Sunday, April 15, 2012

Touching ground

I have told running friends several times that I didn't think I was ready to run barefoot just yet. I tried it once on a dirt road and my feet cringed at the feeling of sharp pointy limestone pebbles hitting my bare soles. Forget the five fingers. I'm no believer. If I would run barefoot, I've always told friends, I would do it the only way I believe it should be done - unshod. I find the idea of a barefoot shoe a total anomaly. Minimalist shoes, yes - extremely minimalist even if you will - but a  barefoot shoe? Come on. Same goes for running in sandals.

That being said, it took a metatarsal stress fracture and the desire to check how well my right foot has recovered after nearly two months of not running to make me rethink running barefoot. What indeed was a much better way of checking if my injured right foot has recovered fine than running barefoot. So one afternoon last week, several days after starting my walk-run comeback routine, I took a few turns on the grassy ground around the house. It wasn't really much given that our house stood on a hundred-something square meter lot. That didn't really matter. What did was the satisfaction I felt when no complaint came from my right foot. The feel of the cool grass on my bare soles was also stimulating.

On Friday morning, while walking my dog, I noticed a dirt clearing just before the basketball court inside the old church compound close to the subdivision where we lived. I checked it out a bit before taking a turn with my dog around the next two adjoining subdivisions, and then we came back. I hitched my dog's leash to a post of a bamboo hut next to the clearing, took off my thong sandals, and went off unshod for a few rounds. I went for about five minutes before I stopped. My feet felt good. I felt good. And I saw no reason why I shouldn't do it again.

I did this morning, running barefoot the way I believe barefoot running should be done - unshod. The reddish packed dirt was still wet from the downpour late yesterday afternoon, and I got mud clinging to the soles of my feet even before I finished one round. I didn't mind, not in a single minute of the entire ten minutes that I, like a child at play, savored the feeling of my bare feet touching ground.

Would I do it again? Definitely, longer and more often, on days when I need to give my feet a break from the rigors of running fast and furious on pavement. When I ran barefoot the first time on that packed dirt Friday morning, I told myself I could learn to love doing it. I think I already do.

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
~ Khalil Gibran

My bare feet after my 10-minute barefoot run. Happy to be dirty. Happy to be touching ground. 

My playground. A clearing inside the old church site close to where we live. I still need to measure it's circumference but I think it's somewhere around 300 meters.

My tracks. They make a good impression on the wet dirt. I apparently have a midfoot or, as runner and blogger Peter Larson put it once, a fullfoot strike. Looks good.

More tracks on the wet dirt. My feet love touching ground. 

I thought skipping through the bamboo poles while I ran would do my feet good. 

I'm not so sure but there seems to be a more forefoot oriented landing after I skip the poles. 

My buddy. Dog was eagerly waiting at the bamboo hut when I came back. I didn't let him run with me this time. He seemed to be struggling to keep pace the last time. I don't know exactly how old he really is, but tenish or thereabouts would be like it.


CityGirl said...

amazing. so glad you're healing. i love reading (and seeing) how/where you run, in contrast to my city life with runs along busy cement streets.
so encouraging!

Avat@r said...

Great run! I've only tried barefoot running on dirt a couple of times and I totally enjoyed it, its the next best thing to grass when running barefoot (at least for me).
However I can't do long barefoot runs on concrete unless I use some sort of protection, I'm sure Nong Maning and a few other pure barefoot runners will disagree but this is mainly for my peace of mind as our city roads do have broken glass, tacks, and spit!
I got punctured by a sliver of wood during my first month of running, (and got infected) which is why I'm not taking any chances.

Vibrams for me are for safety, its only 3-4mm but it is definitely puncture proof (Nong Maning jokingly told me once that his soles are thicker than 4mm and I think he was right!). I'm also going to look at Kai sandals and see if they are as good as they claim to be (looks like Luna but very affordable), the last 'tsinelas' I used won't survive a 10k run.

Caloy Bautista said...

CityGirl: Thanks. My city is a small one with a very rural setting -meaning lots of dirt back roads and trails to run- which is one reason why I love it. I actually do the bulk of my running on paved city streets the same way you do, minus your busy traffic which I would say is miles different from our busy traffic. :)

Caloy Bautista said...

Avat@r: I'm really not sure about running barefoot on pavement as well, and definitely not in a race. I won't break any PR that way. LOL. I am considering occasionally running barefoot as a break from pounding the pavement, and definitely doing it on grass or dirt. I've just found a grassy area where I can run and I can't wait to try it out.