The most common questions I get asked when running barefoot is “Doesn’t it hurt?” and “What about getting cut on glass / stepping in dog poo?”
Well, they’re the most ‘sensible’ questions anyway!
I usually just laugh and say no, but more truthful answers would be “sometimes” and “it’s happened once (so far)”
When starting barefoot running I read that it was best to use rough surfaces, to limit the over exuberance. I misinterpreted this to mean stones and gravel. Without the thickened soles I have now, I soon got bruises and worse still, ended up with two or three small hard lumps under the skin. My best guesses were swelling from the bruising, or worse still, plantar fascia scarring. Either way, I used vitamin E liquid from oral capsules for a few weeks and they disappeared, while I carried on running but on normal roads and pavements.
Also, small sharp stones are a pain (literally) on most runs. But at least it lasts less than a second, and gets easier as time passes. They seem to be more present on pavements by busy fast roads, so I try to run on quiet roads to minimise the possibility.
My first and only incident was while running along the canal tow path. The tallest grass and weeds had been recently strimmed to prevent the path becoming overgrown. This made a nice soft path along the edge of the stoney track, which I used to its full advantage being barefoot. Little did I know a dog had left a little present hidden beneath the clipped grass. I realised instantly what had happened by the cold gooey sensation, and stopped to rub the worst off on the grass verge and continued my run.
Another memorable injury was stepping on a hawthorn clipping (the bane of many mountain biker). My attention was distracted by a man and boy hastily removing a horse from a field using a car and stick (no horse trailer in sight.) My mind suddenly returned to running by the sharp pain in my sole. At first I thought it was a sharp stone stuck on my foot and I continued for a few steps, waiting for it to fall off. But the pain got worse so I stopped to examine the source. That’s when I discovered the 10mm thorn poking into my foot. I removed it, and a little ‘comedy’ spurt of blood shot out, but the pain stopped instantly. I carried on running, expecting to see little red dots following me like breadcrumbs, but the hole must have sealed quicker than an inner tube of ‘slime’
A recent running injury involved stepping on glass. I do see broken glass occasionally whilst running barefoot, and usually just go around the area or slow down and pick my way through. This time though it was a very small piece (large grain of sugar sized) that half embedded itself into my foot. I should have been paying more attention as I had ran past a skip where a house was being renovated. Thankfully I was able to pull out the glass and carry on, without an actual cut.
Probably the only serious injury I have sustained while running barefoot. This is an over use injury, and to be fair I wouldn’t have got it running only barefoot, as my soles would have blistered way before. Vibrams allowed me to run further than my feet were ready for. It’s happened twice; once when starting out in the vibrams, and once when upping my mileage marathon training. By reducing my weekly running, and going barefoot I was able to carry on running while things healed.
So, barefoot might not be the antidote to running injuries after all!