Like all runners, I’m obsessed with shoes. Until I found the Saucony Grid Omnis that I currently train in, I pored over running magazine shoe reviews before choosing a pair. When I found that my Sauconys kept me injury-free, the obsession changed to locating that model of Omnis. My current Grid Omnis are the ninth version — which means I’ve been wearing the same model for roughly nine years.
Lately, my obsession changed from finding my perfect shoe to, well, no shoes at all.
It started when I read Born To Run, Christopher McDougall’s inside look at the Tarahuma, barefoot and ultra running, the shoe industry and his own challenges with injury. If you haven’t read it, you must. Since then, I wondered if I could also ditch my shoes and turn myself into an ultra runner. So I started reading ultra running blogs, minimalist shoe reviews and trail racing calendars. Since first reading Born to Run in 2011, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “How to Run Barefoot” or “Best Minimalist Trail Running Shoe”. But erring on the side of caution, I kept my shoes on. What if I stepped on something sharp and pointy? What if I fell down? What if my feet got cold?
Then last week I came across this great post by The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy. A very experienced barefoot runner (no shoes, folks!), his theory is that runners thinking about going barefoot are thinking too much and there is too much information about it. Transition plans and “rules” about form prevent people from taking off their shoes just getting out there. For example, I met one runner who got a five month foot and leg strengthening plan from her physiotherapist first. At the end of his post he writes:
For those getting started, here’s the only advice about barefoot running most people should ever need:
Step 1: Remove shoes
Step 2: Run
Step 3: Repeat
On Saturday I was on my favourite trail, one I train on two or three times a week. The trail was cold and soggy and muddy and, completely on a whim, I stripped off my socks and Sauconys and started running. For 10 minutes — roughly 1.5K — I laughed like a little kid, jumping in puddles and squishing mud between my toes. It was the most fun I’d had trail running in awhile. On Sunday I ran 2K of my 16K barefoot.
I’m not ready to give up my shoes, but by stepping away from the overload of information on the Internet about barefoot running and simply running, I discovered that’s what running — barefoot or not — is about: Getting outdoors, being active and playing like a kid.