Actually I wouldn’t describe myself as a barefoot runner. Minimalist is a better word because most of my time spent whilst running is in London and believe me you don’t want to be running barefoot round the streets of London.
Minimalism is all about stripping back the superfluous and unnecessary. It can be as simple as leaving your GPS watch at home or in my case it can lead to a re-evaluation of what I want to put on my feet. Over 6 years of marathon training I had become used to dealing with pain in my hips, shins, knees and feet. I had accepted it as the price to pay for training for the marathon distance. Then I discovered ultramarathons and that upped the ante considerably. Training would be more intense and the opportunity for injury increased accordingly. I knew that something had to change. Something was causing the pain and I refused to believe that it was simply an inevitable result of running.
Research into the issue led me to believe that my issue wasn’t the mileage or time on my feet. The issue wasn’t where I ran or for how long or even how fast. The issue was how I ran.
Modern shoes are designed to forgive, cushion and insulate your feet from the terrain underneath them. They are there to control motion so you can impact through that cushioned heal and keep your foot stable and inflexible.
One morning I was running through a park in London. I stopped and looked at my feet and knew immediately what I needed to do. I took the shoes off, picked them up and set off barefoot. It’s an almost childlike feeling running on grass with nothing on your feet. I was acutely aware of every foot-fall and found that the way I was running was remarkably different in a myriad of ways.
After a time I reached the end of the park and put my shoes back on but I was hooked. I wanted to run like that all the time. I could sense that for the first time I’d just run “properly”, it felt like I was simply flowing.
And that’s the journey I’m on every day when I set off out for a run. What I put on my feet is always the minimum I can use for the terrain as I want the maximum feedback through to my feet and I don’t want my footwear changing how I run in the slightest. The goal is to be a better runner. A runner for life.