Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

How to Learn a Big Lesson in 9 Minutes


Yesterday I learned the hard, shameful way that I really don’t spend enough time running barefoot.

After walking around the Boston Marathon Expo like an addict in a crack store and talking to some awesome folks at all the minimalist shoe companies, my local barefoot buddy Brad and I participated in the first annual Boston Barefoot 5K. It was a gorgeous day and everyone was walking around barefoot like a bunch of filthy heathens. It was awesome. I got to see KenBob, Pat Sweeney, and also meet his friend Bookis (CEO of Luna Sandals) and the rest of his super-cool, barefoot, date-seed-spitting crew, sitting on the grass at Artesani Park in Boston.

I had spent the entire morning in my Invisible Shoes with no problems (save for the brand new INKnBURN skirt I apparently ordered at least one size too large – and quite nearly gave a free show to half of Boston at least once before making use of a couple safety pins). So for some reason that made me believe I would be able to run the entire 5K barefoot.

I am, regrettably, much more of a minimalist runner than a barefoot one. Part of it is laziness, part wussiness, and part because I have over a dozen pairs of minimalist running shoes to choose from, perfect for just about any terrain and temperature. It’s just too tempting to put off training my soles. When I do go barefoot, it’s usually on the silky-smooth, well-kept concrete and pavement surfaces around the pond near my office. Or here:

As you can see, it’s really not much of a barefoot challenge. Not that I’m trying to challenge myself, either. My longest barefoot run ever has been maybe close to two miles. So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that when I started out running this 5K totally barefoot, on the grittiest kind of asphalt, way too fast (big surprise), it wasn’t going to be long before I regretted my decision. It was less than a mile, in fact. When I looked down at my left foot and found an angry, tennis-ball-sized blister going, I put my huaraches back on. But it was already too late. I spent the rest of the race owwing and belly-aching instead of enjoying the sunshine and the pretty views. Poor saintly Brad stuck back with me, keeping me motivated with phrases like “Don’t feel bad, this race is tough terrain for bare feet” and “It’s all about conditioning – you’ll get there over time.” It took me almost 35 minutes to finish – my worst 5K finish time ever.

But hey, I still beat KenBob (for some reason). :p

So yesterday I learned that even though minimalist shoes are great, I really do need to spend a LOT more time running and walking barefoot, and not just on easy, smooth surfaces. It’s time to put more of my money where my mouth is. If I’m going to talk about minimalist shoes, I’ve got to be more accustomed to running totally barefoot. It was a bit of a hard lesson for me. And it’s a lasting one, too – I expect to be limping around for the next two or three days.

Some other things I learned yesterday:

  • Pistachios are called “the death nut” by most allergists.
  • NewBalance offers wide-width versions of their minimalist shoes. Cue the choir of angels.
  • I should have spent more time networking and less time consuming copious amounts of beer at last year’s NYC Barefoot Run.
  • Peeing in a porta-potty barefoot does not cause instant death, although I’ll have to get back to you on possible delayed death.
  • nuun tastes better cold.
  • You simply cannot have a conversation with KenBob Saxton without him politely pointing out that you’re wearing shoes and that they are the devil.
  • If you’ve been running in <45 degrees for the last 6 months, sweating on a run is always new and strange on the first 75 degree day.
  • It only takes about half an hour for a pasty New Englander to get a sunburn.
  • What Pattie MacIver looks like.

8 thoughts on “How to Learn a Big Lesson in 9 Minutes

  1. I have the wide version of the NB minimus road. And it makes a big difference, but that shoe is still cut narrow across the outside of the foot. That said, I still like it a lot. The zero’s I tried on are good and feel the same. It runs true to size.

    My buddy talked me into going into the Puma booth, never would have otherwise and I tried on the Bolt Faas 200. It’s a 4mm drop and felt very similar to the Minimus, only the forefoot is not cut in like on the minimus, and it’s about $40 cheaper.

  2. Trisha, you did great!!! At least you tried and that is all that matters!!!

  3. Hey Trisha,
    Since you were the portal to my recent ownership of my own Invisible Shoes, I thought it good timing to chime in with some thoughts. 😉

    I, too, find that I lean too much on my Vibrams (and, likely now, on my Huaraches) rather than my bare feet. I’m still too much of a tenderfoot (and to this testament, when my wife tickles my feet, she says they’re still ‘girlishly soft for someone who goes barefoot all the time’ – what is that about?).

    I tend to save my pure barefoot running/walking for soft pavement or smooth trails, where the unpredictability of asphalt and debris are out of the equation. There’s a football field near our house where I do FitWit (fitness camp) and the astroturf is as much a foot massage as anything I’ve ever paid a reflexologist for.

    I would imagine we borderline barefooters learn a lot of hard lessons this way about what we are ready for and how to evolve/transition. I’m personally happy w/ my regiment, and I realize that KenBob would tell me my barely-there sandals are still the devil, while most of my friends look at my Huarache-clad feet and call me Spartacus. It’s a no win proposition for me in every respect, except that I’m doing what I think feels best and works best. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

    Do what you need to do for your body, your feet, and your peace of mind.

    As for pistachios, I just fell in love with pistachios this month. Your news doesn’t bode well.

    Best of luck – take care of the sunburn and blisters. And thanks for always sharing your journey!

    Solefully yours.

    • Thank you Tommy! I appreciate all the feedback. I actually have just gotten into pistachios myself. The statement was from my buddy Brad, who mentioned it when I offered him some pistachios at the Expo. His son has a nut allergy, and pistachios are the most dangerous if you are allergic to nuts. I just thought it was funny the way he called it the death nut.

      I’m glad I’m not the only person who prefers comfortable barefoot running to toughening their soles to rough conditions. I was feeling like a bit of a newbie out there, for the firs time in two years!

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