Dec 16, 2009

The next frontier: Running barefoot

I have been having a lot of pain recently on long runs. As I am running, I can feel it building up in my arch (left foot) and ankles. Eventually, after 18km or so, it becomes almost unbearable and I have to stop running for breaks or to walk a bit.

As I keep running, which I can do with taking breaks, I begin to feel pain in my hamstring and knees. Probably this is from compensating to minimize the original pain.

Because of this, I dropped out of the marathon training for this year. I just could not handle the long runs and saw no purpose in running in pain for 42km for no real gain.

I did run the Israel Half Marathon in Bet She'an last week, and ran it slower than last year. Between the 18km and 21km markers I had to stop twice because of the pain. I finished in a time equivalent to last years full marathon, but slower than last years half marathon. I was not disappointed because I had not really focused on training, especially after I had decided I was dropping out of the marathon training.

But because of my recent experiences, and because of the amazing book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall that I am reading, I have decided to research barefoot running. From everything I have been reading, it looks like it really might be the way to go to run without pain, to run farther without problems, and to run faster.

I am going to continue reading about it, but I am already pretty sure that that is the direction I plan on moving in. If I do, this blog will see a new rebirth, as I will likely document my experiences with barefoot running.

The first decision to make is what type of shoe to go with. It seems funny to talk about buying shoes to run barefoot, but running barefoot worries me about destroying my feet - running pebbles, glass, screws and nails, etc. Vibram makes a shoe called the FiveFinger, and Nike makes one called the Nike Free. They both look good, and are pretty close to be considered barefoot, mostly just protecting the feet from being torn up.

I like the reviews of the Vibram better than those of the Nike, so will probably go with those, assuming I decide to actually do this.

I will keep you posted...


  1. Do you know the guy I see running barefoot (well, in socks) most days on Dolev?

  2. Re: Going around barefoot

    See Mishna Berura 301:62,Pesachim 112a,OC 2:6,Bach O.C. 307


  3. i knew giving you the book was a good idea. :-)
    You will notice the author himself does not run barefoot, but instead bought cheap old shoes. I would try that first. the original canvas.

  4. whats - I dont believe in doing things in stages. I go all the way right away.

    mikeage - he runs fully clothed except for shoes, right?

  5. I'ma long-time barefoot ultramarathon runner and I teach barefoot and minimalist shoe running technique... I could point you towards a TON of great resources. I don't want this comment to seem like spam, though, so feel free to email me at robillardj "at" gmail "dot" com.

    Good luck on your barefoot journey!

    -Jason Robillard

  6. 1. there's no querstion buying better shoes with better arch supports helps. you could also get custom arches made for sneakers.

    2. take a lesson from Navi. The runners in Eliyahis time ran barefoot after cutting off the soles of their feet to toughen the new skin!

    you big baby!!!!!! :P

  7. The Jewish Kip Keino? Going to learn in the Kenyan Kollel for inspiration?


  8. Maybe I was thinking of Abebe Bikila. Since he was Ethiopian, you might have an easier time finding a suitable hevruta. ;-D

  9. Rafi,

    I have the vibram five finger, and so does my wife. We love them. I brought them to Israel on my trip. Its a shame you didn't tell me about this I would have shown them to you. They are great.

  10. You might want to also look into MBT shoes.

  11. anon - what are MBT shoes?

    way - I had no idea you use Vibrams. Also, back then I was not yet looking into the, What do you use them for? you guys dont run, do you? a different sport?

    shaya - the studies show exactly the opposite. It seems there is not a single study showing the better the shoe the less the foot problems. All studies point the other way. The more expensive the shoe, the more chance of injury. The problem with the shoes is that they train the foot to step in an unnatural way and that causes injuries, sometimes faster sometimes slower. As they say, after 40 years of foot-shoe technology, injuries have only increased not decreased.

    Mordechai - I dont know what you are talking about.

    Jason - I will be emailing you. thanks.

  12. way - which ones are you using? the classic? KSO? one of the other models?

  13. Rafi, those were poor jokes.

    Kip Keino was an Ethiopian marathoner who ran some of his races barefoot. Seems to me he won the gold at the Mexico City Olympics in '68. I remember him from my childhood.

    Abebe Bikila won the gold in Rome in '60, running barefoot. I think he was the first African athlete to do that. He's Ethiopian. Maybe some Ethiopian oleh has a resemblance to him, and you all could learn and run together.

  14. I thought I understood Mordechai's reference. I was right.


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