No Shoes Required – Red-Faced Runners Challenge Update


The weekend of September 8th has come and gone, and it was a momentous weekend for many.  Some of you ran your first 5k ever.  Some of you ran a longer distance, perhaps your longest yet.  Some of you ran your fastest time.  Some of you were just happy to cross that finish line, and well you should be!  All of you are amazing.  All of you.

I didn’t do any of those things.  I did not run my first 5k.  I did not run my longest distance ever.  I did not run my fastest time.  I did not even enter an organized race.  What I did do was put a little twist on this challenge for myself and I ran a little over 5k in bare feet.  And it felt great.

Yes, I might be a little bit crazy.  Then again, maybe not.  I recently read Born to Run while I was on vacation and much of it resonated with me deeply.  As it happens, I have a Master’s degree in paleoanthropology (that’s the fancy term for human evolution), with a specific focus on primate functional morphology (that’s the fancy term for comparing the shapes of our body structure with those of our closest primate relatives).  As I read this book, I found myself nodding along and muttering to myself, thinking “Of course!  Of course we are born to run, of course our bodies are designed to run long distances!  Of course the human foot is perfectly engineered for running, no shoes required!”.

So I took off my shoes.  Now, being aware that running barefoot uses your muscles differently, I worked up to it.  For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been running barefoot, on the grass around the local track, about a mile at a time.  And I will confess that I am not keen on running barefoot on the pavement.  Our bodies may be evolved to run, but modern-day streets are not exactly kind to the poor skin on our tootsies.  I am actually looking into doing a review of some “minimalist” running shoes, the sort without a lot of support and cushioning, for running on the street and for longer distances.  I will be sure to let you know how that goes.

Back to the Red-Faced Runner’s challenge.  With the craziness of things in my household lately, it became clear that running an organized race this weekend would be seriously inconvenient, but I knew I wanted to run my 5k with all the wonderful people who’ve signed on for our challenge.  So I told my husband that I wanted to run a personal 5k in bare feet.  And I was delighted when he agreed to do it with me.  We packed up the kids with some snacks and toys and hit the local high school track.  We ran just inside the innermost lane, so as to stay on the grass (much gentler on the feet!).  To make sure we actually hit the 5k mark, we ran 14 laps of the track, which amounts to about 3.5 miles.  It was fun, the kids had a ball running around and giving us high fives as we passed.

I ran at a very moderate pace, since my feet are still getting used to this barefoot running thing.  But as I came into the last two laps, I felt so good I just took off.  It felt very natural, very comfortable and I realize now I could have gone much faster the whole time.  But it hardly matters.  It wasn’t a race, it was a personal challenge.

If you were a part of our challenge, or if we inspired you even a little to start running or get back into running, share your story.  I’d love to hear it!


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  1. says

    My husband ran Born to Run and really resonated with him as well!
    He went out and bought some Merrell barefoot running shoes and loves them. It definitely took a while to get used to the different style and the different muscles you use, but he hasn’t looked back!

  2. says

    Carolyn…. LOOK AT YOUR SHOULDER MUSCLES!! You are wonder woman! I have been inspired by you #rfr5k girls to start running again. Although I didn’t sign up for a race, I’ve got 3 running buddies now that I meet with through the week. It;s been great. :)

  3. says

    You are AMAZING!!! I want those muscles. :)
    I was finally given the OK from my doc to go back to, basically, moving… I had to wait until after 3 month-postpartum, and now I want to join whatever 5k I can find… I feel so inspired. :) Even though I haven’t ran in, oh, 5 years…
    By the way, I ran track back in my high school days, and I loved running barefoot during practice. On the grass. :)

  4. says

    I was really inspired by your group, RFR that I said to myself, “Why not?” So when I had an opportunity, I joined my first 5K fun run barely a couple of months ago. It was great!
    I did try barefoot running along the beach some months ago. I love the feel of wet sand under my feet until this dog ruined the moment as it started to chase me lol!

  5. says

    Ok, I’m going for a jog on the golf course down the road barefoot. For maybe a half-mile to see how that works. Just to see what its like. Since I’m in my late 50’s, and have had several broken bones in both feet over the years, I’m a little nervous about not wearing my orthotics. But I really want to see what it’s like. With my luck, the sprinklers will come on while I’m out there…

    • Carolyn says

      Cool! Run carefully. But when you run without shoes, you run more carefully anyway. You come down a lot less hard on the feet. But if it hurts at all, please stop!

  6. Patricia says

    I saw the TED talk on Born to Run and have been wanting to read it. It just seems to make so much sense. I, however, have really crappy knees and have developed plantar fasciitis that doesn’t seem to want to go away (probably because I can’t bring myself to stay off my feet for long enough.) I wonder if going barefoot would help these issues or make them worse? I’m interested to at least give it a try.
    On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been meaning to ask you what the purpose of whey powder is in some recipes. Does it help with texture? Is it to add more protein? Can I do without it, or does it need to be there sometimes? Love your blog so much!

    • Carolyn says

      The author of Born to Run hypothesizes that plantar fasciatis is actually caused by running shoes. We come down hard on our heels in runners because of the cushioning. We should be coming down on our mid or fore-foot. Try running barefoot a bit and you will see how you naturally are supposed to strike the ground. It’s very different.
      Gluten is a protein and so replacing it with another protein helps give the baked good structure. It helps it rise and stay risen. You can skip it but expect the baked good to sink some in the middle without it.

  7. says

    I love my minimalist running shoes…I have two pairs of Vibram Fivefingers and just bought the New Balance Minimus 10 Trails yesterday and went out in them this morning…they felt GREAT!!! Good for you going all the way barefoot, my feet are too sensitive for that…everyone says to keep at it and they will toughen up…but my vanity doesn’t allow me to want them to “toughen”!

  8. says

    Hi Carolyn
    I love your barefoot runnin post. I am a barefoot blogger and enjoy reading barefoot posts from blogs that are usually about something else. I have just mentioned it on my blog and pointed my readers towards you at
    My wife has been gluten free for quite a while. We are really glad we have found you.

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