Well the thing is.. I did not just START. It was not a conscious decision. It was an evolution.
All barefoot running sites will strongly advise you progress into barefoot running G.R.A.D.U.A.L.L.Y.
There is a vast array of scientific studies and posts on running form. On the necessity to run with shoes. The necessity to run without. Most importantly, have your feet checked first and know your limits. In a later post I will share my personal belief on barefoot running, but first follow my evolution and you can make your own decision and follow your own belief..
So how did I start?
Okay, so in South Africa it is fairly common for children to go to primary school barefoot. It is also fairly common for athletics/running/cross country to be done barefoot, even in senior school. I notice that my senior high school still does athletics with a lot of barefoot runners, but I see the cinder track of my era is now a grass track. So having grown up in a farm environment and with a barefoot approach I am fairly comfortable in the soles of my feet. My dads favourite saying were that with my feet “You have a good grip on Africa, Doll” (my childhood nickname due to my tiny stature at the time).
As a junior school child I did swimming and little else. In high school I started a bit of athletic training and focused on mainly middle distance events from 800m to 3000m, cross country from 2km-10km, and did a few road events and stamina events from 15km to 60km. Mostly barefoot, except when I was obliged to wear a sponsors shoe. However at the end of school (late 1980’s) that all fell by the wayside as life, marriage, children, and work consumed my life. Periodically over the years I would feel I need a little exercise and do a bit of running, but nothing more than the odd annual fun run. Always barefoot. Not consciously, it was just that I actually did not own any running shoes, and as I ran so seldom, I could not see the point in getting any. Also in Africa, the Africans commonly run barefoot, so it was not even a noticeable issue.
When we migrated to Australia and tried to kick start our life here, I thought I might take up running again, given how safe the roads felt and the awesome driver etiquette and amazing supply of cycle paths. However the body being a bit older, and being in a city, I purchased a pair of running shoes of which I donned when I went running. Well it was a stop/start and love/hate affair. Every time I started a batch of running my ankles hurt, my feet burned, my knees hurt, my hips went, I kept bruising my shins (later learnt it is what is called shin splints), my hip kept dislocating and so on and so forth. My family strongly supported the belief that I was too old and unfit for these ventures, and I should take up swimming or cycling or gym. None of which appealed to me as I would have to join a club or buy expensive equipment. So I stopped.
Then last year I entered the City to Surf 12km to run/walk with my husband. Half way through the run my feet were burning up in the running shoes. So I took them off. And was so much more comfortable. And actually RAN the rest of the 12km. No problems. At the end of the race my feet were fine, my muscles ached, my ego was bruised as I thought running 12km was not an issue (mind tricked me into thinking I was that 16 year old again). I realised that there were thousands of people here, and I really should try a little training before entering races!
Six weeks later after some casual runs around the local park, I thought I was fit enough now to do a half marathon (huh, famous last words) and so entered the Fremantle Half Marathon. I duly donned my running shoes, and at about the 12km mark, my feet burning up, I removed the shoes and ran the remaining race barefoot. A time of 2 hrs 22 mins. I thought I was hot shots! Again my feet were absolutely fine, my body was exhausted and in a state of shock, so was in a freezing cold shiver for a couple of hours..
About 2 weeks after this event I was wearing my running shoes (being my only pair of trainers in my wardrobe) whilst doing dome D.I.Y. renovations, and my husband spilled paint all over my shoes. So I binned them. My only pair. Gone.