I have a confession to make: I love to run in shoes with lots of cushioning. The softer, the better; I just love it when my feet feel as though they are cuddled by cotton-candy clouds.
My love of cushioned shoes is so intense that my preferred road running shoe is basically viewed as the embodiment of all evil by the disciples of the barefoot running movement.
Barefoot runners would, at best, argue that my cushioned devil shoes are overkill and at worst would suggest that the shoes themselves would tempt me towards a fiendishly sloppy running form and summon an array injuries upon me.
My own thoughts on this matter are twofold: first of all, as I have pointed out above, I simply feel great in cushioned shoes. And if I’m going to pounce on concrete for 42.2 kilometres, I think that I would be a complete mug if I didn’t choose the most comfortable attire for the job. Secondly, while I am certainly a devotee to good running form, I don’t think that this is directly related to the shoes I wear.
I certainly don’t wear my demonic running shoes in an attempt to prevent injuries. In fact, in ten years of running in diabolical trainers, I have never once experienced a running related injury – bruised toenails aside. (Excuse me for a moment while I do a swift lap of my house, touching anything wooden in the process).
Having said all that, I am always interested in taking a fresh look at my running form and I am open to the possibility that an odd bout of barefoot running could, potentially be somewhat revealing. Besides, I am curious by nature and yes, I may have read Born to Run.
Therefore, last week, I decided to embrace the lingering summer feeling and temporarily hung up my trainers to conduct a personal case study on barefoot running. For my first attempt I ventured into the relative safety of the local park and its extensive fields of green.
I’ll come straight to the point here: the main outcome of my barefoot running experience is that I had heaps of fun. It genuinely took me back to my childhood and I relished the feeling of the dewy summer grass beneath the soles of my feet. Oh boy, I even enjoyed tiptoeing along the road and gravel paths and flashed a sheepish schoolgirl grin at the gardeners who were commenting on my seemingly forgotten attire. In no time at all, the wind had robbed me of all my caution and I was running wild as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
Perhaps it was easy for me. I often walk barefoot around the house. Moreover, I have always been a midfoot-striker, irrespective of the footwear.
Once I managed to tear myself away from my latest “au natural” adventure, I have come to the following conclusion: perhaps humans were born to run barefoot, but surely not on such unnatural surfaces as asphalt or even concrete surfaces. Also, I suspect that extensive barefoot running requires some pretty tough feet in the first place. And given that I have no intention of wandering through my everyday life without shoes (I’m not that alternative!), why would I expect my feet to put up with the most extreme battering I inflict upon them without the protection they enjoy for the rest of their lives?
Personally, I will stay loyal to my beloved and insanely comfy trainers. However, when the sun is out on a beautiful summer’s day, don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of a 32-going-on-11 year old skipping around your local park with piggy tails and unashamedly nude below the knee.
“I only do this because I’m having fun. The day I stop having fun, I’ll just walk away.”
– Heath Ledger