1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run


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It's funny because the whole evolutionary living community has so many sub-movements: evolutionary nutrition, barefoot running, natural movement, and crossfit to name a few. Interest in one often piques interest in another. I got into barefoot running through the paleo diet, but there are many people who did the opposite. 

The crossover for me was a reluctant one. I do not like to run, besides sprints. I was a competitive swimmer for most of my childhood and, like most swimmers, I did not take well to running. When I was on the rowing team I pushed myself very very hard to run medium distances because our coach would use our running ranking to stock boats. Plodding along the North Shore at the end of the pack for many tedious miles was my idea of misery.

When I started doing the paleo diet I heard about the overall benefits of using your feet the way they were evolved to move. I ditched all my high heels and started buying thin-soled shoes. Then when I started getting back in shape I bought Vibrams, but I didn't do much running in them. I did love the way they seemed to make my core more sculpted. Erwan's Movnat Workshop(my post on it) was the first time I ran in them seriously. We did some very challenging trail runs. They were tough, but the opposite of tedious. I had to pay attention to the trail constantly— adjusting myself to the flux of mangled branches or harrowing mosaics of sharp rocks. This was much more fun.

So I was a reluctant convert. When I heard about the NYC Barefoot Run planned by John Durant I was excited for the movement...but not really excited for running myself, especially since it was on pavement and I don't train on pavement. Only some nudging from friends made me register instead of only volunteer. I didn't run very fast or very far (I did a completely barefoot lap which mainly involved walking), but I had a blast and met some really cool people! Governor's Island was beautiful and it was exhilarating to see so many people who are into this! The funny part was that I went shopping at the New Amsterdam Market(MMM Lamb Sausage from Fleisher's) afterward and I saw several people with Vibrams. I asked if they had done the run and they didn't even know about it! Vibrams are clearly a shoe trend here.

And that's great, but I still see so many women in particular with shoes that are not only preventing their feet from working properly but actively damaging them. They are called high heels. I'm pretty lucky to work in an environment where high heels are pretty abnormal (well, there aren't very many women in my field...but that's another story). But unless you work in high fashion I truly doubt any of us would be fired for ditching them! Yes, I always liked the way they made me look, but they were the Snickers bar of fashion: tasty, but you feel terrible afterward. It's interesting because they possibly play on our evolutionary desires for women with prominent buttocks and long legs. I think of Kessler's book The End of Overeating where he talks about "hyper-palatability." Snickers bars contain nutrients we evolved to desire for good reasons, but in amounts not found in nature. Our natural desires cause us to harm ourselves. Anyway, trust me, there are other ways to be sexy. My favorite is to eat paleo so your skin is clear, your hair shiny, and your body sculpted :)

So what do I wear? Until quite recently I made very little money and couldn't afford anything like Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot shoes. Vibrams are great, but I personally don't like the enough to wear them constantly and the ones that are really nice to wear in non-running situations are fairly pricey. I would go to thrift or discount stores and look for the shoes with the thinnest and most flexible soles. For winter I found some moccasin boots and for summer I found some gladiator sandals, both at Payless Shoes. Both were unfortunately synthetic, but they were reasonably stylish and affordable. I also had some nice flex-soed loafers and ballet flats left over from my anti-high-heel shoe purge.

Now that I have a decent income, I am investing in some leather moccasins. I'm looking at different brands right now and I'll report back with what I find (I ordered some Footskins today, sorry, Softstars weren't feminine enough for me :) I'm willing to ditch the high heels, but I still like looking medium-girly.). Good leather moccasins should last a long time, so I think they are a good investment. Eventually if I get into hunting I'd like to make my own from deerskin. Have any of you found good moccasins? I wore Minnetonka growing up, but I don't like the soles of the ones I saw at the store. And I thought it was cool that the Footskins are made of deerskin in the USA. They also do custom shoes, which might be an interesting option in the future.

Joe, who I met at the run today, was telling me how many moccasins are modernized for fashion's sake and still compress the toes. I think of these Sami (a native people from Scandinavia) shoes:

Look how boxy the toes are. That's more freedom for the toes. Inuit shoes are fairly similar in this way.