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August 24, 2009

Barefoot Files: Training Update #2

I think the best thing I can report at this point is that I haven’t hurt myself yet.

Spend any length of time in a barefoot runners’ online forum (yes, they have such things) or talking to anyone taking up barefoot running, and you hear about a lot of injuries. In most cases, the maladies aren’t necessarily crippling - but it’s somewhat telling that a number of discussion threads have titles like “Heel pain”, “Advice for aching shins?”, “Sore spot on my foot”, or “Help! Blisters!”

It highlights a point I’ve mentioned before about barefoot running but bears emphasizing again: everybody starts as a beginner. Even if you can run 100 miles (well … mostly run) in shoes, you have to begin from square one or risk an overuse injury. It’s like being a brand new runner all over again, with bothersome aches and troubling muscle soreness straining against the irresistible urge to progress your time and mileage more quickly than you should (leading, of course, to a higher chance of injury). In fact, take any one of those discussion threads mentioned above, and they’d be equally at home in the novice runners’ forum a few cyber-doors down on the Runner’s World website.

So I count myself fortunate that I haven’t had any major physical ailments to send my training over a cliff – but that’s not to say I haven’t skirted close to the edge from time to time. With that, I’ll cut to the details. (And if you need a refresher on where we left off, my first update is here.)

Week 4: 4 barefoot runs, 2 Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) runs

  • 5 min on dirt,
  • 10 min on asphalt
  • 10 min on asphalt
  • 25 min on asphalt
Vibram Five Fingers (VFF):
  • 20 min on trail
  • 45 min on trail
With one exception, all of my barefoot runs were done at the end or middle of a longer run with shoes. The dirt running was on the top of Carmel Valley near the fire tower that I wrote about here. (Remember this picture?) The 10-minute asphalt runs were done after returning to my car from a 45-60 minute trail run.

The exception was the 25-minute asphalt run, where I got impatient and wanted to see if I could string a couple of consecutive miles together. I did it, but at the cost of a couple of small blisters on each on my big toes that kept me back in shoes the next day.

After 25-minute road run

There’s a theory among barefooters that blisters on your feet are a new runner’s early warning system against developing more severe problems like tendonitis or bone bruising; in that case, consider me warned.

You’ll notice I’m also including my runs in Vibram Five Fingers with these Barefoot Files reports – but since I’m going to do a full review on the VFF later this week, I’m purposely skipping over the details of those runs in this post. Check back in a couple of days for all things Five Fingers.

Week 5: 5 barefoot runs, 2 VFF runs


  • 10 min asphalt
  • 10 min asphalt
  • 6 min dirt
  • 20 min asphalt
  • 6 min asphalt


  • 55 min trail
  • 65 min trail

A very similar week to the one which preceded it as far as mileage or time is concerned, but I started to develop the first signs that I might be pushing things a bit during this week.

After the first 10-minute asphalt run, I had mild pain in my right heel, which resolved in time for me to run on asphalt again 2 days later and create a new pain at the base of my pinky toes (metatarsal heads, for anatomy geeks) on both sides. That pain settled down in a couple more days, so that I could punish my heels some more on the 20-minute run. The 6-minute asphalt run was supposed to be longer, but I cut it short because the pain in both these areas (pinky toes and heels) was recurring much sooner and more intensely than I wanted to deal with.

In between all this, I attempted to run in the dirt parking lot of the trailhead after a 1-hour shoe run; it was a very uncomfortable 6 minutes. Trails and dirt are clearly going to be the final frontier as far as working my way into a comfort zone is concerned – for the time being, I’ve resigned myself to sticking with the VFF when I want to hit the trails without shoes.

Additionally, along with the training numbers here, I’m trying to spend as much time barefoot as possible throughout the rest of the day – or when I can’t be barefoot, I try to use “natural” footwear as much as possible. I’m wearing Vivo Barefoot shoes to work, which I’ll review here sometime in September. It’s getting to the point where traditional footwear – anything with an elevated heel or cushioned midsole – feels awkward. Considering where I want this overall experiment to go, I think that’s a good thing. The only down side is that I now have several pair of shoes that I’m wondering what to do with.

Otherwise, this progression is about what I was anticipating: incremental increases in time - since I’m running so slowly, I’m not even bothering to measure distance yet – on my feet, in something of a “two steps forward, one step back” manner as I maneuver through the minefields in this brave new world of barefoot running.

Happy feet so far! ...


triguyjt 8/25/09, 9:29 AM  

very cool that you are venturing into this.... I have read about anton krupicka and how he shaves his shoes to get them as thin as poss and he runs forever...

yes..your feet do look happy!!!!

Rainmaker 9/6/09, 9:36 AM  

This continues to be a good read. I'm slackin a bit, but have purposefully not marked any on this series as read hwile I get through them. I'm interested in what happens in snowier regions once winter sets in?

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