Thanks to Frédérik Sisa, for asking me to answer a few questions about barefoot running on his site, The Front Page Online.
I want to highlight a point that I make in the interview, because I think it’s under-appreciated and under-discussed in the barefoot community.
If you haven’t been barefoot in a while – especially if you want to explore barefoot running – you probably are not used to using your muscles in the way that barefooting will demand.
Sometimes this means that the transition to barefoot may require strengthening. More often it means simply paying attention to your body, finding the comfortable way to move that doesn’t require extra effort (that is, I would focus on moving with less effort before trying to get stronger).
The key point I want to emphasize is use less effort.
Most people think that calf or Achilles pain is simply part of the transition process from running in shoes to running barefoot, that the cause is previous underuse, and that the solution is to get stronger.
More often than not, calf or Achilles pain is from using those muscles/tendons more than necessary, not that they’ve been weakened by wearing shoes for some amount of time.
If, when you land, you reach out with your foot (overstriding), you use your calf and Achilles to decelerate. Sure, getting freakishly strong may make that easier to do, but the correct solution is to “stop putting on the brakes” when you land by stopping your overstriding and, instead, placing your foot more “underneath your body.”
Similarly, if you remove your foot from the ground by pushing off with your toes, you’re essentially doing bodyweight calf raises every time you take a stride… and even a short run would be more than your body can handle. Again, the solution isn’t to hit the weight room and improve your calf raise strength. It’s to LIFT your foot off the ground (instead of pushing) by flexing at the hip. If you imagine what happens if a bee would sting your foot… you wouldn’t try to push away from the ground, you would reflexively (faster and easier) pull your foot from the ground with a hip flex.
In order to use less effort, you’ll probably have to start with less running. That’s fine. By the time you figure out how to make things easier, you probably will have gained any extra strength that you may need, if any.
Remember my barefoot running mantra: “How can I make this lighter, easier, and MORE FUN?”
There’s nothing I find funnier than when I’m running in my Xero Shoes sandals and someone asks, “Can you run in those?”
Uh… you’re WATCHING me run in them!
Well, when I tell non-runners that some people run 100k ultramarathons in huaraches, they’re incredulous.
Now I don’t need to explain anything, I can just show this video of the La Ruta Run, a 50k and 100k race that took place in Costa Rica. Arguably, La Ruta is the hardest trail ultramarathon in the world.
Check it out… but be careful. This video will make you want to run La Ruta!
Oh, and look at the 4:18 -ish mark for Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse running La Ruta in their Xero Shoes! Hear them talk about running La Ruta here.
And check out the women running in their cheap plastic sandals!
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and the Natural Running Center have put out a great ebook about the benefits of being barefoot and natural movement.
According to the NRC site, the premise: Healthy Feet = Healthy Running.
I’d add healthy walking, hiking, strolling, yoga, working out… and everything else you do on your feet.
The free ebook looks at a study done in 1905 by Dr. Phil Hoffman, where he compared the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing (shod) people, and includes commentary on the study by Mark, Dr. Casey Kerrigan, and Dr. Phil Maffetone.
Adjust your running pattern — rather than a 5 mile run, do some 1/2 mile loops (getting warm inside between each 1/2 mile and, as you get more acclimated, make slightly bigger loops)
Be smart! There are no bonus points for running barefoot on the snow to the point of getting frostbite. Add some toe socks or thick wool socks and a layer of protection, like Xero Shoes.
BE REALLY SMART! If you get too cold. STOP!
Give yourself time to acclimate — you’ll definitely get better and better at handling the cold over time.
SERIOUSLY, BE SMART!!!! (get the hint?) 32-degrees (Fahrenheit) is rarely a problem for me… but ZERO… that’s a whole other story. “Dry” powdery snow is way easier to tolerate than wet snow. In other words, adjust to reality
It’s our “Small Blacksgiving Cyberversary” Sale! That’s a combo of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and our 4th Anniversary rolled into one.
Lena and I started Xero Shoes on November 23rd, 2009, after making barefoot running sandals as a hobby (which we started doing because our lives changed once we got out of our regular shoes and experienced real natural movement).
We never expected we’d end up sharing our hobby with tens of thousands of runners, walkers, hikers, and everybody in between, all around the world!
We’re so grateful that we’ve been able to do that, and to hear from tens of thousands of others who’ve now had the experience of barefoot living.
And we’re even more thankful that we’ve gotten to give back a LOT of help to the Tarahumara who inspired us, via our donations to the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital Fund. Since that donation comes from your purchases, thank YOU.
We have a lot planned for the coming years to help even more people — with products and charitable giving — and we couldn’t do any of it without you, so, once again, THANKS. Other than the very long days, and very hard work ;-), Lena and I are so thankful.
(Oh, btw, ToeSox — which we resell for another company — and gift certificates are not included in the sale… we’ve had people “game the system” by buying gift certificates at a discount and then buying product at a discount )
Want to run with the Tarahumara (the Mexican tribe featured in Chris McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run)?
Well, if you can’t make it to the Copper Canyon, or anywhere else for that matter, here’s the next best thing.
Ultra runners Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse went to Costa Rica for La Ruta 100k, arguably the hardest trail ultramarathon in the world.
About a dozen Tarahumara runners were there and Jon and Mel got to spend the better part of a week hanging out and running with them — as well as swapping huaraches and Xero Shoes, eating, drinking, and much more.
If you want to hear the story of La Ruta and the Tarahumara, join us on Tuesday, November 26th for a live video chat with Jon and Mel.
They’ll be sharing pictures and stories as well as giving great tips about barefoot running, minimalist running, ultramarathon training, and anything you can think to ask about.
Click on this link to find out more about the live video chat.
Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse left the cold weather in Edmonton, Alberta and jetted to Costa Rica for the La Ruta Run, perhaps the hardest ultramarathon in the world.
We’ll have a full report about their trip and the race in about 48 hours. But until then, I wanted to share this quick story they told me.
Knowing that they’d be running with some Tarahumara runners, I gave them some extra Sensori Venture Xero Shoes to bring on their trip. They sent the photos, below, and report (from their phone):
We gave away all the Sensoris you sent us down with. One to Maria (Tarahumara female who hasn’t taken hers off since I put them on her feet), the “presidents” of Chihuahua, Mexico (two men in this picture), Martin (spelling? “Head/leader” of the Chihuahua Tarahumara tribe…the one in this pic with us) and tonight, two local Costa Rican natives who will be running la Ruta with us on Saturday!!! Everyone is LOVING the Xeros. The presidents of the Tarahumara want to talk to you about getting some more for the Tarahumara back home to wear..how cool is that?!
The answer? VERY cool!
We’ve proudly supported the Tarahumara through the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital Fund… but I love the idea of getting more Xeros onto runners’ feet! Stay tuned.
There are LOTS of reason you'll want to get out of your regular shoes and go barefoot or wear Xero Shoes. But the "barefoot world" is full of mythology, contradiction and, frankly, lies told to you by giant shoe companies. Even ones that sell minimalist shoes.
How do you discover the truth? How do you find the fastest and easiest way to start enjoying being barefoot or minimalist, whether you're a walker, hiker, paddle boarder, or runner? Simple. By signing up and receiving our free 7-part series: "Feel The World: How to enjoy the fun and benefits of being barefoot"
“An almost-barefoot feel, but with some protection... provides barefoot-like balance. It's so light you hardly feel it...” -Los Angeles Times
“Winner 2011 "Best Huarache" A powerhouse of a sandal that has no apparent weaknesses.” -Christian Peterson
“I was extremely surprised and delighted by how well the Invisible Shoes fit my feet... the closest to going barefoot without actually going barefoot...” -Jessica Lee
“It wasn’t until Steven made me my first pair that I understood how much fun they are to run in. My feet feel like they’re completely bare...” -Scott McLean
“If you are a barefoot runner or plan on running barefoot, you need a pair of huaraches!...”
“Xero Shoes for kids make an awesome summer sandal. They can be tricked out with beads and charms to make them even more fun. My daughter's daycare teachers always want to know where to get them!” -Justin Owings
“These are soooo cool!! It really is like running barefoot, but with a little protective mat under your feet. Your foot is completely free, unlike the Vibram FiveFingers...” -Joy Frantz
“Running in my Xero Shoes is really enjoyable – they maintain almost all of the fun barefoot feel, and give me enough protection to take on more challenging terrain..." -Donald Buraglio
“These are pretty much the only shoes I wear now. It makes sense that being barefoot (or close to it) is the way to walk..." -Tracy Jones
“Xero Shoes are the closest thing to actual barefoot running. Putting them on made me feel like a Native American warrior! They're great for my strength training workouts as well as running..." -Al Kavadlo