I was a pronounced heel-striker for all of my adult life (where your heel is the first thing to hit the ground as you stride out in front of you). Having been through many periods of running bliss brought to quiet and almost tearful ends when I could no longer run because of an injury I would pinball between physios and podiatrists stretching this bit while pulling on that, ultrasounding this, strengthening that, but definitely resting the other. This would take months. By the time I got to the other end of the process I was no longer interested in running because it was turning out to be the very opposite of what it was supposed to be. It should be cheap: you grab your shoes and go, but this was a very expensive sport - I could have skied for less than this. I would recover, then six months or a year would go by. I'd get fatter. I would start running again, promising myself not to overtrain this time, then, injury. More physio, more podiatry, more anger, more disappointment, and ever more money. Sure, physios and podiatrists are expensive, but not as expensive as the shoes. The shoes! If you believe that running shoes affect your running gait, and that it is your gait that injures you, then if you have the right shoes you won't get injured, right? This is another money pit. You end up buying shoes because you believe that finding the right shoe will solve your problem and you won't get injured any more. I think a good wedge of the marketing of shoes wants you to believe this. Wrong! I don't know how many pairs of shoes I've bought in the last 15 years or so, but I wouldn't care to know - the price would probably fund a primary school in the Yorkshire Dales for a year or two. So, I decided to try something new. New, for me at least - it turned out to be something old. Very, very, old. It also turned out to be something that ran in the family.
As a runner, the first time I saw someone else running barefoot I was initially, and quite comically, hostile to the idea. It was last summer, and I was walking through Greenwich Park with my sister and we saw someone running, quietly creeping their way on the grass next to a 'normal' (that is, shod) running partner. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen". I might have been hungry; I get grumpy when I'm hungry. Never one frightened of a little hyperbole I was annoyed that this 'idiot' was running without the appropriate protection - didn't he know the risk he was taking? Didn't he know that he would be injured very soon? Didn't he know what a bad example he was setting? Didn't he know what a complete and utter 'idiot' he was? Why on earth would someone deliberately put themselves in harm's way like that? About two weeks later, I was doing it, too.
It has not been an easy process; it has not been one without pain; neither has it been one without let downs. But it has been one without injury, without dog shit extruding its way between my toes, and without the awful psychological freight of feeling that what you are doing is harming your body, that you are shortening the lifespan of your exercising life. I've decided to start this blog because I think that so much has happened already, but the best bit is still to come. The nice people at Asthma UK have given me the chance to realise a life's ambition, and I want to do the best that I can to meet the challenge.