Barefoot Running?

I’m not a runner, but I want to be. Currently my long-term running goal is simple– I want to be able to run a 5k without having to walk, and without having to stop and rest. If you’re a runner, my modest goal probably seems silly: Anybody can run a 5k, it’s only a hair over 3 miles, right?  I have never been able to run 3 miles. In fact, I have never been able to run 1 mile. Not even as a child. Remember when we all had to run a mile in junior high school? I was the one in the back walking. It wasn’t because I was lazy and didn’t feel like running, it was because I physically could not run that far. I got terrible side stitches and had trouble breathing.

Since I began my MS recovery, I always have several physical goals to aim for. Currently those goals are:

  • Make between 10,000 and 20,000 steps each and every day without putting myself into MS fatigue.
  • Run 1 full mile without walking or stopping.
  • Hike 10 miles in easy to moderate hiking terrain.
  • Bike 10 miles.
  • Be strong enough to do Paleo style HIIT twice a week. (HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training)
  • Sit for fewer than 4 hours each day.

A  year or so ago, I gave up my seated desk for a standing desk, and I made it a point to take 5,000 steps each and every day. As I made these changes I started experiencing pain in my right hip, and left knee. Sometimes the pain was so intense that walking, standing and sitting hurt.  As with any health issue I approached the problem with the intention of finding a solution, not covering it up. I paid attention to my posture, and started doing yoga and other exercises to strengthen my core muscles. Over a month or three I saw improvement.

Then I noticed that my hip hurt significantly more when I was wearing a particular pair of shoes. It just so happened they were my running/walking shoes,  so I replaced them. I also started walking barefoot more often. My thought was that if my shoes were making my hip hurt, maybe I could eliminate the problem by going barefoot more often. So, I stopped wearing shoes in the house all together. I noticed that my hip stopped hurting at all on the days I wore no shoes all day. As an experiment, I wore my running/walking shoes for a few days when I would be home all day. The pain returned. I experimented with different kinds of shoes. I wore my sandals, I wore flats, I tried low heeled boots. All with the same result— the hip pain came back.  The only time I was pain-free was when I didn’t wear any kind of shoe all day.

I started looking into barefoot and Paleo style shoes. I found a lot of research on barefoot running, and the potential benefits of being barefoot as long and and often as possible. I decided to make it a point to be barefoot as often as humanly possible. Since I present classes, run my kids to activities, and am generally fairly busy, that meant buying a pair of “barefoot running shoes.” I looked into Vibrams, but they seemed pretty pricey for an experiment, so I kept looking.  Without too much effort, I ran across a brand of “barefoot running shoe” called Xero Shoes. I read reviews on the shoe published in some of the big name running magazines, and learned that Xero Shoes were rated higher for barefoot runners than the will known Vibrams. At $25. , they were significantly less expensive, too. So, I bought a pair. Or, actually, I bought two pair. My 10-year-old daughter thought it was cool that I could choose the color of the soles and the color of the laces, and she asked for a pair, too.

When they arrived, I wasn’t sure what I expected to happen. I figured I’d try the new “barefoot” shoes for a few days away from home and see what happened.  The first day I wore them out and about I was surprised when, at the end of the day, I had no pain in my hip. After a week, I still had no hip pain. That weekend I went hiking with my husband, and decided to wear the “barefoot” shoes. After a 6 mile hike, I experienced absolutely no hip or knee pain, and my legs were not as sore as they usually were after a long hike.

I’ve been wearing the Xero Shoes almost exclusively for about two months now. I say almost exclusively because I have worn walking/running shoes once, and my favorite 1 inch healed boots twice in those two months. Those three times in “regular shoes” are the only times I’ve had knee or hip pain since I started wearing the barefoot running shoes as my regular shoe.

It’s a good bit easier to meet my physical goals without the hip and knee pain that was with me constantly. I feel like my posture and walking style are a lot better now than before, and my feet don’t hurt.  I still can’t run a full mile yet, but now, when I start walking it’s because I’m out of breath, or too tired to keep running, not because of knee or hip pain.


Tell me your thoughts.