When you think of Boulder, Colorado, it is not a place that you would think of that you would care to run barefoot during your morning or evening run. The reason for this is that many people in Boulder choose to run on some of the mountain trails with rough, rocky ground. If a runner does not want to actually run barefoot or wear the traditional running shoes, there is a new shoe on the market called Vibram’s Bikila, also known as The Five Finger shoe, which looks like a rubberized foot complete with toes. It is like a glove for your feet.
Using this type of shoe is called “shod” running and is becoming the norm but actual barefoot running usually belongs to the counter culture. There have been elite athletes recently that have brought attention to the potential of going barefoot and the human body’s capabilities of enduring such circumstances.
For example, in 1960, Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila because the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal. He won this prestige’s gold medal by winning the marathon on Rome with a time of 2:15.16 and he did it running barefoot. The book Born to Run by Chris McDougall has been the most single influence in recent years to bring barefoot running off the shelf. His book was an international bestseller in 2009. It was a book about Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who run long distances just wearing your basic huarache sandals.
In Boulder, The Barefoot Running Club was founded by Lee Sandler in 2009 with the first meeting attracting only fifteen people. Today their membership is just under three hundred members. This makes it the largest Barefoot Running Club in the country.
The classes are first taught on the grass, then the smooth clean pavement. Some people feel that running barefoot on a hard paved surface is counterintuitive but in actuality the harder the surface, the lighter you will learn to land on your feet. If you are a chronic heel striker when you run, once you start to run barefoot, you become forefoot or mid-foot runners.
There are very few barefoot runners who genuinely run barefoot one hundred percent of the time. Most of them use minimalist shoes such as the Vibram Five Finger or Nike Free shoes. These particular shoes regress toward less padding, less sole and less support, which foster more connection between the ground and the foot.