I read a blog post recently by a runner from Austin, Texas about 'barefoot running' in the Vibram Five Fingers (http://www.turtlescanrun.com/running-in-vibram-five-fingers ). I was intrigued and wanted to leave a response but wasn't sure what to say. I haven't seen a pair of Vibram Five Fingers up close and personal, just a few photos here and there on the web. The first time I saw a photo of them was a few months back when a fellow on twitter tweeted his excitement that they had arrived and attached a photo. They are strange looking to say the least!
But, there appears to be a growing trend of runners raving about the benefits of barefoot running – breaking your feet out of the chains (or laces) that are holding them captive in the average stabilizing running sneaker. From what I have read, their design aims to mimic the bare foot and incorporates contours of the arch and foot. It also is meant to strengthen the leg and foot and adds to improvements of balance and agility through the five separate fingers for your toes. Go figure?
Anyway, last week I met a lady from Australia who has recently moved to Texas and for whatever reason being barefoot came up in the conversation. Her comment was that her children didn't believe her when she said that we used to go barefoot to school. I remember looking at her strangely and thinking back to my school experiences and couldn't recollect ever going to school without shoes. I didn't think of it again until I read this blog post. It must have nagged at my subconscious because last night I woke up as though the lights had been turned on and remembered that four years of my high school track days were raced barefoot! And, when we were in primary school we would take our shoes off and spend most of the day barefoot. And not only that – I have vivid memories of running on the bitumen road barefoot – I loved the way my feet would tingle afterwards! I grew up in a small town on a beach – most of my life was spent barefoot!!
Wow! I trained and competed in the 800m, 1500m and 3000m races barefoot. High jump, long jump and hurdles – yep, barefoot. I also competed in some of the cross country events barefoot. The teachers at school used to laugh at me and say I was a young Zola Budd in the making. With all the hype around at the time of people wearing specialized running shoes and the like my preference was to go barefoot. I remember that I did try to run with shoes on occasion, but it just didn't feel right. Most of my training was either on the long open stretches of beach or on the grassed oval, so it didn't really matter. It was in my second last year at school I was competing at the State Championships for the 3000m in an age group up from mine and it all went a bit awry. First of all the track had some sort of rubbery track surfacing that caused blisters to form on my feet – this was nothing new, I could run on bitumen. But more importantly, most of the other runners were wearing spiked track running shoes and one competitor 'spiked' my heel during the race. After this I was resolved to go and buy a pair of addidas running shoes and a pair of my own track spikes for future competitions. But, it never felt right!
All of my fastest times were barefoot. After I left school I joined the Army – so I never ran barefoot again. My feet served 11 years of solitary confinement in khaki boots. They tried to commit suicide on occasions, normally after a 15 km run or a two day route march. It got so bad that on more occasion than not, the skin would try to escape by peeling off with the socks. It has taken me until now to realize that they were protesting about being confined and held in place by leather and laces.
Twenty-five years have passed since people used to laugh at me running barefoot, and I find it now intriguing that someone has designed these shoes to allow you to run 'barefoot'. I look forward to reading more and learning more as to how people are enjoying the experience. For now, I am content with walking a few hundred yards on the hot concrete road daily to collect my mail barefoot… I just love that burning sensation on the bottom of my feet, I find it therapeutic …..