Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: Skora CORE

myfeet

I was exceptionally grateful for another chance to test some of Skora’s much-anticipated offerings this year. Last fall I tested the FORM. Overall, I liked the shoe, and I gave it a fairly good review. It was made of soft and pliable leather, which was unexpectedly comfortable, even without socks. I wore it to a few road races and I liked the extra bit of cushion in the sole, relative to my other road shoes. It was a bit narrow for my taste though, and I found it to be a little stuffy and not great at absorbing moisture. For these reasons, and admittedly because of the color (white – not my personal favorite) the Skora FORM shoe ended up hanging out in my closet a lot, while my other road shoes got more wear.

Well, this didn’t happen when it came to the CORE.

Good Looks and Inner Beauty

The CORE is just so easy to love, folks. The biggest reason why? This time around they adjusted the last so it’s on a much wider platform. Now we’re talking an exceptionally cozy, slipper-like fit, similar to what VIVOBAREFOOT is famous for, though maybe not quite as wide. The CORE is also made of the same super-soft goat’s leather as the FORM but with much larger vent holes in the upper, as well as an inner layer of absorbent mesh (i.e. no more cow skin sticking to my foot), which is enough to keep my piggies from overheating.

sideview

I love the CORE shoe because it fits exactly how you want a shoe to fit: like it belongs on your foot. The first time I put it on, the CORE felt like it had been broken in for months. No bull. (Is that a goat-leather joke? I can’t tell). And that, my friends, is the beauty of  – and quite possibly the best reason for – a running shoe upper made of leather. You just don’t get that same feeling with athletic mesh.

Skora made a few other updates to this shoe, one of them being a drastic improvement on the asymmetrical lacing system (which is found on both of the new models, CORE and PHASE). By widening the lacing significantly and then totally reversing it so the tongue “burrito” faces inward rather than out, the pinky-toe-rubbing that I experienced with the corner seams (and with all shoes that use a similar tongue design) has vanished. Dig it. They put a lot more reflective material on this shoe too, which is really a plus for night runs when you forget to wear a brightly colored outfit. The available colorways are rad, too – very wearable. I really dig the bluish-charcoal-gray, teal and purple in my pair. I didn’t get to test the PHASE, but this time around the non-leather option is looking a lot more like the leather one, with three bright and fantastic colorways, but with mesh fabric and sold for a slightly lower price.

backs

Performance

I think it’s pertinent to point out here the thing I noticed most about this shoe while running in it: and that would be nothing. Absolutely, gloriously nothing. In my personal experience, any running shoe that lets me completely forget about its presence is the best kind of running shoe there is. After all, that’s sort of the point, right? Or at least it should be. This shoe fits my foot rather perfectly, and I would be hard-pressed to think of a road shoe I’ve tried that I like better. That’s right, I said it.

bottoms

The CORE is just absolutely my favorite road shoe right now. It balances lightness, comfort and road protection exceptionally well. The shoe weighs almost the same as the old FORM, but seems  a lot lighter because of the more lightweight leather/mesh combo upper. The stack height is 2mm lower in the new CORE as well, making the sole roughly 1000x more flexible. (Sidenote: even more flexible with the insole taken out, which I always do – I found the extra cushioning unnecessary and would rather the extra foot space without them.) The more open-width design really makes this shoe great for me. I’ve loved it so much that it’s gone with me for many miles, and it’s been my choice for recent road half marathons and training.

front

I’ve even taken the CORE out to a few trail runs because…well, just because. The CORE works fine over easy packed-dirt trails and protects my feet pretty well on the rockier ones, but I find it slides too much on the steeper hills I often find myself running on. The soles are just too flat and not grippy enough. But I know this shoe is made for roads. I’m definitely looking forward to Skora coming out with something more trail-friendly for the tougher terrain.

The Goldilocks Effect

So final note on the new CORE versus the original FORM. My first thought after reveling in the happy roomy fit of the CORE was this: so the last is nice and wide, but is it too wide? The thing is, I write all my reviews from the standpoint of someone whose feet are naturally wider than average and have only gotten wider since taking up minimalist running. I’m biased. In my world, every running shoe should be made with an insanely wide last so that my toes can move around and not feel bound up by my shoe. But a lot of people have average to narrow feet and that can mean the opposite problem: a shoe that’s too wide and feels huge. Personally, I think that the CORE is the Goldilocks of minimalist shoe lasts: it’s not too narrow (think NB Minimus Road 00) and not extremely wide (think VIVO Lucy Lite).

comparison

This photo shows the 0.15″ width difference between last year’s FORM and this year’s CORE, which has made all the difference.

That said, I would probably recommend that if you normally find your feet are quite long and narrow, the FORM may be a better shoe for you. Although I’ve illustrated several differences between the two models, I believe the fundamentals are still similar enough that going with the earlier model won’t have you missing out on a whole lot.

And for the rest of you, I can’t think of any reason not to love the FORM, except maybe that you’ll find them so beautiful you’ll have a hard time wearing them somewhere dirty. No worries though, they’re actually just as machine washable as your regular mesh running shoes – and they’ll probably last even longer. Happy Running!

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Review: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? by John McClung

johnbook

Because I don’t have kids of my own, I spend all my time sharing my perspective on healthy running and minimalism with other adults. Not that I mind, of course. Kids mostly scare the crap out of me. But one thing I’ve always known is that my road to proper form and barefoot/minimalist running was made much longer because I didn’t learn it as a child. No, instead I was always told to wear shoes when I go outside, and was reprimanded when I tried to sneak out of the house with bare feet in the winter (which I did often). I did spend a lot of my childhood sans shoes, though, but like most kids I was taught early on to rely on the protection, cushiness and comfort of today’s typical athletic shoe.

We adults of today had to learn late and re-train our bodies, but our kids don’t have to.

Now that many of us have discovered the importance of strong feet and legs, and remembered the joy of feeling the ground with our naked toes, we would do well to pass that knowledge on to our future generations.

Thanks to my friend John McClung, children’s literature has now begun the dive into that concept. What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a sweet little children’s story about a baby bear whose momma teaches him that he needs nothing but his two four little feet to enjoy the outdoors.

john2

Illustrated brilliantly by Laura Hollingsworth (and I’m an art director so I’d know), What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a rather ingenious learning tool for kids and their parents. It asks us to shed the idea that we need to protect our kids from every germ, every puddle, every boo-boo. Momma Bear teaches Baby Bear to be a kid, to run around carefree, to feel the earth below his feet and to love being outside. And lucky for kids, these things don’t require shoes. It’s a message I wish I was taught, but I’m glad I re-learned as an adult.

If you have young children in your family or have some friends with kids, pick this little book up. Not only will you be giving a thoughtful gift, but you’ll be supporting some as yet undiscovered talent. It’s for sale at Amazon for about $13 paperback or $9 on a Kindle.


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Barefoot Running – The Movie: Giveaway Winner

Hey guys, sorry this is a day later than I promised. I spent yesterday sulking, after an ankle sprain during my half marathon. Boo.

Anyway, Random.org selected a winner for the Barefoot Running movie, and that winner is:

Barefoot Dawsy

Congrats, Barefoot Dawsy. Please email me at trishalreeves@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get the DVD out to you in a day or two. Although I  may send Hubby out to mail it, considering that I’m still in sulk-mode.

If you’re interested in getting a visual lesson in how to run more naturally with better form, you can purchase this DVD from the RunBare website, or on Amazon.

Happy running!


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Review and Giveaway: Barefoot Running – The Movie

Right about now in the barefoot running world, just about every expert is writing books on the topic. I mean, it’s not going to be long before there’s a “barefoot running” aisle rivaling the Cookbook section in every book store. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. If you like to read.

I myself learned to run barefoot by reading books. I read thorough descriptions of how you’re supposed to land and what your posture should look like. I read just about everything there is to know about the history of barefoot running, and about heel striking vs. fore-foot striking vs. mid-foot striking. I know all about persistence hunting, Caballo Blanco and the great Tarahumara. I am well versed in the art of bending my knees, leading with my chest instead of my forehead, not pushing off. So I guess you could say that when it comes to barefoot running, I was pretty darn book-smart even before I took a single barefoot step.

But what about road-smarts? Just because I read a few books and knew what zero-drop meant, did that mean I knew if I was doing anything right when I got out there for a run?

The reality is, we learn by doing, and by watching others do. We learn language by listening, we learn to walk by watching our parents do the same. Barefoot running, for most of us, is a process of learning much like that of a child starting from scratch, because we all spent most of our lives doing it wrong.

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee of RunBare, a barefoot wellness school that hosts events and clinics all over the country teaching us how to do find our grounding again, wrote a book on the subject back in 2010 called Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth. The book helped to launch their tour and got them onto the map. Coincidentally, their book came out right around the time I started running barefoot, and I found it to be a good source guide for my learning. But again, it was just a book, thus it could only teach me in theory.

Which is probably why Michael and Jessica decided to make a DVD as well.

Released earlier this month, their DVD is aptly named after their book and makes an excellent companion to it. The genre is a smart mix of documentary and teaching tool, aimed at the beginner barefoot runner. In the first sections, both Michael and Jessica talk a little bit about why it’s so important to go barefoot every day in order to get your, as they call it, “Vitamin-G.” A little hokey, sure, but I dug it. They also talk about why they themselves decided to go barefoot and why it’s been such a positive change in their lives. I found this section to be interesting, and I liked hearing Michael’s story in particular.

The whole movie has a serene, yogi-style feel that seems reflective of their personalities. I’ve only ever met Michael once and he seemed like a pretty centered dude who probably spends a lot of time meditating, so it fits. There might be a little too much canned docu-music in there, but I guess you can’t exactly expect high-quality original film scores from a couple of barefoot coaches. If nothing else the bad music was rather entertaining in a cheesy sort of way. There might have been a little head-bopping between Shawn and me. I said might.

The rest of the DVD is divided into different instructional topics aimed at teaching beginner techniques such as foot positioning and posture, core and balance exercises, recovery, et cetera. What I liked about this part is that having a visual representation of the instruction is so much more helpful than reading and trying to retain it for later when you’re trying to run on your own. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to learn proper technique from a live barefoot coach, so we really have no idea what proper form looks like.

I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot on this DVD for someone who is already very experienced in barefoot or minimalist running; you’re not going to learn anything new here. But it could be a nice refresher on technique, or a good visual if you’re still not sure if you’re doing it right. Also some of the strengthening exercises that are demonstrated in the video are actually pretty good (despite the fact that at one point, Michael demonstrates a balance exercise standing on a ball, on the edge of a cliff, and I pretty much couldn’t watch). And if nothing else, it’s good to support your fellow barefoot runners trying to make a living from spreading the word. I know we barefooters are a supportive bunch.

If you are ready to learn how to run barefoot, buy someone an awesome Christmas gift, or just to support RunBare and watch their movie, you can purchase a copy online here.

If you want a FREE copy, well then you’re in luck because I’m giving one away today, right here, on my blog! Woohoo!

Entering is simple and just like most of the other blog giveaways you’ve seen. Each of the actions listed below will earn you an entry. Spread the word, readers!

  • Write a comment below this blog post, telling me why you love barefoot running (or why you want to learn barefoot running)
  • Follow my blog by clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button to the right of this post. If you are already one of my followers, mention is in your comment for an automatic entry.
  • Post about this giveaway. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, anything works.
  • Like RunBare on Facebook.

I’ll give this contest about a week, and draw the winner randomly on Friday, October 12th.

Good luck, and Happy Running!


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Review: New Balance Women’s 1010 Trail

Hello readers! Man, it’s good to be back! I am thrilled to mention that this is the very first review posted from my new home in sunny San Diego. I’m so thankful to the PR chick over at New Balance for her patience in waiting for this review, while I took a bunch of time off to pack up my life and move it clear across the country.

The first shoe that New Balance asked me to try out was the Women’s 1010 trail shoe. I got it a week or two before the release date so I had no idea what it would be like. The 1010 is a transitional minimalist shoe, or for you hardcore mountain trail runners, it’s a lightweight-but-protective trail shoe. I say it that way because I feel it’s a good choice for those two types of runners (just to clarify, I don’t necessarily encourage transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running through transitional shoes, but if that’s the way you’re going to go, then this would be a more than reasonable shoe to do it in). I’m not really either of those types of runner, but that’s okay because I am rather good at being objective.

Weight and Structure

Even though the WT1010 is not even close to being the lightest shoe I’ve run in, at around 6 ounces each it’s not totally out of the ballpark. This shoe is rather rugged, compared to what I’ve usually got on my feet, and it looks like it could take a lot of hard miles. As to be expected, there is a rock plate in this shoe and some aggressive tread, too.

Interestingly enough, the multi-circular Vibram sole pattern is reminiscent of the one on the bottom of the latest Trail 00’s, only with some heavy duty 2-directional ribbing that looks like it would give you amazing grip in the snow. I didn’t try these in the snow, but they felt really sticky in the rock and dirt trails I ran them through. Pretty solid, I’d say.

As for the drop, it’s 4mm on this model. Now, I realize there’s a bit of controversy among minimalist runners about putting a drop in shoes like these. I personally don’t see much of a reason in bothering with 4mm, when you could just drop it to zero and call it a day. I kind of see it as the worst of both worlds. Four millimeters isn’t significant enough to provide much lift to those who want it; and for some of those who prefer zero drop, four millimeters can be just enough to throw off their form. All conjecture aside, I barely noticed the drop. Could be I haven’t put enough miles on these to reap any ill effects from the drop, or perhaps my form is good enough to circumvent any issues, who knows. But maybe it’s because all I could feel was how cushiony these were!

Fit and Comfort

Wow. I had forgotten what it was like to wear a shoe with a mushy sole. It was like running inside marshmallows. Of course that has its disadvantages (i.e. harder landing, lost of proprioception, etc.), but let me enjoy this soft and heavenly feeling for a moment, okay? Yeesh.

I think the best advantage to the cushiony shoe for a runner like me (100% minimalist/barefooter who runs on roads and easy-to-moderate trails) is rest and healing. I have enjoyed taking these shoes out for short, easy trail jaunts between difficult runs, running errands and for walking with my dog. I believe a cushiony shoe definitely has a place in my lineup, because sometimes my feet need a rest. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Some of the other good features of this shoe are the super comfortable blister-free liner (thank you NB!), the attached tongue that keeps out a lot of head-on debris (I hate pulling loose stones out of my shoes mid-run), and the generous toe box. The wider toe box is especially something I want to talk about because in the past I have had some width complaints in general with New Balance’s minimalist shoe lineup. For example, the original NB Minimus Trail (which has been renamed WT10) was so low and narrow I couldn’t even get my foot into it. Also, I had to go with the wide-width version of the 00 Road shoe (see review here) for the same reason. I expected the same problem with this shoe so I asked my contact to send me the wide (D) width of the 1010, as well as the regular (B) width. Turns out, it was totally unnecessary. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend getting the wide width unless you have an exceptionally wide foot, as in, a very good deal wider than mine:

My foot is wider than most people’s, as compared to its length (size 8.5). The regular (B) width was more than adequate in this shoe.

Just walking around in the D-width, the shoe was literally falling off my feet. Now, just as an FYI, they’re also offering a narrower width (2A), for all you ladies with slimmer peds. Oh, and I hate you. 🙂

I have found there is one big drawback to the comfort of this shoe: the heel. Like many newer models in the Minimus line, the heel cup is quite high and somewhat unforgiving for the first few wears. It did soften up after awhile, but not before taking a chunk of skin from my achilles with it. I’m really not sure why New Balance chose this route with the heel. Maybe it’s less of a problem for taller people with higher heel bones. I’d be interested to hear of anybody who didn’t have this issue, and if they’re also taller than me (5’3″).

Performance

I’ll admit I didn’t do any long trail runs in these (greater than 4 miles). Why? Well, because these shoes are too much like a traditional shoe for me, and the last time I wore a shoe like this on trails I sprained my ankle pretty badly. When I run I often supinate, which is to say that I lean toward the outside of my foot (the opposite of about half of all runners, who pronate). In a cushioned shoe with stiffer soles and lowered proprioception, I have a greater chance of landing badly on a rock and injuring my ankles. Since going barefoot and minimalist my ankles have certainly strengthened a lot, but I am still cautious about hitting the rocky trails on any shoe with that stacked sole. I prefer a shoe with a much more pliable sole. This could perceivably change in the future if I start to run very long races and find a need for a shoe with more cushioning, but for now I prefer to avoid the risk of tipping on a rock and hurting myself.

To expound on my point about the stiffer sole, I want to say that I felt a lack of control in this shoe, especially going downhill. The grip is nice and sticky, sure, but I still want better perceptual control over my foot landings. A shoe like this doesn’t allow my foot to curl downward at all, and the rock plate keeps me from forming my sole around the rocks and debris like it would naturally. So for me, overall this shoe didn’t feel safe as I got more tired (and sloppy) several miles into a run.

That said, I know a few ultra-runners who would benefit from a shoe like this. During those long 50 and 100-mile races, they have reported a need for a shoe that offers more protection, while still remaining light and relatively flexible. The WT1010 is both of those things.

Overall Pros and Cons

While I don’t think this shoe is perfect for everyone, and perhaps not me, I would recommend it to the strong and seasoned minimalist trail runner who wants less exposure to the elements over a long run, as well as someone who does just fine in a traditional trail shoe but wants something lighter and more foot-friendly. So, below is the quick list of pros and cons that I found with the WT1010:

PROS

  • great example of a lightweight, transitional trail running shoe
  • dense, somewhat cushiony sole with rock plate that provides prolonged comfort and protection against rocks and debris while remaining relatively light
  • aggressive, sticky tread provides amazing grip
  • soft and comfortable upper can be worn without socks
  • attached tongue keeps a lot of dirt out
  • generous toe box, with three levels of width to choose from
  • relatively all-weather
  • on-trend color ways

CONS

  • stiffer sole cuts off a fair amount of proprioception, giving less control to your foot
  • heel cup lacks comfort
  • 4mm heel-to-toe drop is somewhat unnecessary and may not be all that conducive to proper running form, especially for anyone who still needs practice (although one could argue that transitioning to lighter shoes over time is easier if you absolutely can’t start your mileage over from scratch).

Happy running!


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On Being a Poseur

If you have read this blog for more than thirty seconds, you have probably picked up on the fact that I really love running. For better or for worse, over the past three years or so running has become a HUGE part of my life. Most of my friends think of me as “the runner,” they come to me for advice on minimalist shoes, tease me about my penchant for going barefoot, and ask me when my next big race is. I spend a lot of time writing about running on this blog, or having my thoughts published elsewhere. I love being thought of as “the runner.” I also spend a lot of time running, too (strangely enough). For the last month or two my mileage has gone down, while I dedicate more of my free time and energy toward our cross-country move. And I am starting to feel the difference down to my bones.

I need to run. It’s my exercise, my escape, my reward, my alone time and my social hour. Running is where I learn the most about myself. It’s where I feel the most accomplished, and sometimes it’s where I fall the hardest. Running has renewed my self-confidence, and it has also broken my heart.

Last Sunday I lined up at the back of a pack of runners at a local 10-mile trail race, pumped full of nervous energy. The race started off really well, and for a trail run my pace was excellent. But in an unexpected turn of events, I couldn’t finish the race. At mile 7 I started to feel some pretty bad stomach cramps and I had to listen to my body and drop out. As I jogged uncomfortably toward the end of the third loop (and the porta-johns), I passed by a running friend of mine who had finished with an impressive personal record and was so kindly waiting to see me cross the finish line. It killed me to announce that I was dropping, because I wasn’t even tired yet….and also because I had spend the last year or two talking so much shop with him and others I’ve never met on Facebook, that it doubled my shame.

In my growing love for this sport, I have spent years waxing poetic with people about running, and it turns out it’s been enough to make them all believe I’m some kind of runner.

But right then I didn’t feel much like one. Instead I felt like a bit of a poseur. And I felt even more like a poseur later on that very afternoon, when I just happened to decide to sign up for my first marathon. The two events of the day were not even related in my mind. To me, a bad ten-miler today really has no bearing on a marathon that’s happening in five months. But, I can see how it may have looked sort of weird to someone else. If I couldn’t finish a ten miler today, what would motivate me to sign up for a marathon? Am I just digging myself a hole to fill with failures?

Perhaps this dude doesn’t even think of me as a poseur, who knows. But even if he does I don’t suppose it would make much of a difference to me anyway. Despite my wordy posts on the subject, at the end of the day I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me as a runner (hence my lack of hesitation in signing up for that marathon). I’m certainly not a great or talented runner, and I’ve never tried to make others think that I am. I just like to run, and that’s all the promises I’ve ever made to anyone.

But on the other hand, is signing up for something like a marathon or a 50K a promise? Is it a promise that I’ll have trained well enough to complete the race in a decent amount of time (preferably, well before the embarrassingly long cutoff time)? Are my shoe and swag reviews my promise that I’ll consistently be running 30-mile weeks? Is my signature at the bottom of an ultra-marathon application a contract that I’ll at least keep up with the runners in the middle of the pack, rather than closer to the back where I typically end up? Or am I letting my readers and my friends down if my pace is slower than 9:30, or if I drop out of a race or, god-forbid, wind up finishing dead-fucking-last?

What kind of expectation am I setting up for myself by writing an entire blog about training and signing up for all these big races? If I’m not all that great a runner in the end, is my influence on others essentially all smoke in mirrors?

Truth is, I never meant to be influential (nor do I really believe I am). It is amazing, however, whenever I hear that I’ve inspired somebody to start running, or that they became interested in barefoot running after they read an article in my blog. I’ve got nothing but confidence about my talents for writing. But all I’ve ever wanted to do was use that writing talent of mine to share my love for running (and geek out about running shoes) with my readers…whomever they are. I’ve never meant to fool anyone into thinking I’m a great ultra marathoner. I’m not. I’m a deeply flawed runner with much more will and drive than natural talent. And I happen to get a huge kick out of setting high goals and writing about how I work toward them. I make mistakes, I fall, and I write about that too. And then I set even higher goals. This blog is a documentation of my personal journey, not a sermon on great running.

So far I haven’t figured out how to turn off that feeling of fraudulence that happens every time I meet a talented runner who also happens to read my blog. Nor the feeling of injustice that comes with being reminded of how unskilled a runner I actually am, despite how much I know and love the sport. Yet none of this comes with an expectation that others should pity me or waste any time encouraging me to continue. I don’t really need encouragement to keep on running and signing up for races, and I think that’s what perplexes people the most.

I run because I want to get better at running, sure…but mostly I run just because. And whether I suck at it or not, because is enough of a reason.


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Building a Better Toolbox

Photo blatantly stolen from competitor.com. Click on image for source.

Barefoot and minimalist running is growing in popularity by day, but right now it’s definitely still a lifestyle niche. As with any niche and the folks involved in it, differing opinions fly, people get segmented into this group or that, and elitists are born.

Personally, I try to stay clear of all that. When the debate over shoes versus barefoot circles again as it always does, I just roll my eyes and wait it out. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into any one role in life. When it comes to this topic, mostly I just identify as a runner and leave the barefoot part out unless it’s pertinent. Frankly, the barefoot part is only a small fraction of what my running life is about. Obviously, I prefer running with much less on my feet than most people, but that’s because to me it means good form with less injury, and it feels more natural. And I enjoy running much more when it feels natural to me.

My opinion on the whole barefoot vs. minimalist shoes debate is that there should be no debate. I feel strongly that it’s important to embrace all aspects of something important to you, or else you’ll never see the whole picture. I agree that barefoot is your best learning tool. I agree that shoes are tools. I agree that good running form requires a mid-foot strike, straight posture and high cadence. I agree that minimalist trail shoes are good for trails, and that you can go barefoot on trails. You can call me wishy-washy, but I believe that to truly understand something you must welcome all facets into your study of it, not just one or two specific ideas.

People who go barefoot 100 percent of the time arrive at limitations when it comes to extreme temperatures and certain aggressive terrains, and there may be some experiences they will have to avoid because of it. People who never go barefoot remain numb and consequently miss out on the glorious wealth of the world that can be experienced through the soles of their feet. Only those of us who fling aside the puritanical garble from both far ends of the spectrum can really gain the benefits of both worlds.

Like I said, I am a runner first, and a barefoot/minimalist second. Like the rest of the folks in the minimalist niche, I use my choice of footwear (or lack thereof) as a tool to allow good technique and improve my joy in running. I am also a bit of a minimalist shoe geek. I love to test and review all kinds of minimalist shoes for running and casual wear. I believe in minimal footwear and enjoy promoting it over shoes that alter or try to “fix” one’s gait. It makes me happy to think that even in some miniscule way I am serving to shape the future of the sport through the quality of its products.

No shoe company has ever paid me to write a review of their shoes, good or bad, but most of the time the products I write about are given to me free of charge. On occasion, if I want to try out a certain shoe badly enough, I will purchase it myself if the company’s PR department is unresponsive. Some people will tease me by calling me a “shoe whore,” and well, I suppose that’s partially true. I relish in my growing choice of footwear each time I head out for a run (and likewise, in giving some away to others who will enjoy them more). But my intentions are pure: my childlike curiosity and desire to be as involved as I can in this sport are my driving forces.

But I am most certainly not without a canyon of flaws. For the last two years I have run almost exclusively in minimalist shoes. Yes, you read that right. Except for on rare occasions and really good moods, I all but avoided running barefoot out of a fear of nasty blisters and uncorrectable form issues. And the few times I tried to run bare, it felt too difficult and had some less than desirable outcomes. For the longest time I lived by the resolve that it would take too long for my feet to adapt, and in the meantime I want to bank mileage at every run, not limp around over tiny stones that my baby-soft feet can’t handle.

But in the last couple of weeks I have finally taken the opportunity to set aside my hesitations about running barefoot, and just started doing it. I guess you could say I’d finally had enough of hearing myself talk. One night I came home from work, got into my running skirt and sport bra, leashed up the pooch and left the toolbox of shoes at home. I didn’t take a pair with me as a back-up, just in case, like I’d always done (and invariably put them on half a mile later). I left my front door just as barefoot as my beloved dog Oscar, and I found out that it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I ran a mile around the neighborhood and I didn’t get any blisters. So I did it again a few days later and it was a little bit easier. Last night I ran two full miles completely barefoot, for the first time ever. I came home, washed my feet off and started dinner like it was no big deal. Because it wasn’t, not anymore. What a triumph to know such simplicity! In a few weeks my feet will be tougher and I’ll take on more challenges. I am thrilled that I’ve finally overcome my fears and feelings of inexperience related to running barefoot.

So I guess you could say that I am finally coming to a point in my experience where I can make an argument for or against running totally barefoot, because I’m actually dedicated to the use of both toolboxes. But I actually have less of a need to argue about it now than ever before. Why? Because there’s really no point.

Many barefoot purists have felt the glow of enlightenment as they shunned those who choose to wear shoes in their daily life. Many shod runners have felt smart in their cushioned shoes while they shook their heads at those weird barefoot hippies. But I have never felt more enlightened than I did the day I realized that I don’t have to make a choice. I can have the whole toolbox for myself, and I can be ready for anything.