Why I Ditched My Running Shoes

16/04/2014 11:17 BST | Updated 15/06/2014 10:59 BST

I started running in the Summer of 2012, so not yet two years ago. It would be accurate to say that I have fallen in love with it. It's had such a transformative effect on my life.

I want to focus here on what led me to get rid of my traditional running shoes and follow a path which for me has felt like a deep-seated connection to our past.

All was going well with my running, so well in fact that after completing my first half-marathon last March, I immediately signed up for a marathon.

Things were coming along nicely.

Two months before the marathon I started a new job, more than doubling my commuting time to a three-hour daily round trip.

I struggled to keep up with my training and found myself, out of sheer panic that all my hard work would have been for nothing, cramming my running into the weekends.

Unfortunately I picked up severe shin splints. I tried ignoring the issue, but like all issues, they are there to be heeded.

I went to see a physio, and it soon became apparent that I wouldn't be running a marathon any time soon. Gutted as I was, I turned my attention to sorting out my injury.

Believing in my mind's eye that I ran with perfect grace and poise, it was a shock when I was played back footage of my running on the treadmill. There was nothing gracious about it.

Landing with such force on my heels, effectively putting the stoppers on with each strike, it was no wonder my legs were protesting.

When the physio suggested I take off my trainers and socks and run again, I was intrigued.

Off I went, and ouch, it hurt, I was landing on those heels again and could feel the full effect now that I was without my trainers.

Yet, within a matter of seconds, something miraculous seemed to happen...the thudding stopped, I found myself almost floating, lightly landing on the ball of my foot, knees nicely bent.

It felt amazing, kind of wrong, as I was so used to wearing traditional running shoes, but this somehow felt more animalistic, somehow very right even though it felt a bit wrong!

From that very moment I knew that I was going to run barefoot.

There have been lots of debates and discussions about the pros and cons of barefoot (and minimalist) running, and it being more about technique than what is on (or not on) your feet.

From my experience I will say that this way of running 100% works for me.

The first time I tried out total barefoot running down my local street was scary.

I hid behind a parked car and bent down to take off my shoes and socks, it felt like I was stripping off naked and about to break the law.

With my feet totally bare, off I ran down the road, and as hard as the tarmac was, the feeling was immense, it felt like I was floating, my legs were moving very fast, though my feet were only touching the ground very briefly and very lightly. My upper body and head were smooth, still, enjoying the ride.

I built up very gradually and now run (and live day-to-day life) either totally barefoot or in a rather fetching pair of red Sockwas.

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Ditching the running shoes has been such a spiritual experience for me. It has seen me move away from pavement running in my trainers to heading for the hills and trails.

That feeling of totally engaging your mind and body, having them work as a team, quickly assessing where to put your next footstep, leaping, jumping, bounding across the fells, your toes splaying and gripping to each different surface.

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Running like the wild, free beings that we are. I feel like I've rediscovered my childhood wide-eyed wonderment.

I describe the experience as like shedding not only the trainers, but peeling away the layers of the modern world, unearthing a deep-rooted connection that we have with nature.

It's making that re-connection, going back to a home that we perhaps never knew we had.

Mark

Mark is a Running & Lifestyle Blogger from London: www.markwentforarun.blogspot.co.uk

My tips for going barefoot:

1) First off, head outside, find a nice patch of ground and run for a few seconds without your shoes on. See how it feels. You will probably feel silly at first, but just enjoy it.

2) It isn't a case of either / or, you can still run in your trainers for the majority of the time, just incorporate a few minutes of barefoot here and there (warm sunny days are ideal!)

3) I would have found it less scary if I'd had a friend who would have run barefoot with me. When you're out on your Saturday jog with a pal, get out your feet and have a giggle as you run.

4) If you decide to fully transition to barefoot, it would be worth speaking to a running specialist who can give you some strengthening exercises to do alongside your running. These really helped me.

5) You don't have to be totally barefoot, there are a whole host of minimalist options out there. Try some on and find what works for you.

6) Have fun! Go out and feel like a kid all over again.