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More Science of Barefoot Running July 27, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Advantages of Barefoot Running, Shoes , add a comment

I came across a lecture by Dr. Irene Davis on Pete Larson’s Runblogger the other day and thought I’d share it here.  Pete has a great blog with copious amounts of information of all things running.  The lecture is presented in a series of videos on youtube where Dr. Davis explains with great eloquence the current data in the field supporting barefoot running.    I’ve been asked by several people why I run barefoot.  Ultimately, it’s because the arguments for barefoot running just made sense.  As I started reading and researching, the science behind it supported the common sense I found in the many arguments in favor of barefoot running.  Enjoy the lecture!

Your health is in YOUR hands!

Zion National Park – Barefoot July 25, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Hiking, Shoes, Thoughts , add a comment

This past week, I accompanied a varsity scout team on a high adventure campout to Zion National Park.  I’m known by the boys as the barefoot leader.  They’ve been influenced by my barefootedness and have started trying various activities barefoot.  We arrived in Zion on Wednesday of last week and that evening we hiked up Angel’s Landing to Scout Lookout.  I, of course, was barefoot and several of the boys tried it barefoot as well.  Much of the path is cement which wasn’t too bad.  However, there were parts of the path that were a type of asphalt that wasn’t smoothed out very well (worse than chip ‘n seal) . . . it required a lot of concentration and relaxation on my part to make it comfortable.  Overall it was a beautiful hike and the vistas were unparalleled.

The next day would be the ultimate test of my bare feet.  We hiked The Subway.  This is a 9.5 mile hike that begins on some flat sandy terrain through some evergreens, then descends over some sandstone fields, then descends into the bottom of a slot canyon.  There are several sections where you have to swim through pooled water that has been deposited by either runoff or rain then sits at the bottom of these deep narrow canyons seeing the sun only minutes a day.  In essence, the water is frigid!  I was in mild hypothermia through much of this portion of the hike.  One big advantage I had over the shod hikers in the water sections of the hike are that my feet dried quickly and my predisposition for the formation of blisters was virtually eliminated (I didn’t get one blister the entire trip).  Hiking in and out of water with shoes that don’t drain and dry very quickly softens the skin tremendously and blisters are not far behind.

The most picturesque section of the hike is how The Subway got it’s name.  There is a section that has been hollowed out by the water and wind to look like a subway.


Image by John B. Crane

After transitioning through the subway section of the hike, it’s mainly in and out of a river for three miles then a 400 vertical foot ascent over 0.75 miles on dirt and rocks to the end of the hike.  At the bottom of the ascent, I told one of the other leaders that I really surprised myself as I thought I would have put on the VFFs I had packed along as a backup option to barefooting the hike.  After the ascent, there’s a relatively flat 0.1 mile section over dirt to the parking lot.  It’s the only section where human intervention is obvious on the trail.  There are several sections where people have buried branches across the trail to facilitate the construction of “steps.”  Of course, the branches off these sticks were not completely removed and you therefore have “nubs” protruding.  You’re at the end of a long hike that’s fairly strenuous and tiring.  I had been paying attention to every step I’d made throughout the entire hike except for the one over one of the “steps” where I caught the front of the ball of my right foot just behind my big toe . . . ouch!  It was the only injury I incurred during the entire trip.  It only took off the first layer of skin and had to laugh that on the most tame part of the hike . . . I got my only injury.  The kids started calling me “the hobbit,” which I took as a compliment.

Many people in our group as well as others we passed during the hike asked me how I could endure the pain of hiking barefoot.  After thinking about it for a while, I figured out why my feet likely hurt less than the shod population.  When wearing shoes or hiking boots, people typically don’t pay much attention to where their feet are landing or how hard they are hitting.  In contrast, I was acutely aware of every footfall and made sure each footstep was gentle.  Engaging my “feetback loop,” as Barefoot Ken Bob calls it, allowed me to reduce the impact of the hike on my feet.  I felt like Legolas in Lord of the Rings prancing across the top of the terrain with the greatest of ease.

It’s amazing how much the human body can adapt to the environment.  Just another experience that confirms to me going barefoot is the way we were meant to be.

The next hike we took was through The Narrows.  After about a mile on a cement walkway along the Virgin River, you enter the river for the balance of the hike.  Again, the water was very frigid, and I wasn’t excited about having to wade through one section up to my chest as the hypothermic memory from the previous day was still quite vivid in my mind.  I ended up putting on my VFFs for the rest of the hike as the water obscured my view of the bottom enough that I wanted to have a bit of protection.  However, one lesson I learned from donning the VFFs is that bare feet do much better in this situation.  When my VFFs got a bit of sand on them it got somewhat slippery on the rocks.  The previous day in The Subway, I was very sure footed in and out of the water.  I had sand on my feet several times, but it didn’t really affect my grip on the terrain.  I didn’t fall either day, but came much closer to falling in The Narrows than hiking through The Subway.

Overall, it was one of the most incredible barefoot experiences I’ve had in the outdoors, and taught me a lot about my feet.

Stem Footwear February 7, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Life, Shoes, Thoughts , 2comments

On January 20 of last month the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market came to Salt Lake City.  Shortly prior to the show, Stem Footwear posted a message on Barefoot Runners Society website in the Utah chapter looking for volunteers to help at the booth.  I checked my schedule, and since I didn’t have anything pressing that day, so I responded that I go attend.  I ended up helping on the 20th.  It was fun . . . actually it was a blast.  I’m going a bit off topic here, but my wife and I used to have a bridal store in Texas.  Twice a year we would pack up 3/4 of our store and head to the Dallas Bridal Show.  Helping out at the trade show really took me back.  Some of the fun memories came flooding back.  I was just glad I didn’t have to set up and take down a 40′ x 40′ booth with all the wedding gowns, racks, mirrors, etc. and transport them back and forth from our store.

Anyway, the first time I met the creator of Stem Footwear, he handed me one of the shoes.

First thought . . . Wow!  This is light!  (6.3 oz to be exact.)  They use an air injected rubber which allows for high durability, high flexibility, and low weight.  Next I started crunching the shoe in my hand.  The sole and upper both collapsed under little pressure from my hand.

Next thought . . . Wow!  This thing is really flexible!

After a while, I developed a method of introducing the shoe to the retailers passing by.  I’d say, “Does your store sell shoes?”  If the answer was yes, I’d toss them the shoe.  If the answer was no, I’d tell them that they might just start carrying shoes once they experienced this shoe . . . then I’d toss them the shoe.  Without fail from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, every person that held one of the Stem Footwear shoes exclaimed, “Wow!  This thing is light!”

From the looks of the shoe, you would think it weighed as much as any other shoe.  Once you hold it in your hands, the differences are easily apparent.

Even though all he had were size 9.5 samples and I wear an 11, I jammed my foot into one of them.  I loved it!  I wasn’t able to do any running in them, but the ground feel was great.  The toe box was ample and I could virtually, “Let my piggies free!”  There isn’t a rigid part to this shoe.  To take a quote from Jessica Lee when she tried it on, “It feels like clothing for your foot.”  My sentiments exactly, but somehow I didn’t come up with that colorful description.

I’m excited for these shoes to be released later this year.  The official release date from Stem is August 1, 2011, but I think he’s going to try and get them out sooner.  One can only hope!  My ultra beautiful and talented wife took the pictures and posted some higher resolution pics at her Salt Lake Photography blog.  Enjoy!

Mount Timpanogos in VFF KSOs October 11, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Hiking, Life, Running, Shoes , 1 comment so far


Photo by Eric Ward of Provo, UT.

I live in the shadow of a very majestic mountain.  It’s called Mount Timpanogos.  It sits at the Western edge of the Rocky Mountains in the Wasatch Range.  At 11,749 feet above sea level, it is both imposing and beautiful.  The elevation of the valley to the West, Utah Valley, comes in around 4,500 feet above sea level.  7,000+ feet above your head is something to behold.  I climbed to the summit once before as a boy scout.  My troop hiked part of the way up the mountain, camped and summited the next day.  It was, as I recall, a very beautiful view.  That was over 20 years ago.

Recently, I’ve been feeling the urge to try out my new feet on something different than my usual run.  As I’ve been barefoot running for the past several months, my feet and legs have become quite different than they once were.  As I’ve described to several people when talking about barefoot running, I feel like a kid again.  As I run barefoot, the fun and enjoyment have returned.  The next time you observe kids running barefoot, take note of how they move and how much fun they seem to be having.  Then, if you have the opportunity to contrast them with an adult running in the same area, notice how much less fluid the adult typically seems when running.  This difference comes from the “spring” that kids and adults running barefoot utilize consisting of the arch, achilles, calf, quads, and glutes.  I wasn’t quite ready to attempt the hike barefoot so I wore my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).  My brother-in-law said I was brave for doing so, although I imagine he thinks I was a bit nuts and just being nice.

Last Monday I met up with a classmate of mine from high school to hike Mount Timpanogos.  We started our hike at the Timpooneke trail head in American Fork canyon which is at 7,370 feet above sea level.  The hike was fun and a great workout.  The leaves had passed their fall peak, but there was still plenty of color to appreciate.  The weather for the week preceding our hike was nothing less than perfect.  The day of the hike . . . not so much.  Partly cloudy skies with a forecast of scattered or isolated storms.  We got a bit wet on the way up, but for the most part the hike was dry.


Timpanogos Basin

For me, the most memorable sections of the ascent were coming into Timpanogos basin which is a large plateau at a little over 10,000 feet above sea level, and arriving at the saddle.  The saddle stands at 11,288 feet above sea level.  The view, of course, was fantastic as you can see into Utah Valley as well a great distance in all directions.  When we arrived we debated on continuing to the summit.  There was a large storm coming across Utah lake that would make our time at the summit very miserable and possibly dangerous.  We began to expeditiously trek to the summit when we noticed the speed at which the storm was progressing in our direction.  We turned around and headed down the mountain.


The Storm

This brings me to the highlight of the adventure.  We literally ran down a good portion of the trail.  This was very technical and an exercise in agility as the trail traverses several talus piles.  However, as we continued down the mountain, I noticed how smooth my feet were carrying me.  It was an absolute blast!  It required acute concentration, but it was an extremely satisfying descent.

In the end, I’m glad I went.  I’m glad I wore my KSOs, and I’m glad I have been running barefoot.  I can’t imagine it would have been as enjoyable to wear my KSOs had I not been running barefoot and strengthening my feet and legs over the past several months.

Do You Like Running In Those? October 4, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Life, Running, Shoes , add a comment

When people see me wearing my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) I invariably get the question, “Do you like running in those shoes?”

The answer to that question is complicated, and since I’ve developed such a passion of barefoot/minimalist running I risk the very real possibility of letting my mouth run like a river.  I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion dominating the conversation when the subject of running emerges.  I could talk about running barefoot most of the evening . . . and I often do.  The short answer to the above question is, no.  I don’t like running in VFFs . . . I prefer barefoot.  I then get an inquisitive/confused look from the questioner.

Questioner:  “Where do you run?”

Me:  “Pretty much anywhere.  Mainly I run on the sidewalk and asphalt.”

Questioner:  “Doesn’t that hurt?”

Me:  “Funny you should ask . . .”

After giving as brief explaination about the benefits of barefoot running and my personal reasons for which I started, I tell them that if I can’t be barefoot I throw on the VFFs.  If I can’t be as casual as VFFs require, I throw on my Sanuks.

So, in short, no I don’t like running in VFFs if I can avoid it, (mind you I haven’t been through a winter running in this manner) and yes, I love my VFFs for when I can’t be barefoot.

My Feet Have Changed August 23, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running, Shoes, Thoughts , 1 comment so far

True to my desire to give barefooting a good try, I have only had three different situations surrounding my feet.  If I’m in a somewhat dressy situation, such as church, I wear my Sanuk Boardrooms.  If I have to enter a public building where shoes are required, but it’s not a dressy situation, my footwear of choice is my Vibram Five Fingers.  Every other situation I go sans shoes or any other type of foot covering.  So, being summer and all, I’ve been shoe-less quite often.

Of course, I’m still running barefoot.  Just this past Wednesday, I ran/walked (mostly ran) 4.5 miles.  This was quite a unique run.  Not only was I barefoot, but it was also dusk when I started.  It’s amazing how the senses in your feet really compensate for diminishing amount of eyesight you have at night.  I hit a few pebbles on the trail, but my body did exactly what it was meant to do.  My body’s reflex made me do a double-step.  The pebbles were no more than split-second annoyances.

As I’ve continued running barefoot and utilizing the muscles and structure of my feet the way they were designed, I noticed something that I had read was going to happen.  My feet have gotten bigger.  I used to have the most narrow feet.  Now . . . They’re beefy.  They’ve really bulked up in the mid/forefoot.  What really made me notice the change was about a week ago I was sitting in church in my Sanuk Boardrooms.  My feet were feeling kind of claustrophobic so I kicked them off.  It was like taking a breath after being underwater for several minutes.  It felt good.  It was that moment I connected: my my shoes didn’t used to fit like that.  It’s been a very gradual thing, but as I’ve read from several sources . . . my feet got bigger.  I haven’t measured my height to see if I’ve gotten taller, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I grow a centimeter or so.  :)

Here’s to the amazing ability of our bodies to adapt to nearly any situation in which we put them.

Vibram Five Fingers and a Rock Wall June 7, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Shoes, Thoughts , add a comment

Last Saturday, we went to the carnival at Pony Express Days 2010 in Eagle Mountain, UT.  Of course, I wore my Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).  I would have been barefoot, but I just don’t think it would have been the best environment . . . I’m into going barefoot, but not that much.  Plus, I don’t think they would have let me on all the rides without my shoes.

Just before we left, I noticed a rock wall.  After watching a few people attempt the climb with the highest difficulty, I noticed something on top of the cable support.  A $20 bill.  If you climb the route, hit the bell, and reach the $20 . . . it’s yours.

I thought it was worth the $5 for the fun of the climb and two chances to make $15.  I learned a few things.

  1. If you’re going to make it to the $20, be in good climbing shape.
  2. Make sure you get it on the first attempt as you won’t be as fresh on the second attempt.
  3. I’m glad I’ve been working on my foot/toe strength as the VFFs don’t quite offer the same support as climbing shoes.

All in all, they worked well as climbing shoes.  The rubber isn’t quite as sticky as climbing shoes, but they certainly would work in a pinch if you needed to shimmy up the side of a cliff.

. . . oh, and I didn’t quite make it to the cash, but I did ring the bell. :)

Why Your Kids Should Be Barefoot June 4, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Shoes, Thoughts , add a comment

Personally, I don’t remember going barefoot all that much as a kid.  I know I did my fair share, but I can’t say I ran around barefoot all my childhood.  In fact, I remember one instance as a child where my mom took me with her to my grandmother’s house to pick some apricots.  The lawn in the very back part of this property was pretty much all crabgrass.  It was stiff and I remember being barefoot on that specific occasion.  It hurt!  Obviously my feet were not used to running around barefoot all day.  Had my feet been conditioned by being predominantly barefoot, it wouldn’t have been a problem for me to traipse around sans shoes.

In 1992 in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Rao & Joseph completed a study entitled The Influence of Footwear on the Prevalence of Flat Foot.  It was a survey of 2,300 children between the ages of four and 13.  This was their result:

The incidence among children who used footwear was 8.6% compared with 2.8% in those who did not (p < 0.001). Significant differences between the predominance in shod and unshed children were noted in all age groups, most marked in those with generalised ligament laxity. Flat foot was most common in children who wore closed-toe shoes, less common in those who wore sandals or slippers, and least in the unshod.

Our findings suggest that shoe-wearing in early childhood is detrimental to the development of a normal longitudinal arch.

For me, that pretty much sums it up.  I know there are a lot of hazards out there for barefooted children, but I personally consider it worthwhile to keep a vigilant lookout for hazardous material in order to allow them to develop properly.

Listen to your soles!

Reference:

Rao, Udaya B., and Benjamin Joseph. “THE INFLUENCE OF FOOTWEAR ON THE PREVALENCE OF FLAT FOOT.” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 74-B.4 (1992): 525-27. Print.

Another Mile Barefoot June 3, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Advantages of Barefoot Running, Health, Running, Shoes, Thoughts , add a comment

Yesterday, I did a lot of sitting as I’m studying quite a bit.  My feet were feeling it.  My body was screaming at me that I needed to get moving.  I felt like I had been on a 15 hour bus ride and hadn’t gotten up to walk around that much . . . yeah, my feet were swollen.  So, this morning after I got up I promised myself that I’d get out for a run today.  I did!  I decided to try the route of the 5K I ran Monday.  I’m still a bit spent from Monday’s race, so I only got in a mile, but I did it with my favorite shoes . . . my feet.

I’m noticing changes in my feet as I continue running without shoes.  My calluses are getting thicker, I can feel the increasing strength in all my foot muscles, and I believe the subcutaneous fat pads are getting thicker as well.  It’s actually very comfortable running without shoes.  The best part about all these changes . . . they didn’t cost me a penny!  (Great for the budget of a recently graduated medical student . . . looking forward to earning an income.)

Have fun with your feet!

Advantages of Barefoot Running, Part III June 2, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Advantages of Barefoot Running, Life, Shoes , add a comment

Advantage #3

Your barefoot shoes are very easy to clean . . . it’s as easy as washing your hands.

You’ve had the experience before when you’ve purchased that new pair of shoes.  They look so good and clean . . . for just a little while.  Why can’t they last that way forever . . . or at least longer than a week?  Well, when you have a living shoe, all you have to do is wash it and it’s pretty much clean again.  Sure, it changes over time and starts showing the wear and tear of life as the years go by, but hey that’s better than one week!

Another thing I’ve noticed with the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) is that after a while they develop a stank.  Yes, I said stank . . . it’s like a stink, but more foul.  They are machine washable, but so far with all the washing I’ve done of my VFFs they always retain a hint of that stank.  It’s tolerable, but I don’t think I’d want it sitting under my nose while I was trying to go to bed.  Your barefoot shoes are quite a bit easier to clean . . . in my opinion.

Take care of your soles!