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Barefoot Running or One Man’s Love Of Running In The Wild


Picture by Mike Baird

Written by John Allsopp


Yeah, you’ve probably seen the “Shit barefoot runners say” (it’s all true), been bored by someone about “born to run” and seen the silly hobbit like toe shoes made by Vibrams (and now copied by others). And you know what, I don’t give a shit. Barefoot running is awesome.

I’m a pretty fit guy, and for most of my life (with a brief hiatus in my early to mid 20s) I’ve run, swum, played organised sport, basically been active. But, I’ve always mostly hated running.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

  1. Personally, I think that barefoot running (or rather the shoes like the 5 fingers) are just a fad that will most likely die off pretty quick.

    I am all for the science of bare foot running and on sand, it makes sense, but where I live in the UK, I have never seen anyone wearing them when out running – even in the more popular running spots.

    I suspect that most people bought the 5-finger shoes, tried them for a short period of time, not making sure they build up the use of them and then stuffed them in the cupboard, never to be seen again. I suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, so can’t wear anything that does not support my feet properly (Converse… I miss you!!!) so these shoes and this type of running would kill my feet.

  2. I had a similar experience. I used to hate running with a passion, but found that I always loved running on the beach and could run forever when I did. One day, when I was contemplating how much HARDER running seemed when I stepped out the door onto the pavement, and how much EASIER it was on the beach, and wishing I could somehow be stepping out my door onto a beach, I had a lightbulb moment. “The only difference is the shoes!” I thought to myself. I immediately ran out my front door in bare feet, and experienced exactly the same feeling of lightness and energy as when running on the beach (but not quite the same ambience).

    From then on I experimented with different footwear. I tried everything from rubber thongs/flip flops to bedsocks and found the best thing was flat leather sandals which left my toes free. After that, running in traditional sports shoes felt like running through quicksand by comparison. I don’t run any more, but if I did, I’d probably get some of these fancy toe-sock-shoe thingies.

  3. Good to see the hobbit shoes put to use actually running.

    People wear them to bars and conferences and out and about in Seattle. I’m all for barefoot running and all that stuff but dear god, please have some dignity. Those shoes are like uggs… practical when used in the right way, but dinner on a friday night is not one of them.

  4. Thanks for the tips John! While I too was always active growing up, I’ve always dreading running. Though I could always wake myself up for a run on the beach during vacation.

    I think I might need to try the five fingers or find a way to vary my routine. Any tips for one living in the city and looking to run on something other than a road?

  5. Thanks Jay,

    I’ve got up to “long” runs of over 20ks in them, as well as frequently up to 10. One thing is that these are all almost on bush tracks, firetrails, beach and the like – a tiny (~200m) bit of blacktop, and maybe a k or so of sandstone. I’m not sure how I’d got on the road in them (and have no interest in finding out :-))

    The pics are all from Irena, she’s rounded out my words very nicely indeed

  6. Nice article John. I picked up a pair of Vibrams when I was over in Sacramento earlier this year. I love them! I suffered from inflammation of the ITB from running in Nike’s and don’t have that issue with Vibrans. Although I have reduced the duration of running and now opt for either sprints, walking or short runs (3 kms max). Whilst I am an advocate I hadn’t looked into the details, motions or mechanics so thanks for this pictures :)

    The prices are coming right down aswell so I hope to increase my wardrobe of extra feet ;)

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