The beautiful thing about running barefoot or in minimal footwear is that you are working with your body’s natural proprioception, the ability to sense your own position in space.
With nothing between you and the ground, you get immediate sensory feedback with every step, which encourages you to stay light on your feet and run with proper form. Some people who are recovering from injuries or who have structural anomalies or who just like their shoes will keep lacing up. But whether you wear shoes or go barefoot, what’s important is that you pay attention to your form. If running barefoot helps with that, it’s beneficial.
You want to try barefoot running? Before you toss the shoes and enter a 10K, remember: slow and easy. When runners do too much too soon, injuries often result.
First, find an area of grass or sand and take easy 5- to 10-minute runs once or twice a week. Remember, easy. Don’t worry about speed at all. You’re working on your running form. As long as it feels good, increase the length of one of the runs until you’re up to a 20- to 45-minute barefoot run once a week.
I like to do 2 to 3 miles on the infield of a track or in a park after an easy run day or for a cooldown run after a track workout.
Two important things to remember—other than starting slow and easy—are that you don’t need to run barefoot all the time to get the benefits. And you don’t need to run completely barefoot. Lighter weight, minimal running shoes and racing flats will give you a similar type of feel as running barefoot. It will all help you with form. I have been running most of my long training runs and ultra races in Brooks racing flats for almost a decade, even Badwater and Spartathlon. Racing flats and minimal shoes provide the best of both worlds: comfort and performance.
SHOE COLLABORATIONS WITH BROOKS:
One of the biggest questions I had as an ultrarunner contemplating a vegan diet was how to get enough protein. Here are a few of my tricks:
In my breakfast smoothie, I add some nuts and a hit of plant-based protein powder (brown rice, hemp, pea, or fermented soy protein). I’ll also have a grain source for breakfast, such as sprouted-whole-grain toast with nut butter or sprouted-grain cereal or porridge. Lunch is always a huge raw salad—I love my Lacinato kale—and I’ll up the protein content with a soy product (tempeh, tofu, or edamame), a big scoop of hummus, or maybe some leftover cooked grain or quinoa. Dinner might be beans and whole grains, maybe some whole-grain pasta. If I didn’t have soy at lunch, I might have it with dinner. Add in some Clif Bars and trail mix as snacks throughout the day and some soy- or nut-based vegan desserts and I get more than enough protein to maintain my muscle tone and help my body recover.
I seek out traditional whole foods rather than highly refined meat substitutes. I look for products that have been sprouted, soaked, or fermented to help break down the indigestible cellulose in plant cell walls. Among soy sources, I favor tempeh, miso, and sprouted tofu, which are all more digestible and have less phytoestrogen (a naturally occurring substance that some—in spite of medical evidence to the contrary—suspect might mimic estrogen’s effects in humans) than isolated soy protein. I eat sprouted-grain breads and tortillas, and at home I often soak my whole grains and beans before cooking.