Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hot Asphalt, Bare Feet


As some of you know, I am a barefoot runner. In 2008 I began wearing Vibram FiveFinger shoes, better known as "those awful toe shoes that make your feet look freaky." Sometime in 2009 I switched to running around completely barefoot. I've been running barefoot or in the Vibrams since then and have been perfectly happy doing so.

Today, after lunch, I got myself up off the couch. Enough sitting down, I told myself. Time to get some fresh air. I changed into running shorts, grabbed the GPS watch, put on a hat, and set out down the driveway. I was feeling great.

Here's a bit of wisdom for you:

If the asphalt is over 100 degrees, don't run barefoot you damn fool. 

I made it up the hill near my house thinking that things were warm underfoot. I tried to keep to the shady sections and thought, my feet will adjust to the heat. No problem. Sure.

Not so much.

By the time I was a mile and a quarter from the house I knew I was in some trouble. Both feet had some problem areas, mostly around the ball of my foot, but also on the toes. Each step wasn't excruciating, but I could feel every part of it. And the pavement just seemed to be getting hotter.

Still, the thing with running is that there's not much to do but keep going until I get back home. That's just what I did, sticking mostly to grass, trying out sidewalks, and having to get back out on the blacktop for some sections of it.

In all, I did less than three miles, made it back into the house and got a chance to study the bottoms of my feet. I have burn blisters on five toes, four different blisters up near the balls of my feet, and general discomfort with every step.

So, the wisdom I have for you is to wear shoes instead of burning your feet on too hot pavement.

Aren't you glad I told you that?

Okay, so maybe it's not such a bolt out of the blue and yes, I'm quite the dullard for letting this happen to me. But wait, there's more to this offer!

I have, in the past year, driven two small pieces of glass into my feet while running. One piece remained in there for two months without my knowing what was up. I stepped on a part of a spring and had to pick that out of my foot with my car keys. About the only thing I haven't done is to stub my toe (I'll try to work that in tomorrow). Still, as soon as these blisters go away, in a couple days, I'll go out again without shoes.

It's not simply that I'm stubborn or stupid. Really, it's not. And I'm not trying to prove any kind of point by doing it. If the weather is too hot or I'm going out on trails or I think the path is going to be too filled with broken glass left behind by drunken SU students, I'll throw on my Vibrams, but otherwise, whenever possible, I'll go barefoot because it's really fun.

Yeah, fun.

I've had a setback today and a few before today, but that's no good reason throw in the towel. I think that more and more we are trained to focus on the bad thing that has happened and use that as our guide. There was a shooting at a Batman movie so we shouldn't go to the theater. Another shooting happened at a religious gathering, so we shouldn't go to those either. I've been guilty of saying that Obama hasn't done some of the things I want him to, so it doesn't matter if he wins or loses. Of course we should still go to the movies if we like that sort of thing, and we should go to places of worship if we believe in that sort of thing, and we should hope for Obama to win if we don't want our country to go further down the toilet drain.

There is good in the world. There is good for me in running barefoot. The burns on my feet aren't a result of barefoot running, really. They have more to do with me not thinking about the temperature. In other words, it's a failure of thinking, not a failure in the running.

Don't run barefoot on too-hot asphalt. That's lesson number one. Don't give up on something just because a couple times it has gone bad. That's lesson number two. Lesson number three is of course to write on.