Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Running Barefoot Just One Slice of the Pie


Unless you’ve had your head in the sand this past year, you’ve no doubt heard about barefoot running. No less than five books were published in the past 12 months on this new running trend.  While my book touches on barefoot running, the topic only consumes one of eleven chapters. The amount of space I devoted to barefoot running in The Barefoot Book mirrors the amount of barefoot time I spend running.

Obviously, as an advocate of all things barefoot, I’m thrilled with the explosive interest in barefoot running. As I describe in detail in the book, shoes dramatically alter the way we run and they encourage body-wrecking poor form.  It’s simply a fact that running shoes are a major cause of running injuries (references in The Barefoot Book).  

However, while I’m excited by the growing popularity of barefoot running, I’m equally frustrated that so few barefoot runners seem to be taking the next logical step: barefoot walking.

Here’s the deal: shoes are bad for your form – and hence your body – when you run. But guess what? Shoes are also bad for your form – and hence your body – when you walk. (Indeed, shoes are bad for your posture even just standing). This is the first and foremost message of my book: shoes are bad for you, period. “But,” you might say, “walking is far less impactful than running so wearing shoes while you walk shouldn’t be as bad wearing shoes while you run, right?” Yes and no. Yes, walking is less impactful than running, but the average person takes far more walking steps than running steps throughout their week. All of those steps add up, as does the damage from bad walking form induced by your shoes.

Think about it. There are 168 hours in a week; how many of those hours do you spend running? Personally, I only spend about 6 hours per week running, on a good week (so as you can see, I’m not an avid runner; I’m a recreational runner). This amounts to just 3.5% of my week. If my activities were graphed on a pie chart, then running makes a rather small slice. The rest of my waking moments are spent almost entirely either sitting, standing or walking. Since walking is actually fantastic exercise, many health experts recommend walking 10,000 steps per day. If you’re not taking those steps in a zero-drop shoe or in a shoe without a toe spring, arch support, cushioning and all the other bunkum that goes into modern footwear, then you are walking with bad form and hurting yourself. Just as with running, the best way to correct bad form is to ditch your shoes and walk the way nature intended – barefoot.

The easiest way to walk barefoot more is to adopt an increasingly barefoot lifestyle. You simply can’t spend significant time walking barefoot if you put on shoes every time you go to the grocer, or the mall, or the cinema, or to dinner, or to work, or to church, or to…  

This gets to the heart of the second message of my book: we as a culture must chill-ax when it comes to going barefoot already! There is nothing wrong with (and so much right with) going barefoot, why is it so taboo? And for those of you who buck the norm to run barefoot, what keeps you from bucking the norm to walk barefoot? Consider your feet not just when you’re running, but all day long. Treat them right… walk barefoot. And the more of us that do it, the less taboo it will be.


5 comments:

  1. Dear Daniel,

    To answer your question as to why barefoot runners are not taking up barefoot living, the answer is simple - some business do not allow barefoot customers. And the sad part is that you can get kicked out of a store even if there are no "shoes required" signs posted. We long time barefooters know that hassles from stores are infrequent, but to a new barefooter, all it takes is one bad incident and they go back to wearing shoes. So if you want more people to take up barefoot living, the problem of discrimination from businesses must be fixed first.

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  2. I agree with Jim - Unfortunately, it IS tough for new barefooters to stick with barefoot walking at unfriendly businesses.

    Barefoot running is becoming a hot trend in my area, but I rarely see people barefoot walking. I get hushed whispers from those I pass on my neighborhood walks, "Look, she's not wearing shoes." :)

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  3. I just recently started getting into a barefoot lifestyle and am still very self conscious in public.
    So yesterday I made myself a pair of huaraches and wore them in the bigbox grocery store - they gave me the confidence that I was wearing shoes (technically) and they allowed me to go barefoot for all intents and purposes!
    You can see them on my blog: http://leatherbyjohan.blogspot.com/

    Huaraches might very well be a cross-over tool from being shod to being healthy!

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  4. There does seem to be a partition between barefoot running and being barefoot generally. I think it's considered more acceptable to engage in BF running as a specific athletic endeavor. Walking around town barefoot pushes the social envelope more and few people, it seems, are willing to take it to that level. But hooray for the BF runners for being in the forefront.

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  5. Tell it to my podiatrist, who instructed me to wear (more) cushioned shoes, and remove them only in bed, and in the shower. Well, we didn't discuss swimwear.

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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.