It’s really just coincidence that I’m reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” and found myself running barefoot in the snow today.
Allow me to explain. I’ve had nagging pain and minor swelling in the top of my right foot for about two years. I’ve tried a number of different shoe models, and a number of different lacing patterns, with little improvement. All seem to bind up the joint in my big toe, forcing the arch into the shoe upper.
I’ve edited Dr. Phil Maffetone’s books for many years, and he has always been adamant that most modern athletic shoes are not healthy for our feet or the rest of our bodies. He advocates some barefoot walking and running, and finding shoes that don’t have gimmicks like motion control, and that do not separate the foot too far from the ground.
So I called him today and we had a talk about my feet. Once again he recommended I spend some time barefoot outside, starting by walking 5 to 10 minutes.
“But Phil, it snowed 8 inches last night,” I said. He was not impressed with the weather report. My feet, ankles and calves need strengthening and barefoot was his remedy.
I had every intention of putting this off for a warmer day, say like in mid-May or June. So I headed out for a typical run, starting out walking in my Nike Frees for about 10 minutes, then jogging a couple more miles out on the road.
On the way back I noticed there was a sandy edge to the road that extended for about a quarter-mile. I was jogging along and suddenly thought, “What the hell,” and took off my shoes.
I walked about two or three steps and then it suddenly just felt natural to run. It was odd for the first couple steps and then it was like some memory in my feet clicked on. The next thing I knew I was running through mud, snow and gravel. The snow actually felt great, especially where the plow had scraped it to about an inch deep.
I ran the entire way home barefoot and then went up and down the side road near my house. I ran without shoes about 28 minutes total.
A couple of neighbors and a Schwan’s delivery driver now probably think I’m even crazier than they thought before.
When I got back home I walked around in the snow some more to clean my feet off. They felt invigorated the rest of the day.
I will say, however, I may have been better served by following Phil’s advice and starting out with less time and distance. I can tell I perhaps overstimulated some muscles in my ankles that are accustomed to shoe support. I’ll probably try just 5-10 minutes tomorrow. Remember, this is therapy. I’ll still need shoes for most of my running.