I recently gave you “10 reasons why you should(n’t) run Barefoot”. Now I am going to talk about the times you really shouldn’t run Barefoot. Yes, I do realize I spent a whole post citing reasons to take your shoes off and now I am telling you to put your shoes back on.
Running barefoot has a lot to offer, but only when you use a little common sense. There are times even conditioned barefoot runners will accept defeat and don shoes. We know how vital our feet are and we aren’t willing to sacrifice them. So here are “My Top Five situations when you shouldn’t go barefoot”.
1. Extreme temperatures. I am talking about extreme cold and extreme heat. In cold temperatures you are liable to frostbite; in the summer you are in danger of burning the soles of your feet — especially if you are running on asphalt. In both situations pay very special attention to how your feet are feeling. If you feet are feeling numb from the cold, or you feel hot spots on your feet during the summer, call it quits. Blisters and frostbite are not badges of honor within the Barefoot Running Community.
2. Rock salt is your enemy. If Rock salt has been laid then wear shoes. It is extremely caustic and you will find your feet looking like a packet of raw meat. Rock salt melts ice and snow, but it also makes the resulting water COLDER than freezing. Damp + extreme cold = frostbite. Your toes are cute — keep them.
3. If you have open wounds on your feet. Remember your feet will be touching the ground and there will be dirt and bacteria. Your skin (when intact) does a fantastic job of keeping all of this out — Soap and water is all you need. If you have an open cut, you are in trouble. Last time I looked, pus filled feet were not a way to make new friends.
4. When you aren’t able to see debris on the ground. This could be due to leaf-strewn sidewalks, a light dusting of snow or perhaps night running. If you can’t accurate determine what you are stepping on, don’t chance it and put something on your feet. Rocks, gravel and dog-poop use these opportunities to hide. Extreme terrain is also in this category. Rocks group together as a way of eliminating the benefit of being able to run around them. If you are running a terrain where you can’t easily navigate around potential obstacles, then put your shoes on, run and have a blast – it’s the best way to show those rocks who’s boss!
5. If you have aches, pains or soreness in your feet/ankles. This point is especially for people new to minimalist or barefoot running. Your feet take time to adjust to running barefoot. You have to develop foot and ankle strength and this can take time. If your feet are aching, they are telling you have done too much today and they need a break. Rest for a few days and let the soreness subside before you go running barefoot again. If the pain is extreme or doesn’t disappear after conventional RICE treatment, go see a Doctor. You may have been running on an overstrained foot –- the biggest cause of stress fractures. Again, air-casts are as glamorous as pus-filled wounds.
The above is a guide. The conditions you chose to run barefoot are very individual. Some people have no problem running barefoot in extreme temperatures or terrain. That is their personal choice and not an indicator that you should do the same. If you are going to challenge yourself on how and where you run barefoot ensure you listen to every signal your feet are telling you, slow your pace right down, take your shoes with you and be prepared to use them. Running barefoot is not a competition. There are no awards for running in situations more extreme than everyone else. “Your feet are for life, look after them!”