Barefoot Running in Portland

According to this week’s article in the Oregonian the barefoot running craze has hit Portland.  I first read about this in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.  I highly recommend this book as it is a fascinating read, whether you are a runner or not.  He profiles a primitive tribe in Mexico who runs hundreds of miles in sandals without injury and claims the less shoe the better for your feet.

I have seen loads of Portlanders on the waterfront and here in Sellwood running in Vibrams (aka “toe shoes”).  Dan wore his on our [intlink id=”1202″ type=”post”]upcountry hike in Maui[/intlink] and on the Stand Up Paddle board with no ill effects.  I personally have only tried barefoot running on the beaches in Florida and Hawaii.  When I do, I notice the muscles in my feet and ankles working differently when barefoot but do not feel pain or discomfort.

I have talked before about the importance of wearing shoes that do not pinch your toes together, but the concept of going sans shoes entirely may seem a little kooky or even unsafe.  I watched an interview with McDougall where he was asked what he did about broken glass and rocks.  His response was something like he used his eyes and stepped over the object.  🙂

Evidently there are people embracing this concept even here in the Pacific Northwest.  I recently stumbled upon the story of this Canadian woman who goes barefoot all the time, even in winter.  If you are interested in trying out a more minimal shoe the experts advise you ease into it.  Start by walking around your house barefoot or running your last mile or two in your new shoes.  This will give your body time to adjust.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Start slowly, running a few yards or a 1/4 mile at first.
  • Wait for a warm day.  Let your feet adjust to the ground, then the elements.
  • Educate yourself.  Pick up a book on minimalist running or head to a running workshop.

My buddy Alice Diffely holds regular Chi Running workshops here in Portland.  While this group does not specifically recommend a certain style of shoe they do give you tools to help you to be more aware of, and in turn improve your form to prevent injury.

Let me know if you plan on experimenting with minimal running this spring and your results.