One step back, two steps forward

Hurray, I’ve run 3km and no new blisters, aches or pains. Success!

It seems that the path to barefoot nirvana is slow and hazardous. The tarmac road is an unforgiving surface – this is learning the hard way. In the past couple of months that I’ve been running barefoot, I’ve picked up numerous little injuries. At least today I feel like I’ve made some progress.

So, I have built up to running 3km. Don’t ask me how long that takes me. For a runner who could run sub-40 minute 10kms, this is really frustrating. I knew I wouldn’t be fast, but my plan was to be running a lot further by now. Now I’m just resigned to taking every day at a time.

So why is today such a big success? Because I ran the same route 4 days ago and came back with 3 interesting looking blood blisters. Owww!

How can I run the same route and on one day get blisters and on another not? Because barefoot running is all about technique. Runners often joke that running is simply putting one foot in front of another very fast, but I don’t agree with that. Running is a skill, and if you do it wrong you get injured.

My problem 4 days ago was that my feet were numb with cold, so I couldn’t feel that I was creating a huge amount of friction between them and the pavement. Today it was warmer, so I was able to listen to my feet. I picked them up properly and that prevented them from getting worn and blistered.

The pavements around here having extremely rough surfaces, so to be able to run 3km on them comfortably is, in my opinion, a considerable achievement. It will have to make up for not running a 10k any time soon.

So today I have learned that a good foot lifting technique is important, and also why shoes are bad. You have to run genuinely barefoot, and not use minimalist shoes or Vibram five-fingers in order to feel the ground and correct your technique. Ken Bob Saxton calls this process “Feetback” which I think usefully summarises why running barefoot is important. I’m not on commission, but I strongly recommend anyone interested in running barefoot to read his book before starting.

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1 Response to One step back, two steps forward

  1. Chuck M says:

    I relate to pounding my numb feet during some runs this past winter! Congrats on the 3M run. I’m learning also that building up is slow and frustrating at time, but it’s so worth the patience it requires. It is very clear to me now that any injuries I’ve had after going barefoot have come about by trying to do much too fast – or by getting back into running shoes. I wrecked my achilles last October while running trails in regular running shoes. My progress has seemed glacial at times – I went weeks running no more than 1 mile per run – but I recently completed my first 6-miler with no issues.


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