There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the barefoot running movement even if you choose not to run with naked feet. I’ll be the first to admit I have no intention of actually running without some type of foot covering. Scott Jurek does not run barefoot. He trains and runs his ultramarathons in simple racing flats. And although his father tells him he’s going to need a knee replacement when he turns 40, so far so good for him. Although I am no Scott Jurek, there is a lesson in that sometimes less is more.
Other lessons learned from the Naked Tour:
1. We were born to run and to be athletic. When you realize this and appreciate what are bodies are meant to do, it’s a lot harder to come up with good excuses for not being active.
2. Humans are the best distance runners on the planet. Part of what makes us so good is our ability to sweat and regulate our body temperatures over long times and distances. My body, however, tends to behave more like a dog. I really do not sweat while I am running. I end up panting like a dog, turning red in the face, overheating, and end up with a layer of dried salts on my arms and legs rather than sweat. I only start to sweat when I stop running. As it is beginning to get quite hot in southern Mississippi, I am learning to deal with this by taking long walk breaks during my runs to force my body to start sweating. Unfortunately, I think this will keep me from being to run across Death Valley like Scott Jurek. (Pretend it’s just the whole sweating thing keeping me from doing this.)
3. Build the fundamentals of running and strengthen your body first…then add distance. This is pretty much the opposite of what we do when we start a marathon training program from scratch, but this will be the goal of my rebuilding workouts over the next two months.
4. Don’t let your shoes act against your body’s natural movement. Why is it that for just about every other type of sport we focus so strongly on the importance of good form and when it comes to running we just think we can stick as shoe on your foot to fix bad form? What about my right foot overpronating and my left foot having a neutral strike? Should I force my left foot into a shoe correcting a problem it doesn’t have or should I teach my right foot to fall in a better way? Don’t mindlessly choose a shoe and be ready to try out all of your options to find the right fit for you.
5. We are all graceful runners when we are barefoot children. We become clumsy when we put on shoes and they get in our way. I see this all the time with my kids. They are constantly tripping over the tips of their own shoes. So, guess what? They are about to become minimalists too. They’ll be getting their own Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Frees to try out this summer.