Denver Post Barefoot Running Debate
It turns out that the biggest opponent of barefoot running is Mark Plaatjes, the owner of the Boulder Running Company. He makes the argument that running barefoot is not for Americans because "98 percent of the U.S. do not grow up barefoot, walking barefoot" and that "If you do not grow up barefoot, it is a really difficult thing to do."
Granted, Mr. Plaatjes is correct that many if not most Americans did not grow up barefoot..., but making the case that since they did not, they should not, is not the kind of argument one should make without a lot of evidence backing it up. And that evidence is not there.
My experience tells me that you can regain use of your feet, one thoughtful step at a time. For many, the foot has atrophied and become weak from years of wearing shoe casts. Constantly supporting the foot leads to weakness. Strengthening the foot requires patience and care, but the results are so well worth it. Your foot is an amazing and beautiful piece of magical equipment that you've inherited from a long line of successful movement. Self-healing and self-nourishing, your feet get stronger with use...the best shoes you'll ever own.
Michael Sandler of Boulder is the article's main barefoot running proponent. Sandler says that "When you are barefoot, you are forced to run the way ancient man ran, which is a soft dance," and I agree. He further points out that even his upper body is getting stronger from barefooting. I understand this too.
One of the other proponents, Ivo Waerlop, suggests that barefoot running allows muscles to strengthen and work in different ways than they are familiar with while in shoes. Runners experience a more natural stride when they are barefoot, he says, and I agree. Further, he points out that when in training shoes, runners are more likely to land on their heel before rocking through to the toes, and that is not a good thing.
They also quote me in the article thus:
"When you take away the feeling of the impact of your feet hitting the ground, you end up putting much more impact into your body than if you felt it and adjusted your stride," said Barefoot Ted, perhaps the most well-known barefoot running enthusiast. He lives in Washington and has spread the gospel of barefoot running for five years.
"The more padded the shoe has become, the more impact people are putting into their body," Barefoot Ted said.
No shoes = bigger smiles
Further in the article, it suggests that we (Sandler and me) are on the extreme side of the barefoot spectrum..., but is that exactly true? We are just showing what is possible and suggesting that barefoot and minimal running be included in the dialogue of mainstream's understanding of running rather than resorting to scare tactics to make people shy away from being barefoot. We are living proof that it can be done...and that it is joyful.
I suggest you give barefooting a try. Start slow and build slow. Be thoughtful, mindful and gentle. The rewards seem very high, and I have been receiving a lot of emails with amazing success reports.
If you live near Boulder and you may be interested in meeting up with the Boulder Barefoot Running Club. It is an enthusiastic group of folks proving that the foot is just fine as it is.
If you are near Seattle, I do coach barefoot running technique in an introduction to barefoot running workshop which I like to do one-on-one or with small groups. See my coaching page here.
I plan on starting a Seattle (Capitol Hill) Barefoot Running Club in the near future using Volunteer Park and the Arboretum as the club running grounds. Should be fun.
For the original Denver Post article, click here.