Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Twenty Minutes Barefoot @ 32 Degrees F

The snow is still here, but running barefoot is fine if the pavement is dry! I repeated a few dry streets around my home last evening. Toes were just fine. Could have gone farther if I was more used to barefoot pavement running and wanted to keep repeating the same streets. Put shoes on for another 20 minutes.

Again, I am realizing that things are possible that I previously never would have imagined.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Snow is Here

It has snowed two nights so far. The first was the night before Thanksgiving. I raced on Thanksgiving in shoes, so I wasn't really thinking about barefooting that day. The snow only stuck on the grass. I did leave the house and drive to the race barefoot, and I did spend as much of the day shoeless as possible. But there was no running on that snow day. The second snow as last weekend, on Saturday night. I didn't run on Sunday because I went skiing. So Monday rolled around yesterday and I had gone to work and come home barefoot on the cold ground and in the car barefoot with no problem, so I set off from my house barefoot for the first part of my run, as I have been doing (see previous post). There were sections of wet pavement and dry pavement. I had some frozen toes after a couple of minutes. It was because of the wet pavement. Where there were longer sections of dry road, my feet warmed up. But there were not enough of those kinds of sections. A couple of times cars forced me into some slush on the side of the road. Surprisingly, the few steps in the slush was not as bad as the wet sections of pavement. I made it a mile, taking the shortest loop back to my house to put shoes on, in about 8:40. By then my toes were quite frozen. It took a couple of miles running in shoes for them to warm up completely.

I am discovering that going barefoot is more than just an exercise in running better, it is an exercise about changing the power of your mind to overcome all the things that society has programmed into it that may not necessarily be true. I was thinking of joining a gym this winter to take advantage of the treadmills, and was hoping to find one that would have no problem with running on their equipment barefoot. But trying to get through it despite the weather outside is more of this exercise in mental power.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Eastern Standard Time Barefoot

It is getting dark early. It is getting cold. These factors have conspired to make it much more difficult to run on the grass at Greenbrook Park. The grass has hidden sticks, pine cones and acorns in the dark. I have gotten more used to stepping on acorns when they are cushioned by the natural surface - i.e. they get pushed into the ground a little, unlike stepping on them on pavement - but the sticks worry me a little; not because I might step on them, but it is sometimes painful to kick them when they invisibly invade the path of my foot as it moves forward. Plus the grass itself and the ground is damp. The dampness sucks the warmth out of my feet and causes numbing and painful toes. As a result, I have been running barefoot on the road and sidewalks more than ever. Though the air temperature is cold, the road and sidewalks do not suck the heat out of my toes as the natural surfaces do. The roads are fairly clear of acorns, but the sidewalks are still full of them. I will often be running down Greenbrook Road, which is fairly busy, switching from road to sidewalk to front lawns, and back to the road again to find the best surfaces. I have been doing about 3 miles, or even more if I get out early enough. Then I circle back to my house and put shoes on for another 5 miles or so. I plant the shoes on the front stoop to get into them fast.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lying to Children About Why I'm Barefoot

It is getting colder here in NJ, and today I had to go to the bank and to the post office. It was frosty in the morning when I did the errands wearing several layers on top but without shoes on my feet. I also trimmed the bushes and raked the leaves all afternoon barefoot. For the past couple of days I am happy to report that I can run barefoot for a couple of miles on the road, even though it is dark and cold, before having to put some racing flats on to finish a decently long workout. I must say that the acorns on the sidewalks have been so much worse than anything else I have ever stepped on, now that we are deeply into the fall season.

But that isn't what I came here to talk to you about. I came to talk about addiction and lying.

I may have reached a new low today. This addiction to barefooting has led me to lying to children about it in public.

I was in a local post office. I had several items to ship from my eBay sales. I needed to put the items in Priority Mail boxes that I got at the post office right then and there. I was putting things together on this high service table they have there for this purpose while some other people waited in line for the one open window. There is nothing worse than waiting in line in a post office with those potentially "postal" postal workers working with a hustle index that measures in negative numbers. You can either look at the stamp advertisements or try to decipher the various posted charges for mailing services. Despite the availability of that exciting reading material, I could feel some of the people in line were glancing at my bare feet, no doubt wondering about them, but exercising politeness and not saying anything about what they might be thinking.

A woman came in with two children of about 3 and 4 years of age and she got in line. The children began playing chase-each-other-under-and-around-the-table. On about the third table lap, the older girl said to me, "I need to know what happened to your shoes and socks." Kids are great, saying stuff that adults are just too afraid to say! And it wasn't just a simple question, it was a statement - she needed to know what happened to them. As a teacher who has part of his current salary being pulled from grants based on the No Child Left Behind legislation, I was not going to leave the needs of our children unfulfilled. I smiled and said, "Well, it's a long story..." My mind began working hard and fast - do I explain running barefoot and living as barefoot as possible in support of the strength it has given me and about how it just feels better than sticking feet into sweaty shoes? No, that was too much for a 4 year old - so all of this happening in a split second so I said loud enough for everyone in line to hear, "I'm in a university study experimenting with the effects of not wearing shoes."

...And it was like everyone in there relaxed a little. Maybe they went back to looking at the Christmas Stamps poster thinking their world was not as challenged by the barefoot guy as they had initially feared. Seems it is OK to risk barefooting on cold mornings if it is in the name of science. And the funny thing is, I said the lie with absolute conviction, no guilt feelings, and it was unconscious and unplanned! It just rolled off my tongue as if I was not in control of what I was saying.

In the past I have used the nonverbal strategy of carrying a pair of flip-flops to make people feel comfortable with encountering a barefoot guy in the mall. I think now I have a cold-weather strategy: Make them think I am an experimental subject - perhaps doing something self-sacrificing that I really may not even want to be doing! - and that I am doing it to advance human knowledge.

And I think I am advancing human knowledge, kinda...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"First Barefoot Runner"

Today was crazy. Wife on a business trip; no sitters that could come over on a Sunday morning. Got the kids over to Susan's house. Got to the race with less an hour to go to the start. I still had not even entered nor turned in any team forms. Roger was in a panic about getting our team entry turned in on time because I hadn't answered his email. He put some stuff on a sheet and I was told by the USATF people that he took them to the scoring van. The scoring van was a quarter mile from check in and parking. I could not find him there. Roger did not have all the information for our 40's teams. So I am running around, ready to race but barefoot and carrying my shoes, trying to track down our team entries. Finally found Roger, who had returned them to the USATF table. I filled them out and handed them in right on the deadline time.

I put myself on the B team because I felt really crazed and I didn't really need this race. Our teams did need a stronger B team than usual, to pick up some points on the MC Striders. So after the race started I started thinking about getting my shoes off. The roads seemed pretty smooth, and I thought it would be no problem. So after about 2 miles I pulled over and took them off. It took me longer to take them off than last time. The running went well, until we hit a stretch of really rough road. It was like primitive paving and there was a lot of tree litter. That mile slowed me down a lot, and wore some skin off my toes. So the last mile went a little slow too. I looked down and thought I saw blood. There was some grass next to the road so I was on and off that in the last mile. I think it cleaned up the blood. And after I finished, there was no bleeding. I am glad about that, because that would not have been good publicity for barefoot running. One of the finish line volunteers said, "First barefoot runner!" So I won that category, at least.

But my right big toe is tender and lost some skin. For this race, being barefoot definitely slowed me down. I ran 41 minutes. The guys I usually finish around were about 2 minutes faster. So the 4 miles I did barefoot lost me an average of about 30 seconds per mile.

A friend of mine pointed out to me that world class African barefoot runners might train barefoot, but still race in shoes on the road.

This race was more about fun for me, though. It was more about seeing if I could do it. I can still run a fast Cat II at Ashenfelter 8K. I will keep my shoes on for that one - at least during the race.

Friday, November 11, 2005

There Were No Acorns in The Garden of Eden

The last two days of running have been a bit of an on-road barefoot breakthrough for me. I usually do the bulk of my barefoot running on grass, with maybe a mile total on the road. Yesterday I decided to just go for it, and my ran consisted of about 4 on-road barefoot miles and about 2 more on grass and dirt. Today I ran on the road in the dark barefoot for about 4 miles, then put shoes on for another 3. I have been running just as fast as I would with shoes on. It feels great, except for the acorns!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chuck Your Insoles!

I often post how I have had plenty of barefoot running success, as well as running-in-general success, by combining barefoot and shod running in my training. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. I have previously traded the stock insole in running shoes for flatter ones when I train or race in shoes "to get closer to the ground". But for the last couple of weeks I have simply chucked the insoles all together. Slip-lasted running shoes are working fine this way and they are allowing my feet to work more like they do when barefoot.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Anti-Barefoot Conspiracy

I wish I had remembered to relate this story before or on Halloween, but here goes -

On Sunday night, in an effort to build the Halloween mood and simultaneously infuse some cultural literacy into my 11 year-old son, I watched the DVD of the classic 1941 movie "Wolf Man", starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

In it, the not-yet-but-soon-to-be-werewolf Lon Chaney kills the gypsy-werewolf, played by Bela Lugosi, who then turns back into his human form. Of course, it is this encounter where Lon receives his fateful werewolf bite that carries him through the next 6 werewolf movies. When the constable investigates the apparent double murder, a big hubub is made about the Bella's BARE FEET. "..well how do you explain his bare feet..." he says suspiciously and almost sarcastically, for example. Moreover, when Lon (AKA Larry Talbot) makes his first transformation to werewolf, the directors chose to focus on his BARE FEET. This was probably easier for the overlapping takes to create the movie's groundbreaking yet primitive special effects. His feet are shown to grow hairy and finally change into something that works more like we run as non-heel strikers. I am sure most of you have seen this movie when you were a kid watching Creature Feature on Saturday night after Don Kircherner's Rock Concert.

What I am going for here, of course, is another anti-barefoot conspiracy theory (ABCT): the usage of BARE FEET as a symbol of the evil in humanity by the Hollywood status quo of the 1940's.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Half A Race Barefoot

Yesterday I ran a little less than half the USATF-NJ 8K Cross-Country Championships barefoot at Deerpath Park. Here is an exerpt from an IM conversation I had about it. (Thinnmann is me.)

[09:41] Sherrie: Ran barefoot 25 mins after the race yesterday, on the grass and mud parts of the course, even through the extended mud puddle, it was fun to run barefoot after the race, such a nice day!
[09:42] Thinnmann: Yup~! It was fun on the second lap of the race to go straight through the mud area!
[09:42] Sherrie: Easier barefoot than running with shoes, the toes get a grip in the muck.
[09:44] Thinnmann: I actually felt push-off slippage afer removing my spikes, but overall I probably ran the last 2 miles faster than with the shoes. Probably lost 10 seconds removing them, but gained the same being barefoot...
[09:46] Sherrie: So what do you think might have been the result if you ran the entire course barefoot? Did you plan to take off your shoes halfway through or was it spontaneous? I wore spikeless and took the chance of slipping over wearing the hardware.
[09:46] Thinnmann: I wanted to be able to, at some point, do a race barefoot. I warmed up on the "front loop" barefoot, and it was perfect! But the "back loop" over the bridge and up the hill was too gravelly and rock-strewn. It would have forced me to slow down too much. When I came around the first lap, through those trees to the right turn to start lap 2, Pam yelled, "Gene, take your shoes off now!' I smiled, and thought about calling her bluff, but decided that would be too showboatish. But after running another 50 yards my head was thinking, "Ya know, that isn't a bad idea; I can do that really fast..." So I moved right by the first Parcourse station, whipped them off and went on!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Brrrrr.... and some blood(?)

Hey - Raining again - all day. Ran about 5 miles on road and Greenbrook Park "Swamp". It was 45 degrees. My toes were cold, but not quite frosty. I thought I stepped on some glass - not from feeling it, but I heard it crack under my foot. Looked at my foot and it looked fine. When I got home and went into the shower, I thought I saw some blood wash into the tub from my foot when I first stepped in. But it was quick, and the mud started coloring the water, so I thought maybe it was just mud. Then I noticed some on the floor after I got out of the shower. Just a couple of smudges. I wonder if I cut my foot... No matter, though, because there is no more consequences than those already noted. Hm.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rain Corrects the Ways of My World

The end of summer and the beginning of fall was very dry here in NJ. I went for about two months without having to cut the grass because it just was not growing. Instead, it was burning. The ground was getting harder. The trees were dropping dry twigs and other hard seedy things. My barefoot mileage dropped with regularity as those weeks progressed because of the hardness of the ground and all the painful tree litter. During that same time, the amount of time barefoot while not running increased and Plainfield Pop Warner Football teams started invading my primary close-to-home barefoot running zone in Greenbrook Park.

Young black footballers and cheerleaders just can not compute what they see when a barefoot white guy runs circles around their practices for 40 minutes. They are forced to gawk at the lack of shoes and the shortness of running shorts and the speed of an old guy like me sustained for so long. A couple of the brave ones make comments, perhaps because what they are seeing in me is both a connection with athleticism and an antithesis of them. They are athletes that mostly hate running, since it is used only as a warm-up or as punishment for losses or mistakes. When they do run, they are shackled and weighted down with the football equipment and they run in hard cleated shoes. Even when they run as part of playing the game, their speed, direction and distance is dependent on the rest of the team or the coach - while I am free to choose all of those factors.

But nature is correcting herself. We have gotten a ton of rain since Friday. The earth is soft again. Greenbrook Park is too wet for the Pop Warner football practices, which has returned my park to solitude again. Yesterday I splashed through puddles and soft wet grass, got covered with mud up to my thighs, and had a goofy smile on my face.

Tackling the Ascent quite a (pair of) feet

Tackling the Ascent quite a (pair of) feet: "“My feet are frozen right now,” Ortiz said a few minutes after finishing the race. “I don’t know how she did it.”

Madero-Craven, an Air Force captain and math instructor at the Air Force Academy, has been running sans shoes since she was 14. What’s strange or different to conventional thinking is natural to Madero- Craven, who finished the course in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 16 seconds.

“Humans had been without shoes longer than we’ve had them,” she said."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

BOSS - The Boulder Outdoor Survival School

BOSS - The Boulder Outdoor Survival School: "'This is a lifestyle for me, not just a way to make a living,' he says, his thick-padded feet rolling over sharp volcanic rocks and shuffling around prickly pear as we head toward central Arizona's Verde River. He never wears shoes, not even in snow ('Don't want my feet to get soft'), and I can't help but wince with his every step. 'I'm very passionate about doing more with less. "

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Niagara Falls Barefoot

I just got back from Niagara Falls, Ontario, CA. The family spent most of 4 days and nights there. We did all the falls-related tourist stuff on the first day: Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, Whitewater Walk, Butterfly Conservatory. On the second day we went to Old Fort Erie and then went for a hike in the Niagara River gorge. On the third day we went to Marineland. On the 4th day we did a few of the attractions in the Clifton Hill entertainmant & dining district; and we also spent some time in that area after dinner a few nights. We walked everywhere except to Fort Erie, to the hike trailhead, and to Marineland. Took lots of photos and AVI movies.

This is the first vacation I tried to experience as barefoot as possible. I carried my flip-flops attached to my backpack, but walked everywhere we went barefoot. Whenever we entered a sit-down restaurant, I wore my flip-flops in because I didn't want to embarrass my family anymore than they already may have been, but removed them under the table and generally didn't put them back on again. There were two places I obayed the no-barefeet signs: The Maid of the Mist boat ride, and the Duty Free Shop on the way home when I went to get my Canadian tax paid refunded. Besides that, there were two places where overly self-important types asked me to put shoes on, without any specific reasoning beyond, "we wouldn't want you to step on something." In both cases, there was nothing to step on, and I had alredy been there walking around for a half an hour. One of the places was Old Fort Erie, where a really fat guy who was acting as the British commander of the fort asked me to put something on my feet, claiming there was a lot of broken glass outside and nails in the floorboards inside. There wasn't either of those anywhere. And, as I said, I had already been walking around there barefoot for at least 30 minutes. The other place was at Luis Tussard's Wax Museum. I was talking to an employee in his 20's, asking him if the wax figures came alive and moved around at night, and he was telling me some stories about actions of maintenance people that were sometimes misinterpreted as such. During that convo, another 50-ish woman employee appeared and asked me to put on shoes because I might step on something and cut my foot. Now, I gotta tell you, the wall-to-wall carpeting in that museum was better than one would find in most homes and it was flawlessly maintained! It was the most forgiving, comfortable and safe surface I experienced the entire trip! I asked her if there was a policy against being barefoot and she persisted, so I said OK, again to save my family from further embarrassment....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Barefoot Before

Here is something to consider : PF is strange because it hurts after RESTING not DURING exercise, if it is properly warmed up. The dammage to the tissues in PF is fairly minimal, but the pain caused by the inflamation can be debilitating, and the inflamation can lead to a heel spur. (I am not a doctor, but I played one on TV.)

I had PF about 8 years ago, before my barefoot running days, and the podiatrist and expensive orthotics did not fix it. I fixed it myself while maintaining a moderate training program, and am realizing in retrospect that being barefoot helped my cure. I stretched and did self-myofascial-release using my knuckles on my heel and arch before getting out of bed. I walked barefoot through my morning rituals of grooming, work preparation and breakfast, but I concentrated on making my foot maintain an arch while barefoot so I did not ruin any healing that may have occured overnight. I only ran slow distance in the afternoon in running shoes and Superfeet insoles. I applied ice by rolling a frozen orange juice can under my feet after running and and a few more times every evening.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Nike Free Stupidity

Debra commented on one of my previous posts about the Nike Free web site. [see comment]
She said: "Did you notice (in the runner section of the academy) the heel strike of the runner wearing nike frees?"
So that prompted me to go back and look at the site again. I think the intro movie changed, and I don't think this little footstrike imbedded movie was there either. It shows a horribly incorrect barefoot footstrike!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Heat Wave Bare

Since last Friday, New Jersey had a week of hot, humid, 90-degree-plus days. Running shoeless on these days makes my runs more bearable, and adds to the dread of the days when I have to wear running shoes. On days with shoes this past week, my sweat made squishy wet sounds inside them before the end of the runs. Plus I have another perception problem when running barefoot out of my house and through my suburban neighborhood. This perception problem is all in my own head. It goes like this -
If I have shoes on, I have no problem leaving my house in only running shorts. If I am barefoot, I need to leave my house with a singlet on. It is as if I feel too naked wearing only one coomax/nylon garment that weighs almost nothing. Yet, once I am running on grass in the park, away from houses and people and gangs of kids on bikes, I have no problem getting my sweaty shirt off and tucking it into my waistband.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Giving and Getting Back at Greenbrook Park

Giving: Many of my barefoot runs are in Greenbrook Park. On Friday I had to groom my course a bit. There was a broken wine bottle in the grass right along the route I loop. It was probably from July 4th celebrations. I found a discarded potato chip bag and piled the pieces onto it, then got it to a trash can. I also had to remove other soft-drink cans and plastic bottles. There were some annoying sticks and branches to throw aside too. This park clean-up detracted little from my run, since I was on a recovery run from the difficult week of training and racing I had cut out for myself in the previous 6 days.

Getting back: On Saturday I ran first thing in the morning. It was about 9 AM and quite hot already. I didn't realize I left the house dehydrated, but in retrospect I remembered I had to get out of bed the night before to fill my waterbottle for my bedstand. I wanted to do a fairly long run of 10 miles or so, but was feeling I had to cut it short from dehydration. So I am running along my usual grassy loop when I spotted a full Poland Spring water bottle in the grass. I picked it up and unscrewed the cap and it had been still safety-sealed! I sucked down the sun-warmed water for the next couple of miles. Did somebody passing through the park or watching a softball game mistakenly drop that bottle, or was the park supplying it to me in thanks for cleaning it up and regularly tickling its grass with my naked feet?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bees in The Clover

I stepped on a bee today after running about an hour at Holmdel Park. Got stung on my arch area. It didn't really hurt that much. I was close to my car and had an ice thing in my cooler, so i put that on there for about 10 minutes. Then I ran another half hour. I knew I was running over lots of clover, and saw plenty of bees, but easily avoided most - they were easy to pick out from their movement and color. I guess our vision may be naturally selected for that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Dreaded Shard o' Glass

I have mentioned how the fear of stepping on glass is typically cited by non-barefooters when the topic is discussed. It finally happened during today's barefooted 5 miles. I felt something penetrate my right forefoot while on the grass, just a few feet from the point in the run where I am leaving the park and getting onto roads and sidewalk. Still striding, I picked up my foot and brushed it with my left hand, and landed my foot again. Felt like it was still there. Stopped and saw it was a sliver of glass. I pulled it out and noticed blood. But the blood was not coming from my foot, it was coming from my finger! So, the feared glass finally stepped on did no damage to my foot, only to my stupid brushing finger... how fittingly ironic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

President's Cup

I was worried we were not going to have an open team for the USATF-NJ
Open Men's 5K Championship at the Presidents Cup Night Race last
night. Manoman was I wrong! We fielded A, B, and C teams with at
total of 22 team members! I couldn't even begin to guess how many
women of RVRR ran the race also!

Age groups: Chris Lehman, Imme Dyson 1st; Cathy Glamkowski, Jeremy
Stratton, Roger Price, Doug Brown, Patricia O'Hanlon 2nd; Kathy
Rocker, John Nowatkowski 3rd!

The night was cool and the race times were fast! The food was too
little, but the free Sam Adams was endless (until they had to clean
up). The best dancers were all RVRR members - what a party!

In my opinion, the real story of the race lies in seeing 19 open men's
teams entered in the race! That has to be some kind of USATF-NJ
record! Club racing is alive and thriving in this state like no other
in the USA! A lot of it can be attributed to RVRR, for being
undefeated as a club in the overall club Grand Prix since its
inception. Morris County Striders and Sneaker Factory are borrowing
our depth tactics to try and catch us. In the meantime, the real open
speed demons are running with the store-sponsored teams, which creates
a whole different dimension within the Grand Prix. The 2005 NBGP is
going to have a very exciting fall season, the way this is shaping up.
Train hard and participate at whatever level you can - it is gonna be
a fun ride!

Two new observations

Ran the President's Cub Night Race last night. Got to the race and registered barefoot, with a few people I know asking if I was racing that night without shoes. Nice to be asked. Talked to some people I have not seen for a while and told them I was running a lot barefoot. They all brought up the "fear of glass" that has become so prevalent when discussing my new-ish barefoot habits with them. I wore my NB 150's for warm-up and the race. Ran pretty respectably for not doing a lick o' track work this year as yet. Immediately removed my shoes for the volunteers to easily cut the zip-tie holding my ChampionChip onto my left shoe. I jogged about 1.25 mile cool-down barefoot on the streets of Millburn, probably my longest run on pavement without footwear! I realized this course would be excellent to race barefoot because the streets were 100% smooth asphalt, and seemed like they were just repaved this spring. But here is the important observation: the bottoms of my feet felt like they were cushioned, just as much as a pair of lightly cushioned running shoes. I could really feel the softness, perhaps because of the exceptional quality of the road surface. I am thinking that the past year of barefoot running has put enough skin on the bottoms of my feet that the skin is actually providing cushioning like the rubber soles of running shoes!

Second observation: Early in a barefoot run my feet are more sensitive than later in the run. I think it is both because of the nerves acclimating to the feelings, and because of better form after being warmed up.

After I cooled down last night, the President's Cup post race party was great. Not enough food, but plenty of free Sam Adams, music, dancing, good conversation. Did it all barefoot and a lot of people asked about the barefoot thing. They shut the free beer down at about 10 PM, so many running club friends went into Charlie Brown's (the race/party location is their parking lot). I went in barefoot and no employees cared. One thing I had to keep reminding myself as I made a couple of bathroom trips, however, was that urine is sterile...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Interesting week of training

I ran over 50 miles last Monday-Sunday. It was my first over-50 mile week this year. I did two days of double workouts on Friday and Saturday, to get in 10 miles each day around a very busy schedule.

On Friday I did a lunchtime 6 miler. I tried to wear fairly new Mizuno Mercury trainers. I can not wear these for running ever again. There is just too much shoe there, pushing my feet to do things that they don't want to do. They don't want to land heel first. They don't want to be stopped from pronating. It was really annoying. The shoes were making my whole body feel horrible during the run. So I took them off for a middle mile, running on some grass and some roadway, and my entire run became more comfortable. I ran my entire PM run barefoot on grass for 4 miles.

Friday night my family and I attended a Patriots baseball game. I wore Teva sandals, but I took them off at our seats. I chickened out about walking around the stadium without them. Don't want to think about going into the mens' room there without shoes...

On Saturday I had an awesome 5 mile run at 7 A.M., wearing Mizuno Revolver racing shoes. They might become my regular trainer now. I took my PM 5 mile run 100% barefoot from my house again, accepting the road as my running surface for much of the time on the way to Greenbrook Park.

On Sunday I did an easy 5 on the road, wearing my older Mizuno Maverics. Those shoes are not too annoying. However, they were annoying enough for me to remove them for the last mile. I had to do a lot of running on sidewalks and the street barefoot at the end of this run. It didn't bother me a bit! I am convinced that running barefoot is more difficult at the beginning of a run than at the end of a run.

Race tonight: President's Cup - probably wearing the New Balance 150's. Hoping to be under 18 for 5K.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


The one thing that bugs me about this barefoot running thing is that I don't think I can ever race as fast barefoot as I could wearing shoes. I am trying to find an exception on my running club's summer series XC course, but it going to have to be a wet day! In 2003, Naz Merchant won barefooted @ 17:52/5K!

I am trying to maintain the perspective that I am doing it to run in races faster, to use it as part of
an overall training program, not to over-do or become some kinda local 24/7 Obe-Wan of barefooting. But I gotta admit, that is kinda happening anyway; it is like outa my conscious control....

Friday, June 17, 2005

Full barefoot run from home!

I did a full 6.5 miles today from my home barefoot! I did my usual Greenbrook Park loops, but I did the half mile from home to the park and the return trip barefoot. The last time I did the Greenbrook Park loops, I wore shoes to the park, but didn't put them on again for the return trip. I found that there wasn't much of that distance that I had to run on the street for; instead there was grass for at least half of it, on the strip between the sidewalk and the street. I did find that the way there was more difficult than the way back. I think my feet feel better once I am warmed up. My body must be more relaxed and my form must be more efficient.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My feet are getting confused

Last night I ran the 1st RVRR summer series cross-country race of 2005. I warmed up with two laps (5K) barefoot, to see if I could do my first barefoot race there. I decided it was too dry, and the section that runs along the Raritan River was too full of roots and stones. That would slow me down too much. I will try it barefoot if any of the races are after a good rain this summer. So, I wore my Mizuno Wave kaze cross-country shoes with the rubber spike-like thingies. They have thin flat soles and barely any heel-height. So they were OK, but I got a little blister under my right forefoot. (Running barefoot has never given me a blister.) Then I cooled down barefoot for one lap (1.5 mi.) I had also gone there barefoot, and I stayed for the post-race pizza and beer until 9 PM barefoot. I have also been not wearing shoes on the way to and from work. I am only wearing shoes when I am "forced".

After entering last night's mileage into my excel training log, I was up to 51% barefoot for the month of June!

Tonight I put on shoes for the regular RVRR Wednesday Night Club Run. I ran 8 miles in Mizuno Mavericks. The heels of the shoes are definitely feeling like they are in the way! I hated dragging those heavy shoes along. I was tempted to remove them and run on the grass next to the bike path in Johnson Park, at least for the far end that is less developed. But I also rationalized that my feet body needed a dose of support and my feet a dose of protection for a change. I have bumped up my barefoot time a lot this last week, and I don't want to get injured. Well, don't you know that my shins hurt a little tonight, a few hours after that shod run! Probably because of the foot confusion those shoes caused. I am thinking that I might have to permanently train in racing flats!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Sprain Sprain Go Away...

If you have the patience to read the first entry in this blog, my RVRR newsletter article about going barefoot, you can see that one of the things that led me to barefoot running was my ankle twisting. I twisted my ankles regularly and extremely. My left foot could roll over all the way onto its top surface. It hurt like hell, and I would yell loud curses whenever it happened. I amassed a large array of ankle supports and icing devices. Until I realized I was twisting my ankle from falling off of my shoe soles. I have purged my running shoe inventory of shoes with a heels higher than toes. At this point all I want to train in is racing flats. Anyway, here is an article exerpt I just ran into confirming what I had to learn the long, hard, painful way!

Barefoot Running: "Ankle sprains are the most common acute injury suffered by athletes. Runners who frequent trails or uneven surfaces may be especially vulnerable to this type of injury. Since nearly all ankle sprains are inversion injuries, it behooves athletes to find ways to improve their lateral stability. The best lateral stability, with mostly reduced inversion, is found in the barefoot condition. This is because a shoe’s sole increases the lever arm thus escalating torque around the subtalar joint during a stumble.19,20 Also, imperfect proprioception can cause the foot to be placed in an awkward position. Compared to being barefoot, foot position awareness has been shown to be 107.5% worse when wearing athletic footwear. The authors of this study believe, 'The inescapable conclusion is that footwear use is ultimately responsible for ankle injury.'"

Sunday, June 12, 2005

This is getting interesting

This was an interesting weekend in many ways. But as a result of the influence of reading the Running Barefoot Yahoo! group, I decided to try to spend he entire weekend as barefoot as possible.

I went to a race on Saturday. First I got some coffee and a bagel at Dunkin Donuts and went in barefoot. That was really a bit of a rush - my first food place barefoot. Nicely air conditioned; cool tile floor.

I am not racing barefoot on the roads, nor do I intend to. I don't think a person can race fast on the roads of NJ barefoot. There are certain times where running barefoot is detrimental to speed and to training. I am trying to maintain that perspective while pushing these barriers of barefoot belief. However, I am racing with very minimal shoes at longer distances than I ever would have before training barefoot (up to 40+% now, on grass) since last summer. I have been using New Balance RC 150's (discontinued) that is little more than a flat like the blue nylon Tigers and Nikes we used back in the late 70's.

BUT I did not put on shoes until my warm-up and took them off immediately after finishing. It was a hot and humid 10K in Jersey City, NJ, and barefootedness was very refreshing.

So here are the comments:

1. Look out for glass (walking from the parking deck) (there wasn't any - I have noticed that glass is the non-barefooter's #1 fear)
2. Are you running the race barefoot? (at the check-in area)
3. You must have lost your shoes (after the race from some exhausted guy)
4. I guess your shoes were bothering you (on the way back to the parking deck) - I said "no, I am barefoot by choice" - but actually, I guess shoes are, in a way, bothering me. (more about that in another post)

Saturday night we had dinner over Debbie & Andy's house. Donnie and Allie were there too. Nobody had any problem with me being barefoot. That was nice. I don't even think I had to explain it to anybody. This group has spend a lot of time skiing and hottubbing together, so I guess everything goes with us. Well, I did have to explain to Andy that driving barefoot was not illegal when we went out to pick-up dinner.

On Sunday I began scaring myself a little. I stopped at Dunkin Donuts again and had no problem going in and getting my bagel and coffee barefoot. No more risk there after I broke the ice yesterday. Then we had orientation at camp, where I work in the summer. I run the pools, and have the luxury of being able to be barefoot most of the day in the summer in a venue that non-barefooters would consider normal.

Scary thing one: The rules of camp say that outside of the pools, shoes must always be worn. It is a safety thing. Staff members are expected to be a model of good camp behavior. Well, I took a risk. I carried my Tevas most of the day, and only had to put them on once when the director asked me.

Scary thing two: After I got back home from camp I had to mow the lawn. MOW THE LAWN. Yes, I did it barefoot. OMG, am I crazy? I figured in the last 30 years of mowing lawns, my shoes were never needed to protect my feet from the spinning blade. Why should they start having to do so now? I did pay a bit more attention when I was pulling the mower towards me. And it was good! I usually hate mowing the lawn and this time it was actually fun.

So I hadn't gone for my run yet, and I wanted to do barefoot loops at Greenbrook Park. I do a lot of my barefoot running in Greenbrook Park, which is about a half mile from my house. I usually do a barefoot session on grass there, sandwiched with wearing shoes there and back. But today I was seriously thinking about doing the half-mile there and back barefoot, thinking that I knew the streets, and that they were smooth and free of stones and other hazards. But it was hot, and I was thinking it might burn my feet. Plus I knew I had already done a lot of barefoot running this week, and didn't want to push it to cause injury. I didn't want to do anything detrimental to training. So I ran there in shoes, then took them off and did my grassy loops. On the way back I knew I was ready to try it - so I did scary thing three for the day: I did not put them on! I found that I could run about half of my steps on grass between the sidewalk and street, and the other half was on the street or sidewalks! From now on I can do my Greenbrook Park loops without having to stop to take off shoes, put them on, or run with them in my hands!

Finally, I went to 7-eleven to pick up a gallon of milk. I brought my Tevas just in case. I parked in front of the store and carefully looked for the "Shoes must be worn" sign I am sure I have seen on store windows in NJ. No such sign! So I went in and picked out the gallon of skim. Then walked over and proudly paid for it. One of the clerks who was refreshing the coffee bar certainly did a double-take, but said nothing!

Total time wearing running shoes or Tevas this weekend, including the race: less than 2 hours.

My soles are so tingly. They feel so good!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"...What is Wrong With High School Track" article exerpt, by John Raucci

"What then precisely is the problem with shoes? I mention shoes here because that is where the problem begins. For many reasons, the human foot was designed to come into direct contact with the ground. There are many nerve endings in the foot, which are in effect massaged when touching the ground, thus bringing a benefit to virtually every organ in the body. Shoes prevent us from feeling the ground. In addition, they cramp toes and weaken foot muscles whose function is thwarted by the shoe. When the muscles in the forefoot are weakened, we lose our ability to spread our toes. This forces our feet to overly rely on the mid-foot muscles, which in turn draw heavily upon the ankles, and so on up the leg. Should there be a heel (any size heel on a shoe), the entire body is misaligned; calf muscles are forced to shorten to compensate from the rise in the heel, and even the internal organs must re-adjust as the body is now standing at an angle. " Read the whole article here

Friday, June 10, 2005

I Am Nike Free!

OK, so the Nike Free thing is varyingly annoying and giving cause for some athletes to explore and rethink. But I think the commercial on TV is pretty cool. If you have not seen it, you can view it online, if you are on high speed with all your flash up to date.

you are gonna have to go through the whole intro before you get to the "view commercial" link.

"Entering the school of thought" and reading the "philosophy" may be interesting or at least produce a chuckle. Checkout the wallpapers in the "appendix" section. There is even a wallpaper with one of the sponsored pros, Maria Sharapova, appearing barefoot while all the male pros are wearing the Free. What kind of statement is that?...

I actually used one of the wallpapers, proclaiming "Run barefoot" - I wish I had the skill to photoshop the nike logo and the shoe out of it?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Longest Barefoot Run

Ran barefoot 10 miles today. All on grass. 12 street crossings, 1 rock, 1 pine cone, 1 thorn, 90 degrees F, 100% pleasure.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


I am up to 34% of my mileage barefoot (that is out of 20-60 miles per week, depending on the season). I still prefer grass when I am shoeless, though I have been crossing roads more and more. I am a fairly serious competitive masters runner in NJ. 45 years old; running for 31 years. I fell into barefoot running a year ago when I realized that most of my injuries were from falling off the elevated heels of my running shoes. I chronically twisted my ankles. I went on a rampage and purged most of the running shoes from under my bed - anything with over-built heels and too many motion control devices.

In addition to twisting ankles, I have also suffered from plantar faciaitis and achillies tendonitis. Not since running barefoot, though!

I began mixing barefoot running into my training routines a little bit at a time. 5 minutes per day, every other day, adding 5 more every week. Now I run up to an hour barefoot, both distance and intervals.

Running barefoot has changed my footstrike from heavy heel striking to one where my entire outside edge strikes at once and my heel is only down for a nanosecond. I have been able to race faster with less intervals and speedwork. I can't run on any grass surface anymore without thinking, "I should be barefoot." I constantly seek out parks and other large grassy areas where I typically do repetitive long laps as part of my longer workouts that start and end with shoes. I am kind of addicted. It just feels good and right.

Many other runners in my running club have seen me running barefoot now and we talk about it. I tell them how it has changed my running style and has banished injuries. I tell them I don't fear glass, that some of the stuff that falls off trees can hurt so I stay out from under them, but 99/100 steps are pure pleasure. Some are using barefoot running as part of their cool-down after hard runs and track workouts.

Now, when I buy training shoes, I look for shoes with little or no difference in sole height at the toe and heels. I run in racing flats and retro-shoes a lot - that is how I got through the NJ winter while retaining barefoot running feet. I also have the advantage of a summer job running a pool so I can be barefoot all day.

So though I am not a 100% barefoot runner, I am convinced that it is an extremely important part of a well designed training program.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Equinox Preview

The calendar has cooperated exquisitely this year, making the third annual Equinox 20K Run on March 20 true to its name and giving those early bird runners the rare opportunity to warm up for the race in winter and run it in spring. The Vernal Equinox, occurs in the northern hemisphere when night and day are nearly the same length and the Sun crosses the celestial equator and marks the official start of spring which occurs at 7:33 am in the Eastern time zone, one hour and fifty seven minutes before the race begins.

In addition to accurately commencing the spring season, the race also falls at a perfect time for those attempting most of the major spring marathons. Many books on marathoning suggest doing a race about half the distance about four weeks before the race, making the Equinox well situated for those running Boston of the New Jersey Shore Marathons among others.

The race is organized by The Raritan Valley Road Runners(RVRR), one of New Jersey’s premier running clubs. RVRR is a not for profit running club headquartered in the New Brunswick/Highland Park, area.. For over twenty years, they have promoted youth running through a summer racing series and running scholarships. They have over 300 members that log approximately 250,000 miles per year and the club has conducted its group over 1000 consecutive Wednesday nights.

The course traverses Johnson Park in Piscataway twice and while not always the most breathtaking of courses it is an easy course for spectators to easily follow runners through the course. The course is almost totally flat with few uphills or downhills.

The 12.4 mile course is certified by the USA Track and Field(USATF) Association of New Jersey as a championship course.. Over 450 runners from all over the state attended the race last year and this year’s showing is expected to be stronger.

While the weather should be advantageous for good performances, there is never any guarantee of spring weather Although the race kicks off spring, winter has only finished a few hours before and Old Man Winter may have a few last tricks up his sleeve.

Fees for the race are $20 for USATF members, postmarked by March 14 and $22 for non USATF members. Race day entry is $25. The application can be downloaded from and
once completed should be mailed to Equinox 20K, 8 Cedar Ct. Bedminster, NJ 07921. Registration is also available online at

Proceeds from the race fund the Highland Park first aid squad and RVRR youth summer series. For more information contact race director Dana Gross 908-470-0420 or email