Running shoes suck, or the day I began loving running in sandals

In a previous attempt to get in shape I depended a lot on “common knowledge” in gearing myself up. I went to a pro shoe store and showed them my gait (somewhere between a drunk rhino and a seizure) and was recommended serious support shoes. Like… $150 serious. “You need padding too big guy, you’re not built like a runner”. So I got a pair of ascics. A big, fluffy “supporty” pair of shoes, and I got to running. And it seemed the more I ran, the more everything other than my feet hurt. Ankle. Achilles. Knees. Hips. Etc. But I kept running, got skinnier, and basically hit a wall. 5 miles was about it for me back then. I ran it around a 9 minute pace, but the pounding I took began hurting almost the instant I started the run.

Fast forward and these days the idea of “minimalist” running is a hot fad. The Indians ran this way, still do! How bout those fellas down there in Africa, huh? Barefoot!

Yes. However, it took till today for it to finally click that it isn’t the barefoot that makes the running better. It is a bit like playing the game operation. Running in “running shoes” is like taking the batteries out. The buzzer doesn’t go off, but you’re killing the patient. Running in minimalist, or barefoot or even in sandals gives you something those $150 Nikereebokbrookwhatevers don’t: feedback. If you run badly, your feet scream: HEY IDIOT! STOP THAT!

I took yesterday off because, well, I ran over 20 miles last week apparently. And my body wanted a break. So I chilled. I decided, hey, let’s take the weekend off. Except I couldn’t. I had to go punch out a mile, except it was getting dark, I’d eaten dinner a couple hours before, excuse, excuse blah. So I threw my $10 thong sandals on, threw on a visor, grabbed my roadID and key and took off.

I figured “this will hurt right off, I’ll turn around and just go lay down”. Except… I didn’t. It felt good, no GREAT. The air keeping my feet dry and cool. The sandals falling right under the ball of my foot as I brought them down gently to the pavement. I pushed harder once I warmed up and realized I was flying. I didn’t have my phone, but I was going significantly faster than normal, and I kept it up.

WHOA! A slip of attention and my sandal skewed and I realized that the reason I was going so well, so fast, so smoothly, was because if I DIDN’T, my sandals would fly sideways and I would have a very unpleasant meeting of toe to cement. I began paying much more attention to my form, fixing my strike pattern, tempo, arm swing, everything, to make those sandals clop clop clop evenly and smoothly.

WOW. Before I knew it a 1/2 mile flew by. I jammed by a few folks out for an evening walk and they gave me strange looks. The sandal sound was unique and you could hear me a few hundred yards out. Slap slap slap. WTF is this dude doing running in sandals?

Before I knew it, the mile came up and I wasn’t even tired. My feet, ankles and knees felt fantastic. I wanted more… but I knew better. Start it out slow. 1 mile first. The thong part of the sandal would definitely, in time, begin to wear on my feet until they get used to it. But that didn’t matter in the least. I’d just run my first sandal mile. Although I didn’t have a means of measuring the time, I know it was well under 11 minutes, probably under 10. I might make this a habit. A sandal mile every night. Who wants in?