If you run barefoot, you will learn how to read the ground through the soles of your feet, or suffer for it. On some forums there is so much about being tough on all surfaces and all temperatures, that one could end up either feeling guilty, giving up, or with less of your feet. Sure, you can be acclimated to rough pavement to a great extent; and as the soles get tougher, there is more of a barrier to larger variations of heat and cold. However, everyone needs to learn how to feel the point at which to either stop running or cover up those useful feet.
Yesterday, I ran in much warmer weather on asphalt. These were the factors at the start of the run:
– I had to duct tape a tender spot, threatening to blister on one toe (again, sigh) from speed work on the local junior high rubber track. My new PR of a 7:21 mile was great, though! I am glad to say I recognized that the toe was irritated before it got bloody and have had less healing time.
– It was time for a long run, maybe 8 miles.
– I wanted to run in a hotter part of the day to get ready for possible heat during the High Desert Trail Run 2012 in 2 weeks.
– They seem to be chip sealing most of the roads near my house.
– Wilson Springs, an area of ponds and asphalt paths near my home, offers a car-free running experience with its .95 asphalt loop. (You can make it about 1.05 miles by adding a section of dirt road) I did have one close call with a fish hook cast dangerously close to my face, but I yelled in alarm and the fisherman was more careful from then on…
– The temperature was about 75 degrees.
– I began my run on the slightly gravel strewn dark black asphalt without problem. The goal was to run at a comfortable pace since the distance would be at the high end for me. When I found myself running about a 8:30 mile pace, I tried to relax more, since I didn’t think I could maintain it for the whole time. I wanted to be consistent.
Midway through the run:
– The air was getting noticeably hotter.
– The asphalt was feeling hot, like I kept wanting to pick up my feet faster.
– I was beginning to feel one toe pad in particular on my right foot.
– I found myself still keeping the same pace, so was concerned I might be using my feet a little differently at that pace.
– At 4.5 miles I stopped for just long enough to slip on wool sport socks and my Moc3 running moccasins. (even though last week I easily ran 7.8 miles totally barefoot.)
– While doing this, I quickly checked out my toes and found them all to be in good condition still.
End of run evaluation:
– The air temperature was up to a solid 85 degrees.
– I had somehow kept an average 8:33 minutes/mile pace for 8 loops, much better than any previous time there. Have to credit the speed work and tempo runs over the past few weeks with my excellent coach.
– I ended my run at 7.6 miles, feeling tired enough that to go more would have been pushing too hard.
I think I would have regretted running farther barefooted on that hot asphalt. Previous experience has made me more in tune with what my feet were feeling, so I didn’t push it that far again. Overall, I am quite satisfied with my effort, my results, and progress with my totally barefoot experience. Hopefully, reading this will help someone else have fun running barefoot and feel good about making safe decisions on their barefoot journey.
I also recommend this blog by Barefoot Dawsy for good pointers and an encouraging perspective.