Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Socks, No Shoes, No Running

This Sunday I was walking around the park with my mom and my sister when Zoe said, "Have you ever seen people running barefoot? It's a thing now."

It was at that moment that I looked down and saw a pile of dog shit, the remnants of a broken windshield, and what looked to be a dismembered Barbie foot poking out of the autumn leaves.

"You mean, those weird sock-shoe things?" I asked, shuddering (I can't deal with socks that separate the toes. They creep me out. And these look like Crocs, which also creep me out. Double willies!)

"No," Zoe insisted. "Like, barefoot. No socks, no shoes, no nothing. Barefoot in the Park with George." Okay, so she didn't say that last line, but I wanted to.

Of course when I got home I had to Google this barefoot running nonsense, and indeed it is a thing. At least, according to this not totally official-looking website.

An excerpt:

"I stepped on a rock today.

Of course, I step on rocks every day. There was nothing special about this rock. In fact, I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was running around the neighborhood, chances are I stepped on a rock today.

Even though I don't remember this rock, I can tell you what happened. As my foot landed on the ground, in the first few milliseconds it felt a protrusion. My brain sent the message back to my foot, "telling" it to relax and start bearing the weight of my body on some other part of the sole. Usually, if the rock is on the outside of my foot, my weight shifts a bit to the inside, and vice versa. If the rock is in the middle, my forefoot bears the weight and my heel never touches the ground for that step. And so one and so forth.

Part of the trick (and joy) to running barefoot is to be constantly mindful of your surroundings. Feeling the texture of the ground, using that steady flow of information to adjust running form accordingly."

Now before I go on, let the record state that I am not immune to stupid footwear. I have chronicled on this blog the purchase and subsequent wear of extreeeemley expensive shoes that make me look like... well, judge for yourselves:

I don't know about you, but this makes me think if the grandpa in Sixteen Candles when he's on the phone with the police looking for the missing Long Duck Dong: "What was he wearing? Well, uh, let's see, he was wearing a red argyle sweater, and tan trousers, and red shoes... No, he's not retarded."


At least they serve as a barrier between my skin and the outside world. [I do not run in them, just to be clear. Sometimes I wobble around trying to tone my glutes, but that's it.] I don't know where that guy lives, but in my neighborhood, stepping on a rock would be the least of my worries. Here's my imagined barefoot runner's log:

"Dear Diary,

I stepped on a rat today.

Of course, I step on rats every day. And pieces of hubcaps. And broken glass. And poop. I think I even stepped on a used condom last Wednesday. Of course, there was nothing special about that condom. It felt like a damp oak leaf. I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was running around the neighborhood, chances are I stepped on something unpleasant today. Luckily my gangrene is so bad that I can't feel my stumps anymore.

Even though I don't remember this rat, or condom, or whatever it was I stepped on with my bare flesh, I can tell you what happened. As my foot landed on the ground, in the first few milliseconds it felt a terrible stabbing pain, followed by a squishy sensation. My brain sent the message back to my foot, "telling" it to get back on the fucking carpet or to maybe put on a shoe. Usually, if the shit or glass or what have you is on the outside of my foot, I start to limp and favor the inside, and vice versa. If whatever the fuck is in the middle, my forefoot bears the weight and then I fall forward and sometimes dry heave onto the curb."

I mean, right? Don't get me wrong--I get the idea. I get vegans and raw food devotees and people who live in trees. I also get that barefoot running is, in theory, healthy for joints and muscles (actually, the orthopedic-looking sneakers are called MBTs, which stands for "Mumbai barefoot technology"), but that's like, on a hypothetical dusty plain where no one throws used needles or Snapple caps.

I mean, am I crazy, or is this just so not a good idea?

Is this really a thing? Let's not let this be a thing.


  1. Eddie Izzard ran thru Central Park barefoot a couple weeks back, Tweeted about it, and posted a picture of his shockingly not tar-black feet afterwards.

    It's still insane.

  2. I hope it's not a thing. That's the creepiest shoe I've seen in my life. And I hate crocs with a passion.

  3. What about shoes that separate toes?! Why is this a trend? Willies to the max.

  4. Oh yeah. I've seen this shit. And as a runner I can tell you that this is the most ridiculous shit ever--both the shoes and the lack thereof. I'd personally prefer shoes that obliterate all debris, roots, rocks, etc. before my foot even hits the ground. Can we make those? Let's make those.

  5. as a runner, I am occasionally subjected to other crazy runners, including people who run barefoot or with those creepy shoes with toe separators. it is definitely a thing. but, I think that it is a stupid thing, so I ignore it.

  6. Barefoot running has been getting a lot of press because it makes the muscles of the foot and leg work much harder (and supposedly better) than when wearing shoes. Some running coaches have started making their teams train barefoot 1 or 2 days out of the week.
    Obviously in a land of condoms, broken glass and dog poop, some precautions are required.

    The separated toe shoes are definitely weird. The most common brand of these is Vibram Five Fingers. Nike has a line of shoes called Nike Free that come in varying levels of support so you can wean yourself off shoes. (Way to turn it into a marketing opportunity...) Those shoes do not have creepy toe separators.

    Interesting pictures of what shoes do to our feet here:
    (Shoes are my weakness and I will not be giving them up any time soon, no matter how much they squish my toes.)

  7. Yeah, it sounds insane. Until you try it. Then you'll wonder why on earth you've been wearing sneakers your whole life, and missing out on a great thing.

    There are a whole range of injuries that didn't become common until after people started wearing sneakers all the time.

    The MBTs are not suited for running, btw.

  8. Oh, yes, I know. I don't run in them. In fact I barely walk in them. I'm not a runner, so my authority on the subject is limited.

  9. Anna S.3:46 PM

    I only dance barefoot.

  10. I knew a kid in high school who not only woke up at 4 am to run for an hour or two before class (which is insane in itself) but he ran barefoot through Philly. I'm shocked he hasn't contracted anything from the many scattered used needles and shards of crack vial about. He must have hobbit feet or something.


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