Friday, August 13, 2010

Experiment #2 - Barefoot Sandals For Guys

Actually, I don't plan to make these. But several of the guys on the Barefoot Runners' Society forum have asked if I could do the same kind of thing for guys. OK, gents, here's my $0.02. It's up to you to make a pair. If you do, please post a link to pictures of your creation in the comments.

1) Buy this pair of $20 sandals from K-Mart.

2) Cut where indicated by the red lines below (both sides). You might choose to seal the edges with some glue and use a permanent marker to fill in the areas where the trim would be. (Or not.)

(Alternatively, you could leave the side straps (along the 'tongue' of the shoe) long and cut them off at the base of the shoe instead of where shown. Then you could glue 2 pieces of flat elastic cord to the straps so that the elastic cord would fit across the bottom of your foot and hold the side straps to your foot. The finished product would look more "shoe-like," but it would take more tools and time and mean that the bottom of your foot wouldn't be completely bare -- there would be 2 parallel elastic straps across the sole of your foot.)

Assuming you're going with the quick and easy method (and, hey, you're guys -- so of course you are!) let's continue...

3) Now loosen the laces all the way and extend the cord out at the toe end. (You'll need a bit more imagination with this image, but hopefully you get the idea.)

4) Attach the back strap around your ankle and loop the cord around your toe. VoilĂ ! Just enough shoe to pass the glance test and keep under the radar of the shoe police. And it's yours for just $20 and about 5 minutes of effort.

Good luck with it! Let me know how it goes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How To Make Barefoot Sandals

This is experiment number 1. I'll let you know how well they wear after this weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An Ah-Ha Moment!

Earlier today, thanks to a link posted on the Barefoot Runners Society forum, I read a great article by Steve Magness: The Biomechanics of Running.

When I was done I thought, "I finally get it! It's all about the hip extension!"

All along I've been equating hip extension with pushing off (pushing off = bad). As a result, I've been limiting the range of motion at my hip joint. But hip extension isn't pushing off -- it's pushing back -- and that makes all the difference!

I went out for a trail run at lunch today and focused on hip extension. I let the leg extend back and didn't try to pull the leg in too early (as it seems I've been doing all along). I ended up with a faster, easier run. And I *finally* understand a few other things that Barefoot Ken Bob suggests that just never really clicked for me.

- Let the hips rotate -- Previously, in my attempt to lift the foot I was actually pulling the leg forward too early. There was very minimal hip rotation. With my focus on the hip extension, the hip joint relaxes and rotates naturally.

- Relax, relax, relax -- I could never figure out how I was supposed to relax AND hold myself up AND propel forward. Now I understand that's just another way to say let the stretch reflex do the work (as described in Magness' article). Now it makes sense to me!

As Magness points out, "All runners will respond to a cue slightly differently, that is why it is important to come up with several different ways to say the same thing." Seems that's exactly what I needed.

My hope is that this adjustment to my form will help prevent my recurring TOFP and, as a bonus, will also make me a faster runner.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tonight's Trail Run

I did 3 miles of barefoot run/walk intervals tonight on the trails. Then I grabbed my camera from the car and went back for a 1.5 mile barefoot hike to get some photos on the trails. This is my 3rd run since recovering from tendonitis (TOFP) and my foot is still feeling good. Keep thinking those good thoughts for me!

The path leading up to one of my favorite trails.

The sun setting behind the trees.

My first thought is, "OK, then I'll run, instead." The sign might as well say, "I dare you!" Don't ya think?

I saw a baby snake here when I went running through the first pass. I was hoping he'd still be around when I came back with the camera, but he had moved on.

I found this guy, instead. He was moving along at a pretty good clip. I guess he didn't give much heed to the sign, either.

Oh, look! A puddle. Only one thing to do...


The smooth river rocks by the boat house are always a nice place for a cool down walk after a run.

I like to wrap my feet around the rocks. It's very soothing.

Time to kick back on the boat house deck and watch the sunset.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


A common question asked by new barefoot runners is, "What shoes do you wear when you're not running?"

My answer is, "Barefoot whenever possible, otherwise as little shoe as possible."

When I started out barefoot running last year, the thought of barefoot living didn't even cross my mind. What I found is that the more time I spent barefoot, the more time I wanted to spend barefoot and the more I disliked the feeling of shoes. It's now been over a year since I've worn any kind of elevated heel, not even a regular tennis shoe. My comfort and balance are now noticeably affected by even the smallest heel elevation.

Today I spent some time cleaning out my closet and pulled out all my old shoes from the back. Before donating and/or consigning them I thought I'd take some before and after photos to show what has happened to my shoe wardrobe over the last year.

Here are some of the shoes that I wore before June 2009. Look at those heels!

Here is my current selection of footwear.

From left to right:
Footzyrolls - Limited Edition Collection, Gold Gator
Footzyrolls - Everyday Collection, Black as Night
Target gladiator sandals, resoled by a local cobbler
My favorite footwear option of all -- none! :)
Footzyrolls - Summer Snake Skin Collection - Wonderous White
Converse One-Star (from Target)
Vibram FiveFingers KSO, brown/brown

I curled up the gold and white Footzyrolls in the photo to show how light and flexible they are. They are not durable (I wore out my first pair in a few months), but they are the most minimal shoe I've ever worn and I find them a reasonable option for dress clothes.

I bought the gladiator sandals this summer at Target. These images are from Target showing how they looked when I bought them.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, I'm not fond of even the slightest heel elevation. I bought these with the intent of taking them to my local cobbler to see what he could do to make them more minimal. He resoled them with his most minimal sole material. They're nice. A bit thicker than I'd prefer (~5mm), but much better than when I bought them.

Here are a couple of close ups showing how they look now. You can see that the sole is completely flat now, no heel elevation at all.

Next time I think I'll make a few more calls and see if there are any other cobblers in town who can get things a little thinner. The good news is that if I come across a cute pair of kitten heels or flats with a wide enough toe box, I know I can get them resoled to a more minimal option. It's not an inexpensive option, but it's one that I hope will help me better balance the fashion and function aspect of shoes for those occasions when a shoe is necessary.

One thing I've really started enjoying since moving to a barefoot lifestyle is dressing up my feet without using a shoe. My toe nails are almost always polished and occasionally decorated with nail art. I have a growing collection of toe rings and ankle bracelets. And I make my own foot jewelry which proves to be the ultimate in minimal footwear. (Sorry, no, I'm not planning to sell any. :) I don't have the time to handle orders.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Back At It

Yay! My first run in 3 weeks! I'm so happy to be back at it. There's nothing quite like the feeling of getting my feet in the dirt on a barefoot trail run! I'm keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that that's the end of the tendonitis!

Considering this is my first post, perhaps I should give a little background. I've been a barefoot runner for just over a year. I started in June 2009. Before that I wasn't a runner at all. I didn't set out to be a runner and I certainly didn't plan to be a barefoot runner. I simply tried a short barefoot run (just a few yards) out of curiosity, discovered that it's incredibly FUN and have been hooked ever since.

Some people transition to barefoot running quickly. I'm not one of those people. The process of becoming a barefoot runner has had its ups and downs for me. On the plus side, the knee, shin and hip pain I would experience any time I tried running in shoes is completely nonexistent for me running barefoot. On the minus side, it is taking a long time (read, over a year) to properly condition the tendons and muscles in my feet and ankles. Twice in the last year I've done too much too soon and I've paid the price in the form of tendonitis.

The latest bout has been extensor tendonitis in my left foot, commonly referred to as Top Of the Foot Pain (TOFP). From what I can tell, it may be one of the most common issues for barefoot runners. From others' reports, it's usually mild and goes away quickly. In my case, I ended up with a pretty serious case that came on suddenly as a result of sprinting during a 1 mile fun run. Slowly but steadily it got much better, but never completely went away.

I finally went to the doctor 3 weeks ago. He confirmed my self-diagnosis of extensor tendonitis. He noted that my calf muscles were exceptionally tight and I had a limited range of ankle dorsiflexion. Since tight calf muscles pull on the opposing extensor tendons, he prescribed stretching and massage to relax the calves. He suggested no running for 3 weeks to allow the tendons to rest.

I have followed the doctor's advice for the last 3 weeks and have noted significant improvement in my range of motion. I finally went out for my first run yesterday afternoon. I'm taking a conservative approach and only went for a short 1 mile run/walk on the trails (less than 1/2 of it was actual running). It felt great and my foot feels fine today, a little tight but no pain. I'm going to take 2 rest days between runs and ramp back up slowly while continuing with the stretching and massage. I'm hoping this does the trick. We'll see.