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.