Monster Feet: my journey into barefoot running

I’ve been increasing my running distance each week, and today I hit 16 kilometres for the first time.  I am not sure what my long-term goal is.

Reading Born to Run last year, I got this image in my mind of running pain-free, and shortly after went out to buy my Teva Five-Finger Shoes.  I wore them around the house for weeks.  Cooking dinner each night, I wore my “monster feet” for an hour or so.  It helped make cooking dinner more bearable.

As my feet got stronger, I took my monster feet outside, ran 50 metres on the footpath.  At first, I was so self-conscious, I’d only wear them in the dark.  After several weeks, I could run around the block, in full daylight.  I started wearing them to TR-X, to the amused stare of the instructor (freak, he was thinking), then running on the treadmill afterwards.  I started wearing them to the grocery store (super-freak, the check-out boy was thinking).  In six months, I could run four kilometres in my monster feet.  My old shoes, the top-of-the-line physiotherapist-recommended ones, felt strange and awkward; I bought a new pair that were lower to the earth to make a full transition easier.  I began to read everything I could on barefoot running: blogs; books; websites; and some advice that I wasn’t prepared to follow.  I tried to change my running style to forefoot landing, and my ITB pain went right away.  It was replaced by Achilles pain.  I read more, learning to land on my forefoot and let my heel land.

And now?

Now, I just want to know how far I can go.  I keep adding on .2 of a kilometre, week after week.  Travelling further onto terrain I’ve never seen.  With no pain.  Soreness, tiredness, yes.  But no pain.

It is very strange, when the pain of ITB used to hit me forty minutes into every single run, and I’d have to limp for the last ten minutes to get home.  In road races, I used to aim for the center line to minimise any camber that would flare up the ITB.  No more.

So how far can I go?

How far do I want to go?  There is much talk of ultra-running, half-marathons.  I am an adventure racer at heart, loving the varying terrain and mental challenge of taking myself beyond my limits.  Am I also an ultra-runner?  Time will tell, I suppose.

I suspect my mind will give up before my body at this stage.  Because my body, at 46, just seems to go on and on.  My husband’s caution – “At some point, you may have to pay a big price for all this extra running…” – frightens me, but doesn’t really ring true.  I feel like I am getting stronger and stronger, like my muscles and bones have just re-discovered how to run, even though I’ve run for thirty years.

Today, I saw a man running on my trail absolutely barefoot.  I saw him last week too.  He looked light as a feather.  That’s what I’m aiming for.  One day.  I suppose the distance doesn’t really matter, in the end.

Thank you, barefoot running advocates, for allowing me to run like a child again.

Now to figure out how to combine barefoot running with trail running…

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15 thoughts on “Monster Feet: my journey into barefoot running

  1. You are game to try barefoot running. I’d be scared of stepping on glass or something. Found it interesting reading about how you are trying to land on the front part of your foot, letting your heel follow. As a newbie, I’ve just been focusing on maintaining a light jog that I call my ‘run’. I feel ready to take my running to the next level. Do you recommend I incorporate this style of running into my workouts?
    Also would love to see a post on your top 5 recommendations of running books!
    Good job – keep running,
    Bex

    • It’s hard to make a recommendation without knowing more about you. I’d suggest you follow your body carefully, listen to what injuries/lack of tell you. I’ve begun very slowly with barefoot running, backing off where my body told me to. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall is my current fave. I read more about climbing mountains than I do about running. I do most of my running research on-line.

  2. Hi Patricia
    Your barefoot journey sounds alot like mine. I have been running for over 25 years and am 18 months into barefooting. It is good to read about someone at a similar point. I have just listed your post as one of my posts of the week at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/2012/08/24/pick-of-the-posts-no-6-the-best-5-barefoot-posts-to-see-you-through-the-weekend-are/
    I kept adding 40 second to my run, the question now is how far can I go?
    Happy running
    Chris

    • Hi Chris, thanks for your message. How far can you run barefoot now? I’m still transitioning, spending sometime in low-cut asics, some in teva five-fingers. It is a great feeling, and has really changed my running style. Thanks for including my post on your posts of the week. I’m going to check out your site now. Best wishes for your running!

      • I can run about 4 miles now as long as the road has good quality tarmac on it. My favourite shoe is the Vivo Evo but I am not going to run any further in it than I can manage barefoot. It is too much fun and I need to know that the struture of my feet and lower legs has caught up.

      • That’s fantastic. I’ve not heard of the Vivo Evo, I’ll have to look it up. I will look forward to hearing more about your journey. I completed a 14.3 km trail run yesterday in my low asics, very rough terrain, still using a barefoot style. There were a few Five Fingers runners out there.

  3. HI Patricia
    On a totally different subjecy, I am also pretty new to blogging. I also started blogging with the 2011 theme. If you want something with a bit more flexibility, I now use graphene. It is free and sort of grows with you as you go. You can do so much with it.
    Happy blogging
    Chris

    • Thanks for the idea on graphene theme — I will check it out. I have just visited your blog, and am very impressed. I’ve signed up to see more of what you blog about. And yes, our journey to barefooting sounds very similar. Here’s to running injury-free for the next 50 years!

  4. I really identified with this post–at age 53, after 2.5 years of barefoot hiking/ trail running, I’m excited to see “how far I can go” with no shoes on. So far, 11 miles shoeless, 18 miles half-shoeless (I put on my Merrell Pipidae sandals for the 9 miles downhill back to the car last weekend, after hiking/running up 9 miles to the ridgeline of our local mountain range.)

    Being barefoot on the trail is the best! I encourage you to try it, and enjoy it. My biggest injury fear at this point is splitting my face open from smiling so much while I lope along the trails in the hills outside of my Southern California hometown.

    Happy Trails! Keep running and writing!

    Thea

  5. Pingback: Barefoot Trail Running: How I Handle Rough Terrain « Barefoot Wandering and Writing

  6. Hi Patricia. I was also inspired by Born to Run, I went out and bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, but went a bit too far too quickly.. I did 16km on my first day in them (which was also the longest Id ever run, oops) but actually found them really natural feeling and I felt relatively ok after that distance. I did a 20km run in them a couple weeks later. I now alternate between them and a pair of Brookes PureConnects which are also great minimalist shoes. I just need a pair of trail shoes now, as I realised the PureConnects are really a bad idea when I did the Salomon Trail Series Silvan long run in the mud! Thanks for your blog, and see you at Anglesea.

    • Hi Clayton, you were brave going that far for your first run! I am trying to build up the courage to go beyone 5k but I am loving the Vibrams. I have the same issue regarding trails — I’ve been running in a Salomon trail shoe, which has great grip but too much motion control. I only have hip pain after I’ve run in them! I’m going to try footpro on glenferrie rd for advice – they are the ones who run the pro shop at the races. See you at Anglesea, and thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

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