It wouldn’t be a blog about running (loosely) if I didn’t address the barefoot running trend. (See this recent article from Reuters for additional reading on the topic). I bought my first pair of barefoot shoes (this, in itself seems like an oxymoron) in late summer mostly because I was just too curious not to. I will say, my first experience in them was mind-blowing. The stability I felt was incredible and obvious, like I was suddenly superhumanly agile. This was a majorly successful sensation for my ordinarily very clumsy self. My feet gripped the ground nimbly and securely and off I went at, for me, breakneck speed. I’ve been reading a lot about this concept, both in Born to Run and other sources and so I’d been practicing my fore-foot strike for a while before transitioning to barefoot shoes.
The difference is drastic.
Combining the forefoot strike with minimal shoes was a running experience for the ages. It felt artistic and joyful in a way that I’d only ever accidentally stumbled across before in my years of running. It feels intentional, but easy, and I love it. This is not to say I have abandoned traditional running shoes. I’m a die-hard Asics runner and have regretted every deviation from the brand in terms of shoe purchase, with the exception of the 5 fingers. Given my history with temperamental tarsals, I knew I’d have to be cautious about barefoot running and so I’ve been making the transition slowly, rotating between my beloved Gel-Kayanos and the barefoot shoes, and I’m still pleasantly surprised by the freeing sensation of putting on the 5 fingers. On one of my earlier runs in them I couldn’t help laughing as a car passed me and a girl leaning out the passenger window with a high five for me shouting, “FIVE FINGERS!!! YEAAAA!”
I’m excited by the barefoot craze because it reinforces something I’ve long suspected: that a profound and primal connection exists between our feet and our brains, and that something magical and immense happens when we engage this connection. It also feels like, for me in any case, a primary catalyst behind a whole host of my abilities to function in the world. (Close friends and family will readily attest to my sans-run crankiness.) Emerging scientific studies are addressing this in more detail, and I think a lot of runners would agree that there is something powerful to be found in the moments our feet connect with the ground, and our minds begin the journey of exertion and endurance. One such study out from the University of Cambridge recently found that regular running has the potential to increase the growth of new brain cells (Whoa!).
I love it.
Run on, smarty pants. Run on.