Monday, 26 March 2012

Barefoot revolutions

As a practising Scotsman, there is something inherently attractive about running footwear that doesn't cost any money. For me, this seemed the obvious benefit of barefoot running, so when I first looked into it I was very much put off by the fact that barefoot running footwear was a lot more expensive than my normal running shoes. I guess it's a common theme of lightweight performance sportswear and equipment that the more you pay, the less you get.

So the other day, after a gentle recovery run along the Tay and around the North Inch in Perth, in the unseasonally warm and sunny weather, I stopped at the side of the freshly mown cricket oval, got my socks and shoes off, and went for a few laps proper barefoot.


The run up to that point had not been very enjoyable - my legs were knackered from the previous day and I felt like I was plodding along. But on my first lap of the cricket oval I felt light and springy in my bare feet, and glanced at my Garmin to see I was doing seven minute miles and it felt easy. After 6 laps, or 1.5 miles, I was still cruising along quite happily and loving the feel of the grass between my toes, but thought I should stop then as I didn't want to overdo it on the first time.

Since then I've been a couple of more times to the cricket oval, and last time did three miles in my bare feet, again at a decent (for me) pace of just over 7 minute miles. I felt noticeably clumpy and unnatural when I put my shoes back on to run the half mile on tarmac back to the office. And, importantly for me, the big toe joint that usually hurts when I run does not hurt at all when I've got my shoes off.

So I'm a convert to this barefoot running thing I think, and aim to do a few miles a time, about three times a week. But I'm not about to rush out and buy some Five Fingers (even though my good mate Jeff and his wife Sam have just started their own on-line barefoot running shoe store - - and I could probably get a good deal) as for the timebeing I'm happy to run proper barefoot round the cricket oval in Perth or on the golf course fairways in Stirling.

I hope as I get more used to it to run on some other grassy routes around Perth and Stirling. I guess the biggest danger is standing on something either sharp or unpleasant. I'll stick to the classier areas of town to hopefully avoid the needles and broken glass, and as for the inevitable meeting between feet and dog dirt that will happen at some point, I'll carry a small pack of baby wipes. In theory it should be easier to clean dog dirt off your feet than it is to clean it off your shoes.

Well, except for the bits that get stuck under your toenails.