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Signs of a barefoot runner

How can you tell a barefoot runner at a race without glancing at their feet. These are the top 8 hints on how to identify us from the knees up.

Ignoring the obvious — we aren’t wearing our shoes — how do you identify a barefoot runner at a race? What characteristics, when put together gives us away in a few seconds?

Here is my – admittedly light hearted — guide to the barefoot runner.

1. Hair — I concede that the majority of runners irrespective of footwear, will have hair, but we are talking about the expanse and wildness of the hair here. Wildlife grows in the keratin spouting out of our heads. If the barefoot runner is a man, then be prepared for some seriously strange facial hair. Beards of all different shapes and sizes dominate this crowd. Beards are becoming ‘old-school’ and now the barefooting men are resorting to handlebar moustaches.

2. Skirts — Running skirts and kilts dominate this crowd. The women like to wear cute little running skirts with pretty much anything.  Freezing temperatures outside? Not a problem. Wear your cute little skirt OVER your running tights. The guys like the rugged, Braveheart look; We are talking about authentic Scottish Sport kilts in moisture-wicking material. There is some debate what the guys may wear beneath their kilts, but some of us have not been brave enough to gain clarification on the subject. TUTU’s are also in this category.

3. Very short shorts — When the temperature rises, the new clothing craze calls for very short running shorts. This running craze is more confined to the male barefoot runners. The guys attachment and love of their very short running shorts has even inspired a dedicated Facebook group, Brooks Infinity III’s Men’s Running Shorts Fan Club.

4. Interesting patterned running tops — We are bold, bright and wacky. We prefer wild designs and bright colours.  INKnBURN is a popular favourite with the barefoot running community. I personally like to run in cycling jerseys, Primal are my favourites. The have the same funky designs as INKnBURN, but with the additional benefit of back pockets. Other interesting clothing choices include dress shirts (Jesse Scott), or nothing at all (Patrick Sweeney).

5. Left-handedness — A surprising number of Barefoot runners are left handed. It’s interesting that as left-handedness only constitutes only 10 per cent of the population, the percentage of the barefoot runners who have this ability is potentially much higher. People have many theories on this correlation. It’s possible we’re just a little bit kooky!

6. Wandering hippie lifestyles — There is a chance of the barefoot runner adopting what many people would consider an alternative lifestyle. Many of us consider home-schooling, living on minimal resources in the back of a RV, and are not afraid of wild adventures. If you see a runner rolling out of a tent onto a start-line of a race, guesses are he won’t be wearing any shoes.

7. Ultra runners — If the runner next to you in the race is wearing a 100K race shirt with a belt buckle from a 100 miler around his waist, then he’ll probably talk to you about barefoot running. There is a big correlation between barefoot running and ultra running. Some may relate the ultra running to the previous point of wild adventures.

8. Shoes — If at the start of the race you notice the person next to you has a pair of shoes on his feet but also another pair strapped to her hydration pack, then don’t be surprised if when you talk to her, she will describe their transition to barefoot running. Considering we don’t like to wear shoes when we run, it’s somewhat ironic that barefoot runners will have more shoes than you in their closet and be able to tell you more about the running shoe market than most outside of the industry.

I admit I have only offered the extremes in our community as a point of reference. There are some barefoot runners who aren’t like this at all – however, I am sure deep down they really want to be 🙂

I asked my seven-year-old son to draw a picture of a barefoot runner. I gave him highlights of my list and asked him to draw his version. This is what he came up with. Pretty accurate I would say.

A seven-year olds idea of a Barefoot Runner
A seven-year olds idea of a Barefoot Runner