John F. Russell: Going barefoot
August 15, 2010
Steamboat Springs — One of the newest trends in the running world isn't really all that new.
Runner Rob Shoaf will host a barefoot running clinic from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Kinetic Energy in Steamboat Springs. Shoaf, who ran in college and professionally for Adidas, said he hopes to enlighten people about the benefits of barefoot running, training, technique and injury prevention.
I must admit that when I called him last week for a story, I thought the idea was a bit crazy, but after a few minutes on the phone, I found his ideas interesting.
As a child, I loved to run around the neighborhood without my shoes. I would run across hot pavement, gravel and at times sharp rocks, paying little or no attention to the ground below my feet while I tried to keep up with my friends or follow the sweet sounds of the ice cream truck.
A few years later, I discovered that running was a great way to stay in shape. I started running several miles a day and continued through college. I don't run much anymore, but I have to say the idea of abandoning my trusty running shoes for the skin on my feet isn't something that crossed my mind.
What in today's world would convince someone that running barefoot would be better than using a shoe?
Most runners want to find a shoe that will cushion the blow, a shoe that offers the stability to feel safe as they navigate the roads in their neighborhoods and a shoe that will hold up in the harsh Routt County conditions.
In this neck of the woods, it would seem better to have a four-wheel drive type of shoe with studded tires than going back to nature. Personally, I'm looking for a shoe that will make it easier to get out of my recliner — and chores around the house — after a long day of work.
But regardless of what I think, I encourage runners to listen to what Shoaf has to say.
He said the idea of running barefoot is growing and has caught on with several shoe manufactures that seem to be running with the idea, as well. Shoaf admits barefoot running isn't for everybody, but he has found that running barefoot or wearing lighter, less ridged shoes has improved his form. He also says it has reduced the injuries that often are associated with running because the foot lands in a more natural position.
Companies like Nike, New Balance and Saucony hope to cash in on the trend by offering minimalist running shoes. One of the most over-the-top examples is the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila shoe, which looks more like the emblem for the Hang Ten surf wear company — toes and all.
To me, the idea of running with no shoes seems a little out there, but who knows what the future will hold? Someday, you may see every runner on the Yampa River Core Trail or some dirt trail in nothing but toenails. But those of use who grew up chasing ice cream trucks across the hot summer pavement realize there is nothing new about the idea of running down the street in bare feet.