I’m all about natural movement, allowing the body to do its thing without restriction is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. This philosophy falls into all aspects of my life, if something is restricting and affecting me negatively, it goes out of the window, no questions asked. However sometimes these decisions can start to define you and begin to restrict you in ways you never predicted.
I’m proud of being different, not different just for the sake of it but because I find some social conventions utterly bizarre and numbing and by living an alternative way I get to bypass them, which positively affects my wellbeing, makes me a less grumpy, happier person with more energy which I then try and put back into the life of others and my own.
You have probably seen me at social runs or maybe a race in my huarache sandals (occasionally with the added thermal protection of some lovely toe socks). I love the reaction on people’s faces when they clock me, it can entertain me for hours afterwards but that’s not the reason I wear them (honest). Alongside foot function they also serve a reminder that we as runners should think about our feet more often, it’s easy to shove them into trainers and wave goodbye to them for a few hours without much thought. If your feet are out and proud you are much more likely to interact with them, maybe a little massage or some soothing lotion to soften hard skin. As a natural running coach I feel obligated to fight the cause for feet as the health and fitness industry seem to have written them off as weak and in need of support which is quite the opposite.
But what happens when the one thing that is supposed to set you free does the opposite?
I own a variety of “barefoot” footwear, some more obvious than others, my previously mentioned sandals tend to get the most attention which can lead to interesting questions which is just brilliant!! Some of my conventional "looking" trainers however allow my feet greater functionality than the sandals but people don’t see feet, so they don’t think feet and the questions don’t come, for this reason I most often opt for the sandals. I am not the most brazen, I’m not in your face, shouting my beliefs from the rooftops and expecting people to follow suit, no, freedom of choice reigns, If you approach and ask a question I will happily wax lyrical about the wonders of the human body (you’ll have to tell me to shut up most likely), but generally I’m quietly doing stuff my own way, demonstrating a choice, an alternative way, the sandals can really help me talk without me needing to open my mouth.
The socks and sandals look has become my image, but at present it's started to feel like I’m keeping up appearances, through a cold and wet winter I have turned up at various events showcasing my alternative approach to running, but it has starting to feel detrimental to my mental well-being, generally I have not enjoyed the cold, slippery mud and constant fight for traction (however sometimes it is the greatest feeling). Huarache sandals are used (generally) in hot, dry climates where the ground is dusty and stony, not necessarily suitable for cold, wet days with mud likely up to your shins. On days where my mental well-being is steady, no aspect of a run really phases me, terrain, elevation, weather, throw it all at me and I’ll adapt and prosper, these are the exploration and adventure days. However if I wake feeling tired, anxious, restless and generally tense, my run reflects that, I’ll more than likely stick to an easy well known route, play it safe and keep the distance just long enough to feel the change in my mood, then decide if I want to turn around or carry on. This latter approach is mainly due to sandals being my first choice of footwear; I have let the idea of my barefoot image have absolute influence over my freedom of choice.
At the end of the day we run because we love it. I have invested in a new pair of minimalist trail footwear which I took out for a spin today. They felt great, not as much ground feel as I am used to in my sandals but the playful nature of my running was in full flow, mud, puddles, slippery slopes and small streams were all in play and I felt free to roam as the mood took me. Something I would not have been able to do in my sandals to the same extent. As the days warm and the trails firm up I will be out in my sandals again connecting with the ground with a smile on my face. Until then, I have a new pair of friends, another option that will allow me to do the same come rain or shine.
Come and say hello if you see me at an event, ask about natural movement and functional feet, I'm happy to give tips and exercises that are a bit different to the normal approach and always interested to hear about your running adventures. I may not be wearing sandals but don't be fooled by my conventional looking footwear, they will definitely be hobbit foot friendly (maybe I should get it printed on a t-shirt).