Learning to walk barefoot again

May 14, 2020 by Joshua
in Fitness, Visualization

For years I had to wear orthotics when running in regular running shoes and still felt back pain to where I gave up running. Switching to minimal running shoes returned me to pain-free running.

Interviewing podcast guest Nir Eyal, he talked about barefoot running. Most people mean ‘minimal shoe’ when they say ‘barefoot,’ but Nir meant barefoot. I decided to experiment running barefoot.

Switching to minimal shoe running, where I land on the balls of my feet, took months of building up my calf muscles and getting used to the new gait. Now I’m used to it. Running barefoot means building up my soles to handle the pavement. In Manhattan, running along the Hudson running and bike path, the surface is smooth, but here in semi-rural Douglas County, there aren’t even sidewalks.

I’m not worried about the surface in general once my feet acclimate to the pavement. Here are examples of marathon winners who ran barefoot in Olympics, New York, Boston, and more. Here’s a video of an Olympic athlete winning the marathon gold barefoot. I just have to take time to build up the bottoms of my feet.

Two habits get me walking nearly daily—my sidcha of picking up a piece of trash daily and my mom’s habit of walking at least 10,000 steps daily. I started walking a few yards barefoot and have progressed to two miles walking barefoot. We got snow last week here, so the cold weather limited my trying too many new things at once

My first two-mile walk at last felt comfortable. Partly I felt my feet must be developing thick enough skin. Partly I misread and found the next morning blisters at around the same spot on each heel.

Here are pictures of the blisters a couple days later, after I drained them and they refilled. They looked bigger and badder the first time but I didn’t feel like taking pictures. Now I want to show them as honest markers of my experiment.

Right heel
Left heel

You can also see a couple cuts on my left foot. Despite the blisters and cuts, the experience has become almost fun, at least a modest challenge.

I look forward to moving from walking to running. I expect more cuts and blisters on the way to stronger feet.

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