What makes running beautiful is the lack of prerequistory equipment required to participate. We are born with everything we need to run. This is why running is a most egalitarian activity and why across the world participants are not defined by their class and many fierce competitors come from third and first world countries alike. In many ways the universality of running is a bridge between cultures and classes, a way of superceding gaps in language and styles of living. Every human at one point or another knows the joy of running- tagging others and leaping out of the way to not be tagged, of hopping rock to rock over streams, of sprinting to meet a soccer ball, to catch a frisbee, or to simply get out of the house and experience the world firsthand. Running utilizes the gift of our bodies, a present we can strengthen to increase our freedom, or neglect at our own risk.
Frequently I am posed the question, “but why barefoot?” Although a straightforward answer is possible I would prefer to reply with the antithesis, “why shoes?” which is an equally valid query. Why would you enclose your feet in a box that holds heat and sweat, makes your toes an ideal breeding ground for various bacteria and fungi? Why would you restrict your motion with a gauntlet that allows for little to no motion outside of the ankle and the toebase? Why would you not define the distance you can comfortably run by how tough your skin has become? Why would you ever compromise the incredible architectural structure of your foot arch by pressing a lump into it, thoroughly negating the load bearing practicality of arches by focusing force into it, instead of forces being distributed equally throughout from the base? Why pay $80 every 6 weeks to a corporation that outsources labor to third world countries not to lower consumer cost and support developing economies, but solely to increase profit margins? Why would you not want to feel the ground under your feet, the coolness of concrete in the shade, the dewiness of the grass in the park, the moist friction of sand at the beach?
But if I had to answer the question directly then I would say-
Running barefoot informs my form. It has taught me how to run far, fast, and injury free. It has taught me how to run with the maximum amount of efficiency. It has taught me how to land without stressing any joints, how to run for 50 miles and then go out dancing all night. It has taught me to increase speed slowly, and to maintain good form. It has taught me how fun it is to run. It has provided me with the means to enjoy any place that I happen to find myself in, with no equipment or supplies necessary. It is how I was able to increase my distance pr from 13.1 miles to 136.9 in a year. Running barefoot is not the “best” way to run but running barefoot is the best way to learn how to run.
When I began running I did not imagine where it would take me… in a year of running races I have been as far west as Alaska, as far south as Ecuador. I have be reacquainted with my old friends, the Appalachian Mountains, and made a host of new friends from all walks of life in the form of fellow runners. I have seen my energy levels increase, my heart rate drop to 35 bpm, and my pudge evaporate. Running has allowed me to expand the limits of what I’ve previously thought was possible.