06 Dec The Art of Running Barefoot
This is a little tribute to my new Terra Plana Vivobarefoot running shoes and the yoga of knowing your body.
Gymnastics, contemporary dance, capoeira and circus school are some of my favourite sports. They have their fair share of running and jumping, yet not one of them calls for a pair of shoes for support and protection.
For the first time in years I donned running shoes (the normal sort, not my Terra Plana beauties) to go cross-country, traversing rocky, uneven ground. My ankle wobbled and for a split-second I thought I was on the verge of an injury. But I found my balance and continued on my way.
This happened many more times before I realised that my body was strong enough to cope with a bit of instability. Years of training without shoes had developed the little muscles that keep everything in line. It had also encouraged the awareness to know when things aren’t quite right and the ability to unconsciously self-correct.
I remember a yoga teacher of mine telling her class that she didn’t want to have a lot of yoga dependents on her hands. She wanted her students to be able to practice yoga without relying on her for corrections. She wanted us to be in tune with our own bodies.
Traditional running shoes are generally sold to us with the promise of protection but I’m coming to feel that they also make us dependent on them. When our shoes provide cushioning, there’s less impetus to run in a way that minimises jarring. If the leather on our feet stops us rolling knees and ankles, we disconnect from the muscles that are designed to do that for us.
I love my Terra Plana shoes because they are made ecologically and with the intention of reconnecting us with our feet. Feet are wonderful and they deserve to be loved, so indulge them by taking a walk through sand, or even play barefoot on the carpet. Do a ballet class and amaze your feet by how much they can be stretched. Wiggle your toes under the desk at work and notice all the other bits of your body that wake up too.
Let your feet know you love them.
PS If you are used to normal trainers, please don’t go for a sprint in barefeet or barefoot-equivalent shoes immediately. You’ll need to work up slowly. You might also like to read about Roger Bannister who broke the four-minute mile in 1954 wearing thin slippers. More on that and some tips for running barefoot here.