barefoot challenge: day one

The first thing I notice is that my cooped-up winter toes are really ugly. The second thing is that standing straight takes a lot more effort than you’d think.

Today I started a 30-day barefoot challenge, based on a gradual training program created by the shoe company Merrell. Yes, I know. The final outcome, besides being able to run 1.5 miles in barefoot or bareform shoes, is to buy said shoes from Merrell. But I’ve done a lot of research and it’s not so much the shoes, but the form. I’m going to keep my posts short: around 300 words each day. I’ll tell you what I’m doing and what my observations are. Nothing fancy.

The first thing I need to overcome is fear. Not just fear that I can’t finish a 30-day anything, but a stronger fear: that I’ll hurt myself. Running shoe companies use this fear to sell us their products. More and more cushioning is supposed to lead to fewer injuries but the fact is there’s not a single study to prove this point. As Chris McDougall said, when someone tries to swim for the first time and sinks, we don’t encourage them to wear floaties for the rest of their lives. Instead, we teach them proper form. Learning to run, or in my case re-learning to run, is no different.

So, I took my first literal and metaphorical steps today. I did five posture resets (based on the video above) and walked barefoot for thirty minutes on the indoor track at the college where I work. Just maintaining proper form and being mindful of the sensations my feet were sending to my brain took almost every molecule of attention I had. It was like meditation, in a way. Equal parts concentration, relaxation, and following the breath. I felt energized afterwards. I also ordered a roller and found an old lacrosse ball to start a daily routine of myofascial self-massage. These old bones are tired, but in thirty days, I hope to be a born-again runner. Follow me.

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