Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

Notes from the bottom of a barrel


The last 35 minutes has been the lowest point of my entire running life.

I have run through pain before. Sore knees, sprained ankles, not much has ever kept me from running for very long, especially in the last year. But it’s been five weeks since my last run and my rebellious streak told me that I should try to run a little tonight while I was walking my dog. I made it only a few hundred feet before I had to stop. It hurt so badly. There was a bench on the side of the path. I sat down, I rubbed my achey foot. And then I cried a little.

I am at a point of utter despair. I try to tell myself that this is all temporary, and that if I am patient I will run again before it gets cold out and this will all be a lesson in my rearview. But while I’m limping back home with a dog pulling on his leash for me to move at the speed he is used to, nothing seems temporary. I feel like a caged animal. Like a loser. Weak. Un-athletic. Fat. I start to re-evaluate myself: maybe I shouldn’t be running barefoot. Maybe the people who tell me barefoot running is stupid are all right. Maybe having sore knees and sprained ankles in regular running shoes is preferable to this. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to run fast. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to run long.

Maybe I shouldn’t be running at all.

But how can that be? Running is one of the greater forms of happiness in my life. It just seems so unfair that it should be taken away from me. I trained all winter for the chance to meet so many new goals this summer. I am frustrated at this loss of time.

I realize this setback of mine is a satisfying opportunity for naysayers to dust off their I-told-you-so soapboxes. I’m tired of trying to explain that it’s not the shoes. The fact is that the shoes have given me so much, so much more freedom, so much more distance. The shoes have rekindled my love for the sport. But I squandered what the shoes gave me by demanding more than they could give me…more than my feet could deliver. It was a stupid move and I will pay for it with many I-told-you-so‘s.

I’m not sure where to go from here. Maybe next time my physical therapist tells me not to run I won’t. Maybe next week I’ll break down and start using the dreaded stationary bike at the gym so that I don’t completely undo all my endurance while I’m waiting this out. But either way, until I’m running again I don’t think I’ll be smiling very big.

3 thoughts on “Notes from the bottom of a barrel

  1. I just wrote a book on your RW post about this; though my setbacks and frustrations are different, i can empathize with where you are. I say forget the naysayers, even if they get to feel some satisfaction at “i told you so” and do what’s right for you. I am a new barefoot runner and have only this week gotten to 1.5 miles without pain or post-run repercussions. I know if I slipped on my shoes I could clip off 3 miles and build from there. I would be trading one set of aches and pains for another. barefoot running has taught me a lot of humility and had me set aside other goals in pursuit of better form and patience. Good luck and take care of yourself

  2. I had to read some of your previous posts to understand more of your barefoot journey. This June was my 1 year milestone in Vibram Bikilas / barefoot. My (likely) stress fracture came in the 3rd month. 10 weeks of rest and a slow return allowed me to run again. Since then I went to Luna huaraches, barefoot, then back to Vibrams which I agree are the most satisfying of all.

    But I found my limits and made the logical next step: adjust and move on. One difference in my experience is that I had fallen in love with the long run before Vibrams. Joint pain and fatigue lead me to Vibrams. The Bikilas gave me a beautiful form, speed, and an awesome running experience, but they could not bring back the long run. My limit is 5 – 6 miles and anything after 3 resulted in the heal pain (after standing, first few steps) which seems to be somewhat common. Then a calf injury stopped me for 3 more weeks.

    During this time the heal pain faded, and I saw a window to make a change. I spent 3 hours sampling most of the minimalist “road” shoes at our local store. Long story short: after 4 weeks in the NB Minimus Road shoe and I am back to 10 – 13 miles, and looking at a Fall marathon, or maybe a half. Still have my great running form, just added durability.

    So all this to say – there are many new minimal shoes out there and I suggest you sample them and find one that will allow you to run again. I am looking forward to slipping into the Bikilas, but not until I am completely pain free – and I’m getting there. We have a barefoot 5k run coming here soon and my feet should be ready by then. My new outlook is:

    minimal road shoes for serious training and long races.
    barefoot for fun.
    Vibrams for short runs, races, trails, kayaking, whatever but I won’t let them hurt me again!
    Huaraches for races only, then put them away.

    Good luck!

  3. The one redeeming statement from yesterday’s appointment “Wow youre a lot stronger than i expected” considering the duration of pain and how much i said i hurt. And evidently it takes a lot of electrical stimulation to get my muscles to twitch; I dunno if that means anything but the people there thought it was curious.

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