...

@HTS She runs in a dress because she is a lady.