Barefoot Running sounds strange, yet humans have only been wearing modern shoes for a few hundred years. When Napoleon sent nearly 20,000 troops to waterloo, why is it that there are no accounts of foot injuries, or sore backs, knee pains, or foot aches? Surely those soldiers had worse shoe wear than us.
Or how about the pyramids, built by people wearing shoes? Good shoes? Probably not.
Nike started in 1963. That was barely 50 years ago. Since then, western society has seen in a boom in back, foot, hip, knee, and ankle problems. Everyone wants more air, or more gel in their shoe. Can’t the world see that the more “air” we put in the “injuries” we’re getting out?
The reality is that when we purchase these expensive shoes, we’re purchasing for convenience, and it could be affecting our health.
High cushioned sports shoes allow us to not feel the shock created when stepping on odd shaped objects like rocks, and bottlecaps. Barefoot running teaches to jog slower, and more careful, using your eyes to avoid those obstacles that would surly pinch. This creates an athletic focused concentration on the activity as apposed to running endlessness in boredom on a treadmill.
For the first few days going barefoot, you should simple walk and look out for objects. If you can walk to your mailbox, or even walk around the block, consider it a success. Anyone who’s familiar with walking on a beach can testify that engaging those tiny foot muscles will wear you out. Consider week one, a success.
After you’ve learned the balancing act and incorporated a concentrated mental game, you’ll want to simply lean over and start jogging slowly, very slowly. Barefoot running takes considerable amount of time to learn because it can be dangerous if you don’t use your head more than your heart. Our feet have the most nerve endings of our extremities. Those are there to receive information, not to be muzzled by a shoe. Barefoot offers the advantage of more biological sensory information to guide us to our destination.
Jogging barefoot is like switching from an old flip phone to the newest iPhone. The amount of sensory information you take in is overwhelming at first, but if you just start slow, getting to learn this new device can help to improve your life.
Most athletes in performance shoes will “grind it out”. This type of JV approach toward athletics and health will result in higher levels of lactic acid build up by constantly engaging fast twitch muscles. Lactic acid builds up leads to cramps, time off from training, an imbalance of nutrients/electrolytes, and eventually can lead to injury. In addition, barefoot prevents the runner from traveling with poor technique. If you try to sprint before you’ve trained your feet, you’ll rip the skin right off your feet.
Barefoot offers the ability of the jogger to cut your training time in half due to the complex spider web of muscles that must be engaged to avoid debris when running.
Since I started Barefoot running, I’ve been able to cut my work out times by ½ to 1/3. I’ve learned to run more upright as well. I’ve slowed by mile pace from 8 minutes per mile to about 8:30, but I’ve completely isolated sore muscles out of my training. I don’t have those same tired heavy legs the next day as I used to have worn performance running shoes. When I put the shoes back on and go for a run, I easily can travel at those old 8-mile pace and for longer periods, averaging 4-7 miles, 3 times a week plus weight training without shoes.
While I don’t run barefoot every day, those work outs are now some of my most favorite during the week. I tend to go maybe once or twice a week as it saves time. While I might do 2 to 3 miles normally as a warm up, I’m completely dead tired after 2- or 3-miles barefoot jogging.
It may look weird, but if you’ve read this far, FYI, you are weird so own it. I feel much healthier. I enjoy engaging the road. By touring the neighborhood barefoot, I’ve sampled the local germs and bacteria and my immune system has improved by creating bio-film that can adapt to the changing environment. I don’t care get colds or the flue because my body is constantly sampling my habitat while my cardiovascular system is at its highest-level creating ATP, Oxygen, and repairing my lungs while jogging.
Want to learn better? Get Moving! Physical Activity improves brain function, enhances memory, improves creativity and has protective effects from cognitive decline associated with aging. Exercise/Movement enhances learning through activating the sensory motor systems of the body, it gets blood pumping to the brain and increases oxygenation to all of the organs. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity. Our own experience of feeling mentally clearer after taking a short walk and studies show improved test taking performance after 20 min. of exercise (walking, running, other exercise)1; also, increased attention span after periodic 20 min. physical activity bouts2; and improved memory when movement is engaged during learning3
The integration of the sensory and motor systems improves learning, especially of things that require action like touching or giving a massage. Because touching with sensitivity (giving a massage) is a sensory motor activity, using movement paired with touch instruction enhances the learning and retention, and ultimately the embodiment of these skills. At ICoHS, we incorporate movement into the classroom experience. We use Brain Gym from Educational Kinesiology4, designed to promote better synergy between the right and left hemispheres of the brain for improved learning outcomes. We teach a movement series that connects students with the basic principles of movement and promotes increased body awareness as well as movements for applying good body mechanics at the massage table. We also include Tai Chi and the exercises for energy generation from Qi Gong to encourage slowing down, increasing body awareness, mindfulness, cultivating centeredness and building “wei chi” (protective energy). Tai Chi provides a great outlet for moving during meditation, especially helpful when sitting still in meditation is challenging. All this physical activity sets the student up for improved learning outcomes.