I have had two major bouts of barefooting. Once for four months, my senior year of high school. I took my shoes off in English class one day and absentmindedly left them behind under my desk. It started a trend-turned-social-experiment, where I tested various stores and venues to see what their bias toward a barefoot gal would be. I was already labelled the “hippie” girl at school, so my barefoot ways endeared me to my fellow classmates. Even now, over ten years later, when I bump into one of those peers they always comment on my shoe-wearing ways.
In college, senior year, again (hmm, noticing a theme, perhaps?), a friend forwarded me an article about some guy in Norway who had been barefoot for fifteen years. Well, if he could do it, in NORWAY, I figured that I could do it for awhile. It was January, in Central Washington, and there was snow on the ground. So naturally I picked the first day of class, winter quarter, to begin my new barefoot journey. This came after a weekend of researching barefoot laws and coming across the Society for Barefoot Living. That website had oodles of really great information about the history of barefooting, articles on feet mechanics in bare feet vs. in shoes, and linked to a global list of members of the society.
Of course I joined, though haven’t actually made it to any meetups.
That journey of barefoot living lasted for a year.
Along the way I did meet some amazing people. I led retreats in my barefeet, went hiking, taught some of my friends about the joys of hiking barefoot, and travelled to Queens, New York, where I spent some time with shoes, but much of the time without. And met a fellow barefooter from Chicago. We challenged the status quo and got a dormitory to relax their rules on being barefoot in common areas. My chronic poor circulation was the best it’s ever been, that year, and I felt strong and stable and connected.
At the end of the barefoot year I moved to New Delhi, India and put on some sandals. I haven’t been a chronic barefooter for a few years, now, though I was introduced to the concept of barefoot running in barefoot simulated shoes. Wanting to be cool like one of my besties, I bought two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers barefoot shoes, and do love them. But there’s something magical about ACTUALLY feeling the mud between my toes and understanding how my body thrives when I am feeling grounded and connected to the earth.
I’ve been struggling with running lately. I’ve tried my two different pairs of shoes that had been recommended by a reputable running shop a few years ago. I’ve had these fluctuating mood swings while running and the negative thoughts have really begun to overwhelm me. I’ve been walking more and feel like my fear of performing poorly in my 5k is really messing with me. I’ve been ‘training’ and not ‘running’ for any type of pleasure.
So, today, at work I ran for awhile on campus. And then I took my shoes off.
The feel of the track under my feet felt marvelous. My form felt natural and my heel stopped striking even when I was tired. While I only ran 3/4 of a mile barefoot, it felt so good. There was sunshine on my shoulder and puddles underfoot, and I was running. Not training. Running.
And, it was kinda fun.