Now that I am back tentatively running some miles barefoot, I thought I’d summarise the barefoot experiment so far.
Week 1 — Total miles – 7, barefoot miles – 2
Week 2 — Total miles – 14.2, barefoot miles – 1.5
Week 3 — Total miles – 27.4, barefoot miles – 1.2
Week 4 — Total miles – 38.8, barefoot miles – 1.2
Week 5 — Total miles – 25.4, barefoot miles – 3
Week 6 — Total miles – 27.2, barefoot miles – 2
Week 7 — Total miles – 31.2, barefoot miles – 2.6
Week 8 — Total miles – 48.4, barefoot miles – 5
Week 9 — Total miles – 45.2, barefoot miles – 3.5
Week 10 — Total miles – 39, barefoot miles – 5.6
Week 11 — Total miles – 40.5, barefoot miles – 4.8
Week 12 — Total miles – 6, barefoot miles – 1
Week 13 — Total miles – 35.5, barefoot miles – 4
Week 14 — Total miles – 60.7, barefoot miles – 0
Week 15 — Total miles – 19.8, barefoot miles – 1.5
Week 16 — Total miles – 34.1, barefoot miles – 3.1
Week 17 — Total miles – 43.7, barefoot miles – 0
Week 18 — Total miles – 28.4, barefoot miles – 0.7
18 week total miles – 575.8, total barefoot miles – 42.7
The experiment was halted due to a stubborn Achilles tendon problem; slight pain and small bump on Achilles tendon just above insertion point of tendon to heel bone (calcaneus).
This was initially thought to be caused by heel tab on shoe, but was subsequently attributed to straining of the tendon.
When running barefoot, the loads placed on the calf muscles and Achilles tendon are increased due to the necessity of keeping the heel from hitting the ground.
These loads will vary according to the running action of individual runners. Heel-strikers will be affected more than forefoot strikers because they will have greater adaption to a barefoot-friendly forefoot landing.
I am a forefoot striker, but I still experienced Achilles strain whilst introducing barefoot running to my training. That was the downside.
The positives were that I had been dogged by very stubborn plantar fasciitis on my left foot. I have no doubt that barefoot running has eased this condition considerably.
Many years ago, whilst suffering with Runner’s-Knee (patellofemoral pain, not ITB syndrome), I was told I had to run with orthotics because my feet over-pronated (rolled too much inwards on foot strike). During my running years I have occasionally succumbed to Runner’s Knee again and had found that using orthotics and/or strong anti-pronation shoes helped. But, it never seemed like the correct fix; running with orthotics just didn’t feel right and also produced problems elsewhere, predominantly in the ankles. Since running barefoot, I have been able to run long distances in very flat shoes, with almost zero support and cushioning; something I would have previously thought impossible.
My own conclusion of the first part of my barefoot running experiment is that running some barefoot miles can significantly reduce 2 of the most common running injuries. Obviously there are risks involved. There is a very real danger of doing ‘too much too soon’, and the condition of calf muscles and Achilles tendons must be closely monitored. This is especially a concern for runners who are used to landing on their heels. I believe that the conventional treatment for plantar fasciitis — supporting the arch — is not the way to go. And that strengthening the foot, by running some miles barefoot is a far more effective and satisfactory route to relief from this very frustrating and painful condition.
I have now resumed my barefoot running after allowing a few weeks for my tendon problem to settle. It is still present, but, I am hoping that with careful monitoring I’ll be able to enjoy the benefits that barefoot running offers.
There is some scientific research on the effect of running with and without shoes. I am planning to publish some ‘real world’ experiences and would love to hear from anyone who has recently started (or is about to) running barefoot. I’d require a weekly report, just simple findings, and views of your journey into the world of barefoot running, to be written on this blog. If you are interested please, get in touch by leaving a comment. Thanks.